Life in the outdoors

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Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again when you get so excited about the holidays coming up, but you’re probably also stressed trying to figure out what to buy for those on your Christmas list. Ideally, you know these people so well that you know exactly what to get them but, in reality, unless the person tells you what they want, no one will be completely happy in this scenario.
Do you have a hiker, backpacker, camper or outdoors person on your list? Are YOU the hiker on someone’s list? Here are my suggestions to make things easier for everyone.
First, find out if the person has any wish lists created or even a gift registry. Stores like REI in the U.S. and MEC in Canada have wish lists you can create. REI even has a gift registry. My latest and favourite find was You can create an account which will provide you with an icon to have on your favourites bar, and then, anytime you see something you like on any website, you just have to click on the icon and save the “wish” on your wish list. This way, your “wishes” can be from different stores and different websites.
If there is no wish list but you know more or less what to buy, make sure you are buying it from a store where the person usually shops, in case they want to return or exchange the item for something else. Obviously, make sure the store has a good return/exchange policy.
If you have no idea what to buy that special hiker in your life, then this blog post is for you. I’ll provide you with some ideas of items under $100, under $50 and under $20. Some would even make great stocking stuffers.

So here is my list for items under $100:

Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner $64.95 at this mummy bag liner increases sleeping bag performance by up to 14°C (25°F). It’s 90cm (36”) wide at the shoulders, 210cm (84”) in length and weighs 399g (14oz). If it’s for someone shorter than 162cm (5’3”) (like me) then you should probably be looking at the Reactor Plus ($59.95 at REI).

Esee Izula Knife $59.95 at this versatile and dependable carbon-steel fixed blade knife is well-suited as a lightweight survival knife. You can also get the kit parts from for $24.95 and add it to the gift.

GearPods Stove System $59.95 at a self-contained kit that combines a dual-fuel stove and a cookmug. Amazingly compact and lightweight, this stove system is easy to throw into a pack as an emergency stove yet capable enough to act as a main stove when weight and size are paramount. With the lid on, the cookmug holds 281ml (9.5 fl.oz.) which is just over 1 cup.

AntiGravityGear Ultralight Rain Jacket $69 at this is an economic rain jacket that weighs next to nothing; a Medium will weigh 130g (4.6oz). They are sized larger than normal so that they can fit over other layers.

Murmur hyperlight backpack $90 at for those who complain about the weight in their backpacks especially because of the weight of the actual backpack. The Murmur weighs only 231g (8.1oz) and has a maximum carry capacity of 9kg (20lb). Now there’s an incentive to lighten the load! Volume is 36 litres or 2200 cubic inches. If you are willing to go over $100 for a bigger backpack, check out their G4.

Tamrac Zip Shot Tripod $79.99 at this tripod stands 112cm (44”) tall but measures only 38cm (15”) when closed. It only weighs 312g (11oz) but has a maximum load capacity of 1361g (3lb).

Mont-bell Ultralight Wind Pants $66.00 at (style number 2305297): these pants are unisex and the Medium size weighs only 68g (2.4oz). They provide protection from wind and precipitation without limiting range of motion.

Ti-Multi Compact Cookset $89.95 at the lids to these pots are frying pans themselves which means you avoid carrying a useless lid. The large pot has a 1L capacity and the small pot has a 780ml capacity. The whole set weighs 329g (11.6oz).

Outback Oven 10” $74.00 at on the trail, you can make pizzas, breads, biscuits, cakes or anything else that you make in your oven at home. This stove top oven consists of a heat-dispersing burner plate, a non-stick frying pan, a lid with a built-in thermometer all covered with a heat reflective “tent”. Not for use with stoves where the burner sits directly over the fuel tank or fuel cartridge, due to the danger of overheating. Weight for the oven is 450g but you can use the frying pan for all your other cooking needs as well.

Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter $88.25 at 0.3 micron glass-fibre filter with carbon core, output of 1L/minute with an average life of 750L. Weighs 312 grams (11 oz).

Under $50:

GearPods Survival Pod $49.95 at with this pod and an emergency bivvy or tarp, you’re covered. Pod weighs 195g (6.88oz.) and measures 8.25cm in height and 12cm in diameter.

Sea to Summit Pocket Shower $29.95 at I own this and I love it. Its 10 litre capacity allows you to take a shower for about 7 minutes. You can let the black colour absorb heat from the sun to warm the water or add hot water to the bag directly. Also, you can use it to get water directly from the source and then filter it from the comfort of your campsite. Weighs about 121g (4.25oz) and measures about 7.6cm X 15cm (3” X 6”).

Gerber LST Knife $23.00 at Another product I own and love. I bought this because it fit inside of an Altoids tin (to make a mini survival kit) and found that it is a pretty decent knife. The greatest part? It weighs only 35g (1.23oz.). The blade is 7.5cm (3”) long and the knife is 9cm (3.5”) long when closed.

Exotac Nanostriker $22.95 at possibly the smallest collapsible ferrocerium fire starter in the market today. It weighs 14.5 grams (0.5oz) and measures 8.5cm (3.34”) in length and 1cm (0.38”) in diameter. Even the Ultralight backpacker will be impressed.

Petzl E-lite $28.00 at this tiny headlamp is resistant to extreme temperatures (-30°C to 60°C) and waterproof to one metre (IP X8). It only weighs 28 grams (less than one ounce) and is great as a backup/emergency light. Two white light modes, one red mode and two flashing modes: one white and one red. Maximum light output is 16 lumens.

Leatherman Squirt $29.50 at great little multi-tool that weighs only 56 grams (2 oz). Pliers, wire cutter, screwdrivers, scissors, metal file, bottle opener and a knife with a 4cm (1.6”) blade made out of 420HC stainless steel. The handle is aluminum.

MEC Merino Lightweight 2 Short-Sleeved Crew $49.00 at merino wool is a natural choice for base layers: it’s soft, itch-free and stretchy. Its built-in moisture management buffers well against sudden temperature changes and has anti-microbial properties. I own one of these in black and I love it! Machine washable with about 6% total shrinkage.


Multi-Pack 4-in-1 $39.95 at it can be a backpack lid, a chest pack, a belt pack and a satchel. It is made from a new 2.92 oz/sqyd Hybrid Cuber Fibre – Nylon fabric, has a 3.5 Litre capacity (215 cubic inches) and the main compartment weighs only 37 grams (1.3 oz). Total weight with all the straps (which you wouldn’t use all at the same time) is 80 grams (2.8 oz).

Joby Gorillapod Tripod $23.00 at The flexible design fits easily in a pocket or pack, and it will secure your compact digital camera to virtually any surface. Your camera can snap away while hanging from a tree branch or perched on a jagged rock. Weighs 45 grams (1.6 oz).

• Camping Logic PU-027 Camp Smart Pop-up Shelving Unit $32.99 at great for car camping, you can use it to store clothes, shoes, towels, toiletries or just about anything else you can think of. Compact and easy to set up.

Under $20:

Tool Logic Whistle with Magnesium Fire Starter $5.75 at really loud, clear whistle with a built-in magnesium alloy fire starter. The lanyard hole section contains the striker. The item is flat (great for an Altoids tin survival kit or on a lanyard ) and weighs only 8.5 grams (0.3 oz).

Original Buff $20.00 at what is a buff? Well, pretty much anything you want it to be! It’s a scarf, a neck gaiter, a hat, a dust screen, a pony-tail holder, a bandana… watch the video demonstration on you tube, and you will also want one of these!

SOG SH03-CP Sharpener with Fire Starter $11.21 at with a flat diamond sharpening pad, cylindrical ceramic sharpener (that can be used for serrations) and a built-in fire starter, you have the makings of the perfect companion to any knife. Weighs 16.5 grams (0.58 oz) and measures 8.5cm X 2cm (3.34” X 0.79”).

EDCDepot Bandanas $4.99 at now here is a multi-purpose item. We all know how great bandanas are, but what about a bandana that teaches you something? All three bandanas are the same price, and about the same size 53cm X 53cm (21” x 21”). The blue one teaches you different knots, the red one covers first aid related topics and the orange one has survival tips. The survival bandana can even function as a signalling device.

Super Mini Peanut Lighter $5.99 at tiny waterproof lighter that uses standard zippo style lighter fluid. Stainless steel body measures 5cm x 1.27cm(2” X ½”). The lighter can be removed from capsule to hold other items.

Bear Grylls Survival Series Basic Kit, Gerber 31-000700 $16.71 at this kit contains: Gerber Mini-Paraframe knife, emergency whistle, fire starter, waterproof matches and striker, snare wire, emergency cord, cotton ball and a pocket guide to survival. All items are inside of a waterproof bag which is inside of a ripstop nylon bag with land to air rescue instructions printed on the back. This is not a complete kit by any stretch and I wouldn’t recommend it to be used as is. There is plenty of space to add necessary items though, and the knife and the fire starter make it quite worth its price.

Survival Bracelet $10.99 at one of the easiest, and most fashionable, ways of carrying paracord with you. The bracelet is made from about 3 to 3.6 metres (10-12ft) of paracord depending on its size (S, M or L). In an emergency situation, it is simple and easy to unbraid and use.

A Fork in the Trail $12.28 at this is a really great cookbook containing recipes adapted for the backcountry. The author has published a second cookbook called “Another fork in the trail” with vegetarian and vegan recipes. I have looked through many backcountry cookbooks and this is by far the best one I’ve seen.

SOL Emergency Bivvy $14.50 at shelter is usually the top priority in any survival situation. Most people carry an emergency blanket but those tend to be small and difficult to wrap around you much less sleep in. This bivvy weighs just over 100 grams (3.8 oz) and is small enough to carry in most types of survival kits. The material is waterproof and windproof and reflects 90% of radiated body heat.

Streamlight Nano $6.99 at incredibly small, this is a weatherproof, personal flashlight featuring a 100,000 hour life LED. Powered by 4 alkaline button cells (included) this 10 lumens flashlight has a run time of up to 8 hours. It measures 3.7cm x 1.3cm (1.47” X .51”) and weighs less than 10 grams.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!


The Great Outdoors and DIY Weekend

I’m back from The Great Outdoors & DIY Weekend. Basically, it’s four different shows from four different Canadian magazines, together in one location and one ticket gets you into all four. Explore, Outdoor Canada, Cottage Life and Home Workshop are the four magazines in question.

The Home Workshop show was all about woodworking. I don’t know the first thing about woodworking, so I won’t comment. Cottage Life was by far the largest show. I don’t own a cottage so I wasn’t paying very much attention but there seemed to be a little bit of everything.

I went to the show interested only in the Explore and Outdoor Canada shows. I have to say that, as a shopper, I was a little disappointed. As the avid shopper that I am, I usually spend a bundle at shows like these yet, I left the show only having bought some size 6 and size 8 fish hooks and some 2″ lunker grub for my survival kit. That’s it! I’ve been holding off my online purchases for a while now, thinking that I might find something at the show that would be better, cheaper…  Not a chance!

However, what the show lacked in shopping experiences it made up for with information booths, events, activities, seminars and contests. The first booth to catch my attention was NOLS. My only knowledge of NOLS stemmed from my interaction with their backcountry cookbook called NOLS Cookery. After speaking with their representative and checking out their brochure, I have now placed a backpacking and wilderness canoeing trip to the Yukon on my bucket list. They have such a course with a duration of 30 days and a price tag of $4,225.  They also have NOLS schools in locations such as the Amazon, Scandinavia, East Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand…Well, a girl can dream!

Back to the show! I then stopped at the Ostrom outdoors booth. I tried on one of their barrel harnesses with a 60 litre barrel and I’m still thinking about it now. I’m not totally convinced that barrel packs are the way to go, especially seeing that they are heavier than the average backpack, but if I do get one, it will certainly be an Ostrom. Their packs are 100% Canadian made and let me tell you, comfortable! Price tag? The one I was eyeballing cost $195. Ouch! But we know that you do have to pay for quality.

Then I went on to see what was going on with Boston Rob. Even though I got there about five minutes before he came out, I didn’t get seats that were that great so my filming opportunities were kind of shot. I think I filmed one or two of his Q & A and then I filmed the challenge. The highlight of the challenge was that Boston Rob was competing against five other contestants, one of them being Kevin Callan, a.k.a. The Happy Camper. I won’t tell you who won, but if you check back soon, you can see for yourself as I will have posted the video.

I also had the opportunity to meet Mr. R. Vandermeer at his booth. He owns Fine Arts and Fly Fishing Studio, in Orillia. I’ve been interested in fly fishing ever since I heard about it from Jason Klass from Gear Talk and so I had an opportunity to find out a little bit more about it. It seems like a really practical way for me to incorporate fishing into my backpacking and portaging trips without having to sacrifice weight and volume concerns. He was telling us that he teaches fly fishing and takes groups out to fly fish. I might just have to give him a call in the spring and try my hand at fly fishing.

Then, on our way out, we passed by an area where a gentleman was talking about survival packs. Of course my ears perked up and we stayed around to listen. At the end of his talk I stayed around looking at his survival pack, mentally comparing it to my own, and then started talking to a lady that had been assisting him. Turns out that I had already met this lady before during a canoeing course we had taken together. Her name is Lesley Blackmore and she is the founder and executive director of Turtle Feather wilderness adventures. Check out their website at They’re also on Facebook. Please support them in any way you can because their mission is a noble one. “TurtleFeather’s mission is to develop and co-ordinate wilderness adventures that will encourage survivors of abuse to move forward in their lives with strength, hope and courage using the outdoor environment to promote safety, self-esteem, healthy relationships and a connection to the world around them.” (Quoted from their website)

I then stayed on to listen to this gentleman some more as he said he was going to be covering “fire-starting skills”. This gentleman was none other than David Arama. David is the director of WSC Survival School Inc. You can find out more about him and the school by going on the WSC website:, but I can tell you that it was with David Arama that Les Stroud initially trained with. He was ever so kind to let me film his talk and demonstration of fire-starting skills. I promise that I will be uploading that video as soon as I have uploaded the others. He is a very humorous, easy-going person who is obviously very knowledgeable. I would love to do a course with him sometime, especially one that he teaches about wild edibles.

In conclusion, I wish that The Great Outdoors & DIY Weekend organization had made the schedule of events more visible on their website. I will know better next time to check the schedule and plan exactly what I want to attend, when and where. As it happened, I ended up not seeing Kevin Callan except during his challenge against Boston Rob. I certainly didn’t get a chance to meet him and I am sad about that. The program I was given at the entrance wasn’t really seen until I got home, where I had the opportunity to see that I missed two of Kevin Callan’s talks and that if I had waited around a bit more, I could have heard David Arama speak about two other topics that would have been interesting to me.

If you have a chance to go tomorrow, do so. Go as early as you can, take the program when you go in and sit down and plan what you want to see.

SAIL in the GTA

SAIL, Canada’s largest outdoor store, is opening two new locations in the Greater Toronto Area on Wednesday, November 30th,2011. One of the stores is in Oshawa at 655 Laval Drive, next to  Lowes – that’s just North of Hwy 401 and West of Stevenson Rd. S. The other store is in Vaughan at 137 Chrislea Rd., Unit 1, next to The Brick – that’s just West of Hwy 400 and North of Hwy 7.

SAIL has 5 other locations: Beloeil, Laval, Ottawa, Brossard and Quebec City. Although I wasn’t able to find the business hours for the new locations, all the other locations are open from 9am to 6pm on Wednesdays, so if you want to go for the grand opening, my advice is to make it there before 6pm.

Also, SAIL is having a contest on Facebook where they are giving a $100 gift card away daily. All you have to do is go on their fan page on Facebook, “like” the page and fill out a form.