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A Tribe Called Questival – New Adventures Await

Questival Logo

Gonna be a llamazing experience.

Two days from now, on September 15th, Team Bristleconers will be competing against over 175 teams in the San Diego Questival. The event, which lasts for 24 hours, is part scavenger hunt, part race, part team-building exercise on steroids, is hosted by Cotopaxi.

Here’s the rundown:
You sign up for the race of your choice here: CLICK ME!
You download the Questival App
You get a pre-event packet detailing what to bring (sleeping back, charger packs for your phone, etc)
You show up to a launch party, get a free backpack
Your app gets loaded up with lists of things to do
You go absolutely nuts trying to accomplish as much as you can
You upload proof you did the things
You and other teams judge each others submissions
Win or lose, you feel accomplished

The Bristleconers are coming at the San Diego event hot, but Cotopaxi hosts the events all over the country. Keep an eye out for a post-event review, but we’re already pretty freaking pumped for this thing. Here’s a video from Cotopaxi explaining it even more!

Dress Down

Get Your Groove on With Groove Rings

Here I am, poking at some rad red rocks in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Married? Pretending to be married? Just like to wear rings? If you answered yes, then you’ve probably snagged your ring on something or scratched your ring on something or scratched someone with your ring. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Been hiking and got the dang thing encrusted with dirt? Like to rock climb, but trying to brush them single people off when you can’t wear a ring and properly climb your route? Ever just punched a guy to see if your ring would make an imprint?

Well, after Groove Rings asked us to review a round-up of their silicone “breathable active rings,” I was suspicious of wearing a goofy rubber band. After a week, I was sold. It’s been a couple months now and I can’t believe I didn’t get these shortly after getting married.

Here I am in Kodachrome Basin State park, modeling the Groove Ring in black, and a Target watch in brown.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my sweet custom wedding ring is AWESOME. It’s actually much cooler, and prettier, than the Groove Rings. It’s carbon fiber (super light) with Jack Daniels whiskey barrel wood inlaid into it (super rad), but it was DELICATE.

I still have it, as it’s super rad and I love wearing it for special occasions, but it’s already a little beat up. It has quite a few scratches from gardening, excessive use of high fives, dog petting, and, of course, climbing over rocks while hiking.

I’ve been wearing this Groove for over two months, shoving my hands into garden soil, hiking over boulders in Utah, washing old chili out of a pot I forgot about for a day and a half, and haven’t put one scratch or nick in it. It’s lightweight, super flexible, and the namesake grooves actually keep my clammy fingers from getting all pruney.

I love it. I love it so much. It’s a durable ring of silicon that I can’t really ruin, and if I do, it’s got a warranty! It’s not nearly as pretty, nor nearly as meaningful as my actual wedding ring, but for a daily stand-in, it’s top-notch.

The Groove Rings are taking a page from companies like Warby Parker, and offering customers the opportunity to try on five different sizes and colors before committing, which you probably will. Check out more at https://groovelife.co/.

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Mindshift Backlight 26L – A review

The Backlight 26L in it’s natural environment.

 

I’ve gotten to the point where I have outgrown the janky free Canon backpack that came with the camera kit I got a few years ago. I wanted something rugged, and easy to access for long hikes and sudden appearances of forest friends.  When I started asking around for a replacement, the name that kept popping up was ThinkTank.
But, as I looked into it, I found that they were made far more for photographers that are in a bit more of a controlled environment, or a place where they can get their needed gear out, and stow the bag away. I needed a bag that was going to get snagged on brambles, get splashed by waterfalls, and be scorched by the sun.
So, imagine my excitement when, after scrolling to the bottom of the ThinkTank website, I find that they have an entire line of outdoorsy bags under the moniker of Mindshift.

Half Dome from Sentinel Dome

I reached out to their team, told them what I was looking for in a bag, and was floored by their warm reception and was offered a Backlight 26L to check out.
Immediately, we took to putting it through its paces. We took it to the mountains, to Disneyland, to the Grand Canyon, and to our latest excursion to Yosemite National Park.
It is PERFECT.
Seriously, it’s phenomenal. The pack is currently holding:
MeFoto Backpacker tripod
A Canon 5DMiii
Canon 24-70mm f2.8
Canon 70-200mm f1.8
Canon 50mm f1.4
Rokinon 12mm f2.8
Canon Speedflash 580ex
Three spare batteries
A “camera condom” (rain sleeve)
Two USB battery packs (for phones)
A TriggerTrap cable
Spare AAA/AA batteries
A multi-tool
Extra Peak Design cuff
Sunscreen
Included rain jacket
Peter Storm rain jacket (for me, not the backpack)
Charger cables
A squeaky duck toy I use to shoot both kids’ birthdays and animals
Random pieces from my double-camera harness, allen wrenches, and lord know what else.

2+ miles into the Wapama Falls Trail

So, the Backlight has some fantastic features that lead me to rave about it.
Hip/sternum straps
This was the major feature I wanted. In hiking with my janky little Canon bag, the chest strap was great, but it’s small size and lack of hip straps left me sore as could be. The Mindshift bag had both a larger capacity for gear and a padded hip strap, allowing for my 5 mile hike to Wapoma Falls in Hetch Hetchy to finish with no real aches and pains other than those related to the FIVE FREAKING MILE HIKE I JUST UNDERTOOK IN 90+ DEGREE WEATHER.
Tripod straps
The straps/weird pocket for the tripod were fantastic. We took the Backlight to Hetch Hetchy, Glacier Point, and up Sentinel Dome, and each place I was able to set up my kit to take a low f-stop, low ISO shot that tried to take in all the grandeur I possibly could, and because of the Backlight, I was able to carry everything and still keep my hands free. RAD.
The weird access from the back-thing
Hands down my favorite feature is the ability to access ALL of my gear without taking the Backlight off. With just the hipstraps on, you can spin the thing around and get into everything. We had a deer come near us in Yosemite Valley, and it took me less than a minute to get into my pack and switch lenses to my 70-200. While on the trail to Lower Yosemite Falls, we found that you can use a tree as a body and access the gear AND not have to carry it. How cool is that? (Spoiler: VERY COOL).

Cal found my squeaky duck

 

Overall, this pack is absolutely perfect for an entry-mid-level photographer who wants to take a fair amount of gear with them onto a hiking/backpacking trip. I have nothing to take away from this pack, so it most certainly gets a 10/10.
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Yosemite National Park – One of the Best Ideas

“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.”
–John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 235.

We need our wild lands; places in nature where we can play, ponder, explore, and engage.  We need our senses heightened, our memories indulged, and our spirits rinsed clean.  We need this desperately, and we need it often.

A couple weeks ago, we ventured north from where we reside to a place that seems to draw us in over and over again: Yosemite National Park.  In Ken Burns’ PBS series titled The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, viewers follow the birth and growth of the National Park Service to what it is today.  This documentary introduced me to the words of John Muir, and since then I can’t seem to shake that feeling of wonder and gratitude whenever I read or hear a quote from that great man.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
–John Muir, The Yosemite (1912), page 256.

So, we went to Yosemite to play, to take in its wonder, and to take a break.  With almost three months off from school for the summer, I decided to use up some saved vacation time and take Jonathan there for his second trip.  The first time he went was in 2014, a year of a severe drought.  In contrast, this year had so much snow that during our end-of-June trip, the Tioga Pass was still closed.  Though our timing was not impeccable, the waterfalls definitely were.

Staying at the Yosemite Bug – Rustic Mountain Resort, or Bug Lodge, as it was formerly known, our first order of business was to check out the amazing menu, which changes daily, at the June Bug Cafe, and talk it up with some locals.  We met a rad rafter who leads tours on the Merced, and informed us that within the past week of us getting there, the river had risen 5ft due to snow melt.  After dinner, we tucked in for the night and began our first day in the park bright and early with a 3:30am wakeup call.

Sunrise from Tunnel View is a thing of supreme beauty.  We spent our first day in the valley, wandering amongst the crowds, getting showered upon by the crazy amounts of water pouring out of those spectacular falls.  After grabbing some much needed maps on day one, we spent our second day exploring John Muir’s beloved Hetch Hetchy.  The hike I chose was a moderate jaunt to Wapama Falls, although due to that snow melt I mentioned before we were only able to get as far as Tueeulala Falls, which provided us with an amazing shower before turing back to the heat of the hike.

Day three was both an early morning and late night.  We started up the road to Glacier Point, feeling that bumpy road that gave us some indication of how Tioga Pass must have been.  After snapping some early morning shots, we ventured up to Sentinel Dome where the views of the park are not to be contended with.  Basking in the beauty of that amazing 360 degree view, we also realized that we were basking in full-sun on empty stomachs, so we began our hike back to shade and food.

The rest of our last full day there was spent getting to know Curry Village, now known as Half Dome Village, for future trips.  That night, we stayed in the park till sunset, driving back up to Tunnel View for some more amazing images to document the memories we made.  On our way back to the Bug Lodge for the last night of the trip, we stopped by the Merced to see its rushing waters on a moonless night.

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”
–John Muir, Travels in Alaska by John Muir, 1915, chapter 1, page 5.

What a goddamn poetic man…

This trip gave me many things.  It gave me a renewed sense of wonder for our parks and open spaces.  It gave me a sense of calm content that can only come when viewing places of such majestic nature – places so old.  More than anything, though, it gave me the courage to keep going, keep exploring, keep fighting for our wild places, and keep writing about them, telling my friends, doing as much as I can to protect what means the most to me.  Yosemite reminded me that nature, above all else, is home.

Experience

Skip The Funeral. Take a Walk, Instead.

My wife and I often joke about what to do with our bodies when we die, as discussing the topic without humor is, well, AWFUL. My usual go-to is “stick me in a hemp suit, dump me in a hole, and plant a tree on top.” Death is hard to talk about, and the idea of someone planning my funeral is tough. So, instead of joking, I’m going to change it up because of a Kickstarter alternative to caskets or urns. Yes, yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

A Dutch team has come up with the Totem of Life and Death, or TOLAD. I think that if you are here and reading Bristlecone Journal, the concept will appeal to you just as much as it does to me.

The premise is pretty simple: Scattering ashes is messy, generally over in a second, and not a particularly dignified way to dispose of the remains of those closest to you. The TOLAD, to put it bluntly, is a large, hollow walking stick/ash dispenser. In goes the ashes of your beloved friend or family member, and off you go to their favorite location. As you walk, a plunger at the bottom releases a small amount of ash, allowing you to take one last journey with those you love.

As the video below shows, the TOLAD can be passed around, allowing each of the bereaved to have an active role in the process. This helps give each person a more profound sense of closure, which so many of us need when losing someone.


(Turn on the CC, it’s in Dutch)

And, whereas gaudy caskets can cost thousands of dollars, the TOLAD is asking backers for less than $100 for each one.

You can check it out for yourself here: TOLAD on Kickstarter.

Experience

Ohana Means Beach Vibes at the 2nd Annual Ohana Festival

Ohana Festival Lineup Poster

I freaking love music festivals. I hate music festival weather. It’s usually in a 110 degree desert, where you end up with dry desert sand in all your nooks and crannies and you blow black snot rockets for two weeks. So, when I saw the Ohana Festival, with their amazing line up and their amazing, ocean-side location, I was STOKED.

I’ll admit, it’s weird to see Social Distortion playing with Fiona Apple or The Pixies with Jack Johnson, I’m still pretty interested in seeing them all. While the lineup is out for the September festival, the “attractions” are still yet to come. I’m guessing some kind of surf wax competition and loads of vegan food trucks, both of which I’d be on board with.

AND they’ve also partnered with the California State Parks, San Onofre Parks Foundation, California Coastal Commission, Ocean Institute, Surfrider, and the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association.

But, with sponsorship partners like Tito’s Homemade Vodka, Krave, Kind, Bai, Hydroflask, OluKai, Sambazon, and World Surf League, I have a feeling it’s going to be one helluva party for hippies and hipsters alike. I mean, filling a Hydroflask with Tito’s and Sambazon’s açai juices, nomming on some beef jerky while wearing weird sandals and listening to Ray LaMontagne sounds like as perfect a festival vibe as you can get.

Unless… Want to go nutso and spend rent on a Treat Yo Self weekend? The VIP tix at Ohana Festival get you the following:

  • Dedicated VIP entry
  • Exclusive VIP laminate
  • Ohana VIP Giftbag
  • VIP viewing seated platform

Access to Ohana Festival Dana Point VIP Lounge, which includes:

  • 4 drink tickets (valid in VIP lounge only, 21+ and over)
  • Live streams of music stage
  • Comfortable lounge seating with shaded areas
  • Cabanas and hammocks to hang out and relax in
  • Access to VIP Cash Beach Bar
  • Expanded Private Restrooms
  • Complimentary Bai and Bai Bubbles beverages
  • Complimentary Wahoo’s Taco bar from 3pm-6pm
  • Sunscreen Bar provided by Epicuren

If you don’t wanna spend the extra dough, I understand. You can come hang out with me. You’ll find me wherever the free samples are.

What: Ohana Festival
Where: Doheny State Beach
When: September 8-10, 2017
Who: You
Why: Because it sounds rad.
How: Tickets Available HERE
Weekend General Admission: $335 w/ fees
Weekend VIP: $1260 w/ fees
1 Day General Admission: $120 w/ fees
1 Day VIP: $539 w/ fees

Hiking Local

Hiking Local – Heart Rock Trail

We live in the best place in the effing country. We live an hour from Joshua Tree. An hour from LA. An hour from Disneyland. And only 40 minutes from the very, very wonderful Heart Rock Trail in Crestline.

Our friend, the creek

Our friend, the creek

Driving up to the small town of Crestline is via a wonderfully windy mountain road just North of San Bernardino. The trailhead is just to the left of Camp Seely, a mountain camp owned by the City of Los Angeles (which sounds weird to me, too), but make sure NOT to park in the Camp Seely parking lot. Instead, veer to the left at the fork and find a parking spot in any number of dirt parking spaces on the side of the road. Obviously, if you block the road or others, you are a dick. Don’t be a dick.

Heart Rock In All Its Glory

Heart Rock In All Its Glory

Once you hit the trail, you are immediately surrounded by a variety of pines, some of which have fallen across the trail, which is the only real hazards you may encounter on your journey. There’s also a beautiful creek that the trail clings to, which is pretty dang sweet. We were fortunate enough to come across a 10 week old red husky baby that reminded me of Gozer when we first adopted him. In all of our ooing and aahing, we forgot to ask her name. But it’s OK, I saw it in her eyes, her true name was Nala.

Selfieception

Selfieception

After a straddling a few fallen trees to get over them, we came across the namesake landmark: Heart Rock. It’s a pretty straightforward moniker: there is a rock with the shape of a heart hollowed out inside. After the requisite photoshoot, we started heading back down the trail. We made sure to stop along the creek, poking at some weird bugs and judging the turds who carved their initials into the trees like some real fuckos. Aaaaand that’s it. It’s a short hike, only about ¾ mile each way, but absolutely worth the drive to go check it out. Go check it out.

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The Grand Canyon National Park – A Roadtrip

In trying to decide what we could do to pass the time during Cal’s spring break, she turned to me and said, “Want to see if there’s any camping available in the Grand Canyon?” Well, of course I did, and lo and behold, there was a campsite at Mather Campground during the first weekend of her Spring Break. So, instead of the stereotypical booze-fueled debauchery that is synonymous with college co-eds letting loose, we packed up our gear and skedaddled onto the 7-hour drive to the Grand Canyon National Park.

On the drive out, we saw some of the finest nothingness both California and Arizona had to offer. And I don’t say that sarcastically. The 40 was the largest chunk of our trip, and passes in between the Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve, both amazing, and vastly different, desert landscapes. We also stopped off at a random Dairy Queen in Needles, the last city before Arizona, where I introduced Cal to the glory that is the Butterfinger Blizzard.

“Is it like a milkshake?”
“Milkshakes wish they were Blizzards.”

With the tank full, next stop was Kingman, Arizona. We had decided to grab groceries and ice in Arizona, as we were taking a smaller cooler and wanted to make sure that we could keep any food fresh and cold. We only planned on cooking a couple of dinners, since there are plenty of food options in the park. Groceries acquired, we were back on the road for the last, but definitely not least, leg of the trip: the 64 North. Half annoying 2-lane highway, half stunning stretch of asphalt that takes you through desert into the stunning Kaibab National Forest, the 64 appropriately prepares you for the beauty of the area surrounding the Grand Canyon itself.

Now, prior to the trip, we were asked if we’d want to review some new gear from European brand Easy Camp, which of course we did. More on that over HERE.

Once we had everything set up and put away at the very wonderful Mather Campground, we realized that no matter how tasty a Blizzard is, four or five hours later, you’re going to want real food. So off we went into the park.

A very sassy “shuttle” (it’s a full-sized bus) driver picked us up from the Mather Campground stop and took us to the next stop: the Yavapai Lodge, more specifically, the Yavapai Tavern. Now, if you didn’t know, I LOVE me some nachos. I even have a nachos tattoo. No joke. And well, in our planning for the trip, I came across the Yavapai Tavern site, which has some images/menus available, including some pictures of their nachos. We arrive at the YavTav, tucked into the back corner of the Lodge, and find the 40-something capacity venue is at capacity. Luckily, the “45-minute” wait was more of a 15-minute wait, so our famine wasn’t stretched out tooooo long.

Most of the people we met who worked at the Grand Canyon were amazing, and our waiter, Anthony, was no exception. We ordered the nachos and two beers, including a Grand Canyon Wheat for Cal and a Lumberyard IPA for myself. Anthony recommended floating some orange juice in the wheat as a sort of beer mimosa, which we went along with. He also suggested adding the pulled pork, which was first slow-cooked, then pulled, then added back to a slow cooker with BBQ sauce. We were on board.

We devoured it all and didn’t look back. At this point in time, the sun had already set, and we were exhausted, so we decided to call it a night and wake up early to catch sunrise at Mather Point.

That did not happen. Apparently a whole day driving is more exhausting than we thought, especially when it was coupled with attempts to properly warm ourselves from the temperature that dropped down to the low 30s. But, we woke up moderately early, and set out for the rim at Mather Point.

I was truly worried I’d be a widower at the end of this trip.

We once again took the shuttle, as it was not only super convenient, but timely. Once dropped off at the visitor’s center (which is the same stop for Mather Point), we snagged some of the worst coffee we’ve ever had from one of the nicest cashiers we met. After throwing away more than half of the decrepit bean water, we made our way to the rim.

Just like Yosemite’s Tunnel View, Half Dome, Glacier Point, or really any part of Yosemite, no pictures do the Grand Canyon justice. None. It was stunning. As we turned and got our first glimpse, we noticed there was a solid barrier running around the edge. Great. Perfect. In the time it took for us to go down the stairs and across the little plaza, some maniac had somehow gone over/around the barriers, down some rocks, up some rocks, and over a gap in between two rocks to be perched precariously over the precipice below. Looking at him gave me heart palpitations. So I looked away! And in front of me lay a chasm so large it was difficult to comprehend the scope of what I was looking at.

Taking in the sights

 

 

 

 

Now, I’ve seen canyons before, but none that were so wide you could fit cities in between them. Valleys, sure, but canyons? No. This one was. For hundreds of millions of years, the steady stream of the Colorado River has been carving out one of the most spectacular visions I’ve seen yet.

Layer after layer, eon after eon has been exposed, with the colored stripes becoming even more inspiring when you realize you are looking back through time. Holy shit.

We decided to walk the two+ miles from Mather Point to the Hopi House, stopping at the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum along the way. Just after the Geology Museum is the Trail of Time, a lovely paved path with exhibits and very shiny rocks from the canyon below on display. On the ground are markers to tell you how “far back in time” you’ve passed. Make sure to look up, though, as there were several stunning vistas along the way, too.

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number

After we reached Hopi House, we decided to finish the rest of the trail to Hermit’s Rest the next day, and hopped on the shuttle back to our site for dinner, which is described in more detail HERE.

Day two of GCNP saw us going back to Hopi Point and heading West along the rim towards Hermit’s Rest, which is quite the journey. Well, it would be on foot. We opted for a shuttle ride to Maricopa Point, but walked a majority of the way to Hermit’s Rest, where more shitty coffee was had, along with the most satisfying Clif Bar I’ve ever had.

Probably not normal to see a hand pop up.

We decided to hit up YavTav one more time while we formulated our plans for sunset. Over an amazing salad and a tasty burger, we picked Hopi Point, which offered stunning views of the canyon for miles on either side.

As we set up our prime location for some fun shots, we overheard some sunset tour bus drivers explain that the tiniest little notch we could see on the rim was actually the Devil’s Watchtower, a 5-story building that, at 25 miles away, was barely discernable. I was dumbfounded. Not even looking at the Grand Canyon directly can give you a true impression of the sheer scale of grandeur.

Sunset at Hopi Point

We witnessed an amazing sunset, I suppose as perfect as it could be. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the cloudy sky glowed with an electric fury, which lit the canyon up in stunning violets and burning reds. We sat and stared. All you can do is stare, and every time you dart your eyes to see a new angle, it’s an entirely different experience. Just absolutely stunning.

As we headed back to camp for some snacks, we decided to see what we could do to get some star shots over the canyon before the moon rose and flooded out the glory of the milky way. I am so glad we did, but I admit, it was TERRIFYING.

As we approached Mather Point, there was an eerie calm. Gone were the spastic children running around their befuddled parents. Gone were the birds and lizards. All that remained was silence and darkness. We made our way along the trail using our red LED headlamps, but when we got to the point, we had to switch to white light to ensure we didn’t go toppling off the edge and secure ourselves a Darwin Award.

Somehow, all my thought took on the voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Once settled into a spot, we were back into night mode, where again, you are confronted with the vastness. This time not just of the canyon in front of you, but the space above. The thrilling site of the stars, with the first hint of moonrise on the horizon, was enough to help you realize how absolutely small, and how immensely beautiful our planet is. Again, I couldn’t take a picture to do it any real justice. As hard as I try, I lack the words that can truly capture how magnificent the entire experience was.

Back at the tent, I just sat there, incredulous that I had just witnessed that level of vast nothingness. A smile broke across my lips, though, as I realized that the sun’s first light would once again illuminate the canyon below, replacing the vast darkness above with the radiant colors of the canyon below.

Mather Point in the morning

 

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Easy Camp Reviews

Sunset from Hopi Point

Prior to our recent trip to the Grand Canyon, some very amazing PR people working with Easy Camp asked if we were interested in a real-life field test/review of some of their product.

We got ourselves checked in with the wonderfully helpful ranger and hit up campsite 266B. While it is a decent size, a majority of the site is rocky, with a spot of dirt perfectly fitted for the shiny new Galaxy 400 tent we got from Easy Camp.

Good night, Moon. Wait, I think that was Venus. My bad.

This is where you can tell that we were not paid for this review: setting this thing up SUCKED. The instructions were as minimal as Ikea furniture, but without any of the goofy illustrations to at least give you an idea of what you are supposed to do. We’ve set up our share of tents before, but never one where you put up the fly first and then the tent. Images/better instructions would have saved us a bunch of time, effort, and exasperated noises made at each other.

For example, there is a ground cover for the little patio area, and it has a notch in one side. Does it go in the front? Back? One of the sides? The answer is right next to the front of the tent, as a stake from the tent needs to go right through the notch. We discovered this after we staked it backwards, unstaked it, and re-staked it correctly. Oh, and those straps that were on the top when we unfolded it? They definitely go on the bottom. Honestly, Easy Camp, just add some doodles to help us out. We had no service to watch your “tutorial,” which also isn’t that great.

Having said all that, the tent, once put up, was absolutely worth it. Honestly, once set up, it’s GREAT. It felt as sturdy as our Teton Sports tent, but was tall enough for me to stand up in and get changed in (I’m just shy of 6’). There was plenty of space for us to lay out, and have our bags in there. What we called our front porch was a perfect size for a couple camp chairs, the cooler, and any food or gear we wanted to keep from some very brazen ravens. There were a couple of windows in the front, as well as one in the back. I’d also like to commend Easy Camp on the sheer number of stakes they offer, even if they are the thin metal ones that I’m not a huge fan of. Especially when we bent three of them trying to stake through some random rocks beneath the surface.

While we often go for a big batch of chili, we opted for foil-wrapped meal pouches, partly because they are a great way to minimize dishes and pans to be washed, but mostly because we wanted an excuse to review the Easy Camp Sarin Camp Kitchen.

What’s taters, Precious?

Since we knew we might not eat the healthiest food around the park, we went with chicken breast with a seasoning of ginger, garlic, turmeric, and curry powder, potatoes, and salt and peppered green beans. As we usually do, we made the seasoning blends before hand in reused plastic seasoning jars.

The Sarin was a pretty solid set-up, with far less of a learning curve as the Galaxy 400. The thing basically unfolds, two of the legs telescope out, and you hang the little shelf unit up. Done and done. Maybeeeeee a minute and a half to set it up, but only that long because we kept trying to look for instructions just in case.  Dinner itself was pretty easy, especially on the Sarin’s prep tables: chop up everything to desired size, wrap in foil, and put on grill. Easy peasy.

I do have to say, with the recent (as of April 13th, 2017) world events, Easy Camp may want to consider renaming this thing.

Cal being a happy camper

Usually for this style of cooking, we have to stack the foil packets on top of each other because the campsite grills that come attached to the firerings at most sites only cover about 1/3 of the fire. In comes Easy Camp review #3: The Easy Camp Campfire Tripod, a three-legged grill that goes directly over the fire.

This bad boy was also super easy to set up, with a little chain that you can use to adjust the distance between the grill and the fire. And, unlike the built-in grill, you can adjust the grill if the fire catches better on a different side.

The last Easy Camp piece we reviewed on the trip was the Duggite, a small, single-button LED lamp that springs open. Other than wishing it had a cute little robot face, it was pretty simple to operate, and bright enough to read by in the tent without being blinding.

Overall, we feel that the Easy Camp instructions leave a lot to be desired to make it live up to it’s namesake, but the products themselves are pretty solid for recreational camping.