The NEW Dutchware “Chameleon” Hammock

I would be less than a friend if I didn’t give my buddy Dutch a pump up on his new hammock. Originally asking for only $22,000, this Kickstarter portion of the project has now concluded with something over $200,000 in sales. All of those hammocks are currently being shipped out, and Dutch hopes to have the retail Chameleons available for order by sometime in mid June.

I had a chance to see one of the early-bird KS versions last weekend at the group hang down in Massachusetts. I was tremendously impressed. Quality construction, flexibility of use, a really nice new suspension system…. Dutchware has really nailed it on this one. They did a great job on both the hammock as well as on the on the video below. You should get a fairly good idea of exactly what’s on offer.

You will still need both a tarp and an under quilt to complete your set up, [and of course a top quilt or sleeping bag]. However, with a Chameleon as your base, you should be able to bring your entire sleeping system in at somewhere right around 4-5 pounds for three-season use.

 

[I received no consideration for this post. I simply want to recognize what I believe to be an astoundingly good product.]

 

 

Camping Food (pt.3): Something Small & Tasty

On the heels of (pt.1), I wanted to follow-up with some small package items that are easier to carry along in your pack.

I got all of these over my Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop. They went for about $.13 cents each.

[you can see that the Walkers have already been out with me a couple of times and didn’t get consumed… I always take more than I need and enough to share in case anybody else has a sweet tooth, too].

Like the cookies in the larger packages from the original post, these are all “hard” baked cookies, and consequently have a longer shelf life. That’s a nice factor to consider if you’re buying things consume over an entire camping season. All are recommended.

Cold hands are not happy hands

A couple of years ago, in the Fall, when I saw all of the squeeze’n’shake, “hot-hands” chemical hand warmers start showing up on all the check-out counters, I got nostalgic for my old Zippo™ lighter fluid hand warmer that I had had back when I was a teenager. I got one when I was probably 11 years old, and first started out going winter camping in Boy Scouts. I seem to remember that my brother and I were both given them one Christmas.

Back there in Michigan, they were pretty popular with the ice fishermen. You could even get a little flannel belt with two pockets to hold them over your kidneys. I remember loving having mine when I was out sledding as a kid.

I did remember them kicking around for years but not getting much use when we later lived in the Carolinas. Then I had vague memories of having used one down on Cape Cod back in the 80s when I was building houses and slating roofs… right through the winter. I hadn’t seen it since I moved to Maine in 2005… I guess it just went away…. the way things do when you move. You get rid of things and have no memory of doing so… then later on you miss having them.

I looked them up on the Internet, and sure enough, you could still buy one on Amazon. The best part was that they were still being manufactured by Zippo. So, I ended up adding one to a purchase to come up to the free shipping. [ in the same matte black that I purchased, they are currently priced at $12.92 on Amazon ]

Just in case you are not familiar with these units:

You simply pull off the little chromium heating element and add lighter fluid to the bottom half. You then hold a lighter flame under one side of the element for 15 or 20 seconds. Somehow this causes a slow, continuous combustion of the fumes from the fluid. You slip the spring-fit top half back on, let it heat up for a minute or two, and then put the whole unit in the little drawstring bag.

 

You can get up to eight hours, or even more, on a single fill-up… And it gets far, far warmer then the chemical units.

If you buy the chemical packet heaters over the counter at a variety store they can cost as much as $2 a piece. Doesn’t take too long to come up to the full cost of this unit even if you throw in an extra $5 for lighter fluid.

I have been really delighted to have one again. On cold mornings, even right here in the house, I will fire it up and put it inside the collar of my fleece, against the nape of my neck. It warms up the blood going to my brain, and at my age that’s probably a pretty good thing. Of course, once you head outside, it will warm your fingers up in just a few moments, even through gloves.

 

Imagine my surprise this morning when I was rooting around in the back corner of one of my bureau drawers… Voila!

 

Old Faithful.

Note that the old school unit features a large hole so that you could poke a cigarette  in and then light up off of the glow coil.

At some point I had hand-sewed a replacement bag out of an chamois cloth LL  Bean shirt remnant after that same hole burned a corresponding burnhole in the original red flannelette bag. Yes, this old unit would need a consumer protection warning in today’s weenie world. The chromium metal gets hot enough to cause first to second degree burns.

The design has changed only minimally. Real plated brass, real metal chrome like on yer ’53 Cadillac’s bumper, a bit heavier, and it appears to be a few/16ths thicker, so it holds a bit more fluid, and lasts a bit longer. [now going on nine hours]

I put some fluid into the old antique… it fired up instantly. I think that it’s fairly certain that it even gets hotter than the current units.

One for each pocket.

Laguiole “Picnic” Knife

Last fall I got a wild hair and finally bought a Laguiole style knife. I say “style” because these are one of the most heavily cloned knives out there. “Laguiole is like “Kleenex”… It has passed into common usage for any similar sized, folding pocket knife with a similar sweeping blade. I was under no illusions when I ordered this that it was an actual, handcrafted knife from the village of Laguiole, France, or even the adjoining town of Thiers. For one thing, the Shepherds Cross detail on the handle is upside down, and the rivets are not perfectly aligned. While it actually did ship from France, it is certainly a generic version. And, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s a quick link to the Wikipedia entry, and it contains other links at the bottom if you want even more information>>  The Laguiole knife

I have quite a number of what I consider to be decent knives suitable for a variety of purposes, but I lack the money to do any serious collecting of fine blades. This is where my 90%/50% criteria is often used.

The classic Laguiole pocketknife was what you took along to cut up your  fruit and cheese, your baguette and sausage on a picnic in the French countryside. If you had one of the units with the corkscrew, you could open your bottle of cheap vin ordinaire.

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One of the hallmarks of Lagouile knives is the semi three-dimensional bee on the spine of the knife over the ferrule. A second is the engraving along the spine. [the photo at the left is clipped off the Internet, but shows both of these features] Even on the non-handcrafted knifes, the the finer the detailing of these, the better chance of the entire knife being higher-quality. These were two items that I looked for when I started shopping around and comparing the offerings. I was lucky, and the knife I purchased was even more finely detailed than the one shown.

 For my purposes, that is quite enough. This one comes branded “Laguiole L’ Eclair”. It is reportedly made in China of an unknown quality of stainless steel, but takes a very fine, sharp edge with minimum effort. Certainly fine enough for preparing food, and use as a “picnic” knife. The blade opens with a satisfying “snick”, but this is not a locking style knife. However, it does take a firm push up against the back of the blade to disengage the back spring.

The slim blade makes it ideal for slicing. This is why I chose to add one to my camping cutlery. I have big, heavy knives; I have pocket knives and pocket tools. I can dress out a deer carcass, hack up some kindling, and take care of most ordinary camp chores. But none of them have the long, thin blade to finely slice an onion, or to make it a real pleasure to deal with that plate-sized, porterhouse steak that just came off the flaming hardwood coals of your open fire and render it into thin, juicy morsels. The Laguiole does.

It it is also the perfect size to go with my titanium dining set, and carries around perfectly in their mesh bag. Together with the SnowPeak spork, I’m covered. I can prepare and consume in perfect grace, dignity, and high style… while out “roughing it”.

I like using “nice” stuff. That’s how I roll.

YET(i) More Bang For Your Buck

If you have spent any time in the big-buck camping stores in the last few years you have probably encountered the brand name “Yeti™“. I believe they started out making extremely high-end coolers primarily for use in the yachting and deep sea fishing worlds. Whatever, they achieved a great brand name recognition, and have diversified out into many smaller coolers and beverage containers.

The problem has been that Yeti™ also continued to have pricing that only someone who owns a yacht can afford. Sorry, I simply draw the line at spending $400 for a cooler, up to $35 for a vacuum tumbler, or $25 for a beer-coozie… no matter how good it is. However, I will freely admit to drooling over them when I have picked them up for a quick look down at Cabela’s and the Bass Pro Shop.

I already have an extensive assortment of stainless steel vacuum coffee mugs, cold drink tumblers, Thermos™’s, and my can-coozies run the gamut from neoprene sleeves and foam rubber with souvenir place names on them, all the way up to one made out of the same material as L.L. Bean duck boots.

[here comes the “but”…] But, when I saw my friend Chazz sipping single-keg bourbon out of his 10 oz. stainless steel tumbler from Yeti™ I got the jeeloozies….

Then I found this one for sale on Amazon.

From RTIC™, but same size, same construction, slightly different snug-top… and at $9 [sale price] I could [sorta] afford it!

Filled with just ice and covered with just the lid, it took over 18 hours to melt out. I can now understand why Chazz was so enjoying his and thought it worth every penny… It was about 94° that evening.

[at a tiny bit over 9 ounces including the lid, it isn’t something to take backpacking, but for my usual kit, it is perfectly acceptable]

 

Looking at the photo, I realized that I probably ought to clarify that this is a straight sided cylinder. The photo does make it look as though it might be tapered.

We will call this one another 90%/50% win. Especially since it works just as well for hot beverages.  Indeed, overall I am going to have to give RTIC™ the BigWin! in this entire category. Consistently coming in at 50% or less on the price for nearly identical units makes it a no-brainer unless you just want to show off your brand loyalty.

[while I was researching whether or not to go ahead and grab this tumbler, I found this brand comparison>>>> http://www.thecoolerzone.com/rtic-vs-yeti-cooler-ultimate-guide/

I also watched a video on YouTube comparing a full-size Yeti™ cooler with the comparable unit from RTIC™>>>>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZA7IRXf_k0 ]