James Howard

James Howard

Wherever the wind takes me.. which as of now is simply Red River Gorge, but most recently, the Pacific Crest Trail. I'll be back.

James Howard's Passions

Hiking & Camping
Running
Yoga
Climbing

James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on October 28, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I have been the proud owner and user of a dozen of these - I wouldn't change my decision to go forth with the purchase of these when I did, especially because they were on sale at the time that I bought them.
As others have pointed out, the fact that they don't have a hook nose has proved invaluable at times when I'm attempting to retrieve the draw from an anchor with tension still on the rope. Moreover, the included "Straitjacket" insert in the rope-end of the draw is a feature I appreciate immensely, so I don't have to worry about that segment of the draw flipping around onto the minor axis of the carabiner when climbing.
Although I have no detailed or prolonged experience with other draws, I do recognize that these are a bit on the weighty side of the draw market, but for the performance they offer and the value they ultimately provide for a solid starter set to your sport rack or as an addition to a developed gear bag, I believe this is one of the best quickdraw deals that can be found on the market at this time.
One other qualm I have is that, from time to time, the anchor-end 'biner of the draw will flip around due to jostling from the rope for whatever reason, and it will land on the minor axis of the anchor-end 'biner, which leaves me with some concern, since those anchors can etch rives or "incisions" from general use, and when those flip around while in the anchor, those ridges left in the 'biner are rubbing at the sling part of the quickdraw, which I presume causes slightly quicker wear of the sling segment of the quickdraw as a whole.
For that reason, I do feel a star drop is necessary, since I think that is an issue that could have been obviated with installation of a Straitjacket on both ends of the sling section, instead of one.
Also, I WISH the Quikpacks came in varying lengths, instead of being stuck with the 12cm length! If they did, these are the only draws I would ever buy. Aggggh!

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on March 23, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

It took me some contemplation to decide what to write about this coffee brewing assembly, as I finally had the opportunity to use it in the "backcountry" (i.e. my buddy's cabin free of amenities excepting the roof and four walls) yesterday, so I decided to offer some feedback based off initial experiences.
First, I'm a bit of a coffee snob; not quite to the point of being a prat about it, but I do enjoy an aromatic and ambrosial cup of the bean when I can afford to make it. That being clear, I'll settle for less-than-perfect more often than not - I really like coffee.
While I was rather eager to use it, I must admit I was wary of the entirely plastic/ silicone construction. I suppose that for those materials, it was still a bit on the heavy side, though I have to admit I didn't notice any petroleum-plastic taste when I poured nigh boiling water into the contraption, so that was a positive.
However, to digress, there was one downfall that really hurt my outlook on the setup, and that was the speed of the drip. I expected it to take upwards of four or five minutes to transform ~25 oz of water into coffee, but instead it took less than thirty seconds, nothing resembling an actual drip so much as a "drain," which resulted in a decent cup of coffee for the outdoors, but definitely a major design flaw. While the entire system is made for either a group of campers or a couple people who really enjoy their coffee, they would only be enjoying a cup of bean that I would say is decent at best, slightly on the watery side at worst. It is unfortunate that it evacuates the preparatory water as rapidly as it does, because I believe if it was only a bit slower, it would elevate the quality exponentially. If you are considering purchasing either this or the GSI Java Press, go with the Press system without a doubt. Both may be a bit irksome when it comes to cleanup (but come-on, few coffee systems aren't, let's be honest), but I believe the Press would result in a superior cup.

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James Howard

James Howard posted an image about on February 13, 2014

OR TorsoFlo hem-to-bicep side vent zips

A tip of the hat to Sierra Trading Post for having made a photo available that portrayed at least a portion of the TorsoFlo vent system on this jacket. I'm sure people have pined for such a thing to be made readily accessible.
Photo credit: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/outdoor-research-aspire-gore-tex-paclite-jacket-waterproof-for-women~p~2408w/

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on January 28, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Decided to purchase these after having less-than-spectacular experiences with polyester-based undergarments, and I have been truly satisfied with manner in which they have performed.
I've only been able to take them out into truly algid weather a couple times, so I cannot speak to their ability to keep you warm in conditions broaching the 'teens, or below zero. However, when wearing this upper, an IB BodyFit 260 Apex Legging, and a Marmot softshell pant and jacket, I hiked around and played in the snow comfortably when temperatures were dipping as low as the +20s without experiencing anything remotely resembling disagreeable cold, body-wise.
The sewn-in thumb holes are a definite plus, and the fact that it is a semi-turtle neck when totally zipped up is also a major positive factor in my view.
Important to note, this upper is more of an athletic fit, so it runs more slim at the waist, while the chest is designed to have a little bit of stretch for those of you who don't want to size up and deal with a baggy, saggy merino midriff - what would be the point of getting a baselayer if it didn't hug you, anyways? (e.g. according to the IB sizing chart, I should be a Medium (measurements are ~ 29in Waist, 38.5in chest), but I received it and immediately returned it the next day. The Small fits splendidly).
All in all, a great top. I would caution against wearing any merino base layer without something over top of it if going on a backpacking trip, though. At least in my experience, merino typically cannot withstand the abuse a backpack's straps and pads may put on the fabric while against your skin. Other than that, great piece of underwear. I recommend entirely.
*Oh, an additional note, if you are going to be dashing in and out of town for a multi-day/-week trip, make sure you have ample time to let this garment air-dry. Do NOT put it in a dryer or you risk major shrinkage.*

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on December 30, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

You will be hard-pressed to lack for a tool out in the backcountry if you happen to be toting this puppy around with you. I have yet to use nearly every tool, as situations have not (unfortunately) presented themselves to the point where I could bust it out and fix a problem or ameliorate some ill-fated scenario.
However, the opportunity to do those things, and so many more are made available the moment you stash this in your pack. Weighing in at less than 5 oz, it won't break your back, and your bank will be happy with you as well. If you can find it somewhere and need a good multitool to carry day-to-day, or while being a super rugged hoss-cat out in the middle of a forest, nab one of these...while you can.

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on December 30, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Decided to purchase this shirt based off prior experience that I had from donning and hiking in a short-sleeve metal-button ExOfficio shirt, the name of which is eluding me at the present moment.
In any case, I was floored not only by the durability of this shirt, but by the comfort and fit. From the moment that I slid this puppy over my shoulders, I knew I had made a solid choice for upper body wear.
The venting that is sewn into the shirt from the bottom hem up to the cuff around the wrist is magnificent, and never once ripped or tore even when being thrashed about in innumerable washing machines, or snagging on sharper brush when having to do a bit of trail blazing.
While backpacking, there were not plenty of opportunities to utilize the chest pockets often, but when I needed them, they were capacious enough to store gewgaws, doodads, cash, an ipod, sunglasses, power bars, and the like; nothing substantial, but things that one might like to have close at hand, for whatever reason. One primary factor that I truly reveled in was the fact that the pockets were not totally in the way of your pack chest strap. Certainly, there was some slight overlap, but nothing major enough to get you heated.
Overall, the preeminent factor that impressed me about this shirt was the fact that despite hiking over 1,200 miles in it, I can honestly say I would have to really study it to find any sort of staining from salt, sweat, or color bleeding from other fabrics that was a big problem with other shirts in the past. Small ones probably exist, but this is one incredible combination of style and fabric that went into the design and production of this shirt.
Regarding casual use, perhaps lounging on the beach while someone feeds you skinned grapes and fans you with palm fronds, definitely workable. The roll-sleeves are absolutely clutch, and made for a quick and easy conversion when I got hustling, I intend on getting another one or two of these to have for when I'm not hiking.

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on December 20, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have been thoroughly pleased with this pad, despite its slightly larger size. When using, there is certainly a notable difference between the area of my body that lacks a pad, and the area that doesn't.
One notable concern, as others before me have noted time and again, is the size. While it is not the end of the world, it does make for a bit of an inconvenience if you are attempting to travel small and compact.
However, on the other hand, I believe this is a more suitable option for people who bruise easier than others or who do not deal with uneven pressure being applied to their body for sustained periods of time (i.e. if you sleep predominately on your side, perchance).
I must deduct one star due to the larger size of the pad, but it does roll well enough to stay decently small, and it is comfortable each and every time I use it. It will without a doubt remain a key part of my backcountry armamentarium.

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on December 20, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Ordered these when I was out working on an unfortunately unsuccessful thru-hike of the PCT; while I was only able to do about 1,800 miles of it, I was able to move around camp, and town, in comfort with these bad boys. On top of all of that, they were snug enough that I could use them to fjord rivers and waterfalls, allowing me to slosh across without worrying about them sliding off in the water, when the moments arose where I didn't want to truck through in shoes and consequently walk in bath tubs the rest of the day.
However, despite their comfort, I cannot deny that they are ugly as sin; I do not believe even the devil himself would wear these. Aside from the fact that they are atrocious in appearance, it does not detract from the fact that they are quite gratifying to wear.
I do not remember being concerned about slipping on loose ground, or even wet rock while trudging through rivers, though I suppose the potential for slippage would depend on the surface in question. Moreover, you can essentially forget about sliding on floors or sidewalks; I do not recall a moment where I was concerned about slipping while on a town stop *usage note: never encountered ice in these shoes.*
If you're looking for a truly light set of footwear to don when you are lounging around the campsite, or the house, I would recommend checking these clogs out, though try and find them on sale if you can.
Regarding sizing, my foot measures 9 1/4 in from heel to toe, so I ordered a size 8 in men's and they are perfect.

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James Howard

James Howard wrote a review of on December 8, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I decided to purchase this after using a JetBoil Flash System with the optional 1.5L JetBoil Cookpot, but deciding ultimately that the aforementioned setup was not only excessive, but heavy for thru-hiking (it was my first thru-hike, give me a break).
Anyhow, I ultimately became infatuated with this pot after just a very short time of use. It does an excellent job of resisting buildup of food offal (burnt items in particular), and staining is no problem whatsoever. While its design does not particularly rapid cooking like the JetBoil system does, the pot does a suitable job of heating and boiling just about anything that you can throw at it. It does help to stir certain items occasionally, as the convection ability of the pot with stoves (at least with the MSR Micro Rocket, from my acquaintance) is not the greatest, but it is more than adequate for most things.
One notable qualm that I had with the set (though not enough to downrate it a whole star) was that of the lid. A good idea in theory, my participation with the lid was a singular and spectacularly disastrous occasion, something I have never since re-attempted, as the design and construction seem to be something out of the Twilight Zone. I believe that perhaps if one had oil or grease it would be possible to cook, say, an egg or two in the scrambled format, but nothing else.
All in all, this is a fantastic pot, and even when a long cook session is finished, the handles remain cool enough to hold without being too hot or too finicky to deal with. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a piece of cookware to essentially build and complete their backcountry kitchen set.
*Just a quick note, the SP Titanium Double Wall Cup 600 WILL fit inside this pot*

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