Hello Loyal Readers! Welcome to our first ever Holiday Gear Guide. We feature products that we have used over the past several months and some of our favorites from our gear closets.
Sneaker Balls have been around since the mid-80’s but still have a very important place in most any household. I remember getting a pair when I was but a young lad in high school with stinky feet! The 2016 version is the same as the version I remember from years ago, and these handy anti-stink tools have not changed a bit and still work just as great as the always have.
I recently gave a set to my daughter to use while her Converse Allstars were festering in her swim locker. She has reported her locker smells much better after using the Sneakerballs. I also keep a pair of Sneakerballs still in the package with my slippers as the anti-smell function works even closed in the package. At night when I have removed my work shoes, I open the Sneaker Balls up and stick them in. After them being placed all night and my shoes being worn all day, I can confidently say that my shoes don’t smell much anymore! So if you have feet and wear shoes, these Sneaker Balls would be great stocking stuffers this holiday season! They sell for around $5 a pair which is well worth the price.
B.Redi Salsa is the brainchild of the Saucedo Family who run a restaurant called The Stand in Seaside Oregon. They developed their salsa packets after repeated requests from customers for the ability to make their salsa at home. They offer four different flavors of salsa – Tangy Tomatillo, Roasted Red Salsa, Relleno, and Chipotle. They sell the salsa in individual flavors in 10 packet boxes which retail for $22.50 or they sell a 10 packet combination with a mix of Tangy Tomatillo, Roasted Red, and Relleno for $25.
I have used the Salsa packets while backpacking and camping over the past few months, and it is an amazing product. The instructions are easy to follow, and each packet provides a generous amount of salsa. I found that a single packet was almost too much salsa for two people. I like my salsa a bit thicker and found that boiling it an extra few minutes really caused it to thicken up. The flavors really stood out with the salsa with the Tangy Tomatillo being my favorite with a nice cilantro flavor and spicy after kick.
You can read our full review here.
Stalwart Backpack and Stool
Perfect for camping, hiking, fishing and so much more, this roomy backpack features a removable, foldable stool that’s lightweight and easy to carry. The Stalwart features a polyester canvas and rust-proof steel construction; adjustable backpack straps, 2 elastic side pockets, 1 small front pocket, 1 secret flap pocket and large main compartment with 2 elastic pockets, and the stool has a 250-pound weight limit.
I have used the Stalwart dozens of times with varied activities such as carrying my gear for ice fishing to using it at dog herding trials. The pack easily swallows day hike gear such as a change of clothes and a backpacking stove to make a hot lunch. It is a super convenient stool and backpack combo for the multi tasking adventure in your life. It retails $29.99 and can be found at numerous big box stores.
Re-Fuel 2-in-1 Bluetooth BPA Free Water Bottle Speaker
The 2 in 1 Bluetooth Speaker and Water Bottle from Re-Fuel is a cool gadget. It is a water bottle that holds around 16oz of liquid and can play your favorite tunes. The bottle has a bluetooth speaker and controls that screw onto the bottom of the bottle. The ability to separate them is nice for cleaning and washing the bottle. The controls for the speaker are on the the bottom of the bottle are recessed into the bottom just enough so that the bottle sits flush.
The speaker provides good audio and the bluetooth works well up to about 30 feet away from the speaker. I used the speaker to listen to the Seahawks play while camping at Fountainbleau State Park and I was able to listen to the entire game plus the post game commentary without recharging the battery. It retails $29.99 and can be found on the Re-Fuel website.
GSI Outdoors Javamill
Coffee is an essential part of any backpacking or camping kit and GSI’s Javamill is a perfect gift for the coffee connoisseur. The Javamill is a lightweight compact hand operated coffee grinder. It fits in my hand and is easy to store in a pack. It features an adjustable ceramic burr grinder and convenient grounds cup making it easy to transfer the grounds to your preferred method for brewing coffee.
I was able to easily dial in my preferred coarseness for my french press with a few practice grinds and being able to see the coffee beans being ground is a
satisfying experience. The finished ground beans are very consistent and I am getting an excellent cup of my favorite French roast in the morning. The Javamill is a great choice for the coffee lover on your Christmas list. It retails for $29.95
GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Steel Commuter Javapress
The GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Commuter Javapress is a double walled, portable, vacuum insulated, French press coffee mug. It is advertised to keep liquids hot or cold for three hours and has a 14 fl. oz. liquid capacity. The Javapress uses only a carafe and a screen to press the coffee. The French presses that I am accustomed to have the plunger rod inside. So I would say right off the Javapress is more simplistic than what I am used to. The Javapress has a 18/8 stainless steel outer carafe with a non-slip foot, 18/8 stainless steel inner carafe with a screen, and a lid with a sliding seal. The Javapress weighs 13.2 oz. and measures 4 in x 3 in x 8.6 inches. I found it easily fits in my car beverage holders.
I went to Pete’s Coffee and picked up some freshly ground coffee called Big Bang. Sometimes in the morning I need a big bang to wake me up. So I boiled some water and brewed my coffee following the directions. It was not difficult to remove and replace the inner carafe, push the carafe down nor lock it in place. My coffee tasted good with no strange metal taste and there were no floating coffee grounds. I do need to play around with the coffee measurements as I think it could have been stronger. My coffee stayed warm for three hours (I intentionally left the Javapress while I ran some errands) and it still tasted good. Now taking apart the Javapress for cleaning was easy. I usually let my coffee cool a bit before drinking so when it was time to take it apart it was not hot. The GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Commuter Javapress would make the perfect holiday gift for the coffee lover on the run or enjoys French press coffee.
For more information please visit www.gsioutdoors.com. The Stainless Commuter Javapress retails for $34.95 and is available in the following colors: green, orange, stainless, red, and blue.
Yaktrax was named after the sure footed Tibetan Yak. The design used was inspired by the observations of a Sherpa striding across snow and icy surfaces in the Himalayas.
The Run consists of the traction part and 2 fabric straps to prevent the Run from detaching while in use. The toe strap is adjustable and ties in with the performance strap which is in the transverse direction of the shoe. The traction for the ball of the foot is 6 carbide spikes. There are also 12 smaller covered spikes on the inside. The heel consists a diamond pattern of 1.4 mm steel coils. There is reflective material on the removable toe strap and the “Y” label on the heel.
The Yaktrax are lightweight, compact, and easy to store. The spikes serve dual purposes. The main purpose is for traction, the inside spikes that touch the sole of the shoe help keep the Yaktrax in place while in use. Snow will fall soon and we plan on putting the Yaktrax Run to good use. They retail for $39.99.
Re-Fuel XT2 Waterproof Outdoor Speaker
If you want big speaker sound without lugging around the “big” speaker the XT2 Waterproof Speaker from Re-Fuel is a great choice. The shockproof and waterproof rectangular speaker provides up to 8 hours of wireless play time with a 30 foot Bluetooth range. It is light enough to carry backpacking, but at almost one pound it is not an ultra-light addition.
I have used the XT2 both at home and in the field. It was the center piece of our Harry Potter Themed Halloween decorations blasting out JK Rowling inspired music as the trick or treaters visited. I was able to set up the speaker near our decorations and leave my iPhone inside the house about 20 feet away with no interruptions or static in the music. I also used it to listen to my favorite tunes around the campfire. The audio quality if very good and the speaker can really belt out loud music if that is what is called for. It retails for $59.99.
Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry Rechargeable Lantern
The Helix Backcountry from Princeton Tec is a neat compact rechargeable lantern. It charged via micro USB and has a burn time of 32 hours on a single charge. It has an light output between 150 to 30 lumens and features a collapsible globe, four foldable legs and a hook for hanging.
One of the unique features of this lantern is that it is fully controlled using a swipe pad on the front. In use, this can be brushed against and the lantern turned on, so one needs to be a little careful in your pack fishing around. There are 6 different modes plus a dimmable feature.
I used the lantern on a recent deer hunt while hiking out after dark. I hung the lantern from my backpack strap and the 150 lumens lit up the whole skid road for the hike out with my hunting partner, and it allowed us to be hands free to keep our rifles on our shoulders and arms free for balance. Retail price varies online – but generally ranges from $30 to $40.
Dead Ringer Hunting Hammock Seat
Thunderbolt Sportswear Marly Tee
The Baseline Marly Tee is a 100% merino wool shirt that is the lightweight version of ThunderBolt Sportswear’s Baseline Tee. Thunderbolt Sportswear claims the shirt is “comfortable, durable, quick to dry, odor resistant and feather light.” The shirt features flatlock stitching, fabric sourced from responsible farms in Australia, and is backed by Thunderbolt Sportswear’s 90 day hassle free warranty. The care instructions are simple – handwash and lay flat to dry. These care instructions are fairly common for lightweight merino wool shirts.
I have used the shirt over the past month hiking, camping and running and have been very pleased. It is super soft and comfortable to wear. It wicks sweat well and has kept me warm and comfortable on a 10 mile training run in the low 40’s. It is a great all around outdoor shirt. You can read our full review here.
The shirt retails for $75 and is available in only one color – light grey.
Solo Everyday Max Backpack
Based in New York, Solo is one of the fastest growing brands in the Urban and Lifestyle brand categories. The Everyday Max backpack is part of Solo’s Velocity Collection which combines streamlined gear that’s ready for any adventure. The Everyday Max backpack features a large main compartment that can be accessed by a top zip or from a U shaped zipper on the front of the pack. It also features a padded 17.3” laptop pocket that also has a smaller internal pocket sized for a tablet. The pack has two side zipped pockets, a small front zip pocket on the outside, and four internal zippered pockets. Finally, there is a zippered shoe compartment on the bottom of the pack perfect for the days where you go from the office to the trail. The pack also has a carry handle on the top, and on both sides and padded shoulder straps.
I have used the Solo Everyday Max backpack hiking in Louisiana, on long days trekking around Disneyland and other California theme parks, and as my everyday backpack. The streamlined pack looks stylish and is functional. I can fit 32 oz. bottles in the side pockets, though the zippers don’t allow access while wearing the pack. The main compartment swallows a day’s worth of gear with no problems, and the padded shoulder straps stayed comfortable all day. This backpack is great for urban and outdoor adventures. It retails for $79.99.
Thanks for reading our First Annual Holiday Guide. Thanks to the companies that provided the gear for the guide as well as the following writers who contributed – Arnie, Chris, Coy, Jenn, Leesa and Jason.