Friday, July 29, 2016

Gear Review: Kylmit Static V

Outdoor gear I rely on.

After years and numerous nights of sleeping on my ragged, old Thermarest sleeping pad, it was time to upgrade. My bony back agreed. When cowering over my go-to online outdoor gear stores and many trips to the local REI, I knew that the next sleeping pad I get had to be way more comfortable, not razor thin, compact enough to backpack with and not over $100. That's when I stumbled up on this pad made by a small company based out of Utah- Kylmit.

They make an affordable, durable and super-comfortable sleeping pad called the Static V that costs under $60. Sold, I'll try it out. Like any gearhead does, when my package from The Clymb arrived at my apartment doorstep days later, I ripped it open in excitement. There's nothing wrong with setting up a tent in your own apartment right? Right.

Let's start with the the most paramount characteristic of this sleeping pad, comfort. The Static V wins this thanks to its unique body-mapped V chamber design (which you can see!) that controls any air movement inside the pad. When fully blown up (after about 15 or so big breaths), the Static V inflates to a size that's 72in long by 23in wide. I'm 6'2 tall with very broad, wide shoulders and I can lay down happily on it, without falling off in the middle of the night after rolling and tolling around. thanks to the side rails that almost 'hug' you. It's thick too, at 2.5 inches you'll be off the cold, hard ground and snoozing effortlessly. Even amidst unexpected temperature swings, the Static V keeps its air and doesn't lose form. After hours of hiking, kayaking or climbing, it's a relief to know I'll return to my tent and have a good, comfortable night's sleep.
 I've relied on the Static V for dozens of trips now since I've owned it. From dry desert backpacking in Utah's incredible The Needles District' in Canyonlands National Park, to quick overnights at our granite crag that is Devil's Lake State Park, the Static V is durable thanks to the 75D polyester it's made out of. It's been dragged, had stuff dropped on it, stepped on with hefty hiking boots and had snowshoes thrown on it. Never once has there been a puncture or worrisome damage. It even comes with a patch kit for worst case scenarios. Size matters when I'm backpacking and even car camping. I don't like to bring a ton of stuff, especially things that are just cumbersome and large. The Kylmit Static V sleeping pad weighs only 18.1 ounces and compresses down into a compression sack that's about the size of a Nalgene water bottle. While it may take you a few tries to roll-it up, once compacted, it fits snug at the bottom of my Gregory Baltoro 65 pack.

Klymit's Static V passes the winter camping test too with a big thumbs-up, which is another reason I constantly recommend this sleeping pad to people. This past January, on an impromptu snowshoeing and camping trip to Mirror Lake State Park outside of the Wisconsin Dell's, the Static V stayed fully inflatable and provided full comfort even as temperatures dropped down to the low digits. Having it covered in thick snow when entering and exiting the tent's vestibule didn't harm it either.

Bottom Line:
I've tried out other sleeping pads on the market that are two or three times more expensive, lighter and smaller, and sure they're great but I can't see myself spending more than $100 on a pad. I'd rather save that money and put it towards a bomb, down negative-rated sleeping bag or plane ticket somewhere. The Kylmit Static V is the sleeping pad you have to buy, seriously. It's cheap, crazy-comfortable, tough and durable for all four seasons of camping and backpacking and compact enough for any kind of outdoor adventure that gets thrown at you.



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Gear Review: Kylmit Static V

Cost= $55-$120 (depending on insulation rating/length)

After years and numerous nights of sleeping on my ragged, old Thermarest sleeping pad, it was time to upgrade. My bony back agreed. When cowering over my go-to online outdoor gear stores and many trips to the local REI, I knew that the next sleeping pad I get had to be way more comfortable, not razor thin, compact enough to backpack with and not over $100. That's when I stumbled up on this pad made by a small company based out of Utah- Kylmit.

They make an affordable, durable and super-comfortable sleeping pad called the Static V that costs under $60. Sold, I'll try it out. Like any gearhead does, when my package from The Clymb arrived at my apartment doorstep days later, I ripped it open in excitement. There's nothing wrong with setting up a tent in your own apartment right? Right.

Let's start with the the most paramount characteristic of this sleeping pad, comfort. The Static V wins this thanks to its unique body-mapped V chamber design (which you can see!) that controls any air movement inside the pad. When fully blown up (after about 15 or so big breaths), the Static V inflates to a size that's 72in long by 23in wide. I'm 6'2 tall with very broad, wide shoulders and I can lay down happily on it, without falling off in the middle of the night after rolling and tolling around. thanks to the side rails that almost 'hug' you. It's thick too, at 2.5 inches you'll be off the cold, hard ground and snoozing effortlessly. Even amidst unexpected temperature swings, the Static V keeps its air and doesn't lose form. After hours of hiking, kayaking or climbing, it's a relief to know I'll return to my tent and have a good, comfortable night's sleep.
 I've relied on the Static V for dozens of trips now since I've owned it. From dry desert backpacking in Utah's incredible The Needles District' in Canyonlands National Park, to quick overnights at our granite crag that is Devil's Lake State Park, the Static V is durable thanks to the 75D polyester it's made out of. It's been dragged, had stuff dropped on it, stepped on with hefty hiking boots and had snowshoes thrown on it. Never once has there been a puncture or worrisome damage. It even comes with a patch kit for worst case scenarios. Size matters when I'm backpacking and even car camping. I don't like to bring a ton of stuff, especially things that are just cumbersome and large. The Kylmit Static V sleeping pad weighs only 18.1 ounces and compresses down into a compression sack that's about the size of a Nalgene water bottle. While it may take you a few tries to roll-it up, once compacted, it fits snug at the bottom of my Gregory Baltoro 65 pack.

Klymit's Static V passes the winter camping test too with a big thumbs-up, which is another reason I constantly recommend this sleeping pad to people. This past January, on an impromptu snowshoeing and camping trip to Mirror Lake State Park outside of the Wisconsin Dell's, the Static V stayed fully inflatable and provided full comfort even as temperatures dropped down to the low digits. Having it covered in thick snow when entering and exiting the tent's vestibule didn't harm it either.

Bottom Line:
I've tried out other sleeping pads on the market that are two or three times more expensive, lighter and smaller, and sure they're great but I can't see myself spending more than $100 on a pad. I'd rather save that money and put it towards a bomb, down negative-rated sleeping bag or plane ticket somewhere. The Kylmit Static V is the sleeping pad you have to buy, seriously. It's cheap, crazy-comfortable, tough and durable for all four seasons of camping and backpacking and compact enough for any kind of outdoor adventure that gets thrown at you.



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Monday, July 18, 2016

The Badlands & Black Hills 2016: Itinerary



Itinerary

I was able to score five days in a row off of work for a trip out west. The west has been calling and the call has been strong. For five days, I plan to hop in my station wagon and drive west towards South Dakota, North Dakota and possibly Wyoming. The itinerary is fairly flexible and like usual, I'm following the suit of "Eh, I'll see where I end up by sundown and camp out."  2016 marks the centennial celebration for America's best idea- the National Park System. So what better way to celebrate by visiting three NPS properties: Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If time allows, I may attempt to scurry over to Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming's north east corner. We shall see. All I know is my 2005 Saab 9-2x wagon will be outfitted for some long-haul car travel. Stay tuned for those pics of the set up.

After work on Wednesday night at the state park, I'll victory drive it westward and see how far I can make it on the 739 mile, almost eleven-hour trek to Badlands National Park. Then carry on after a few days of backpacking and hiking this wild place. My father and I about two-years ago, stopped for a few hours on our move out to Colorado. My mind was blown. Badlands is just hard to describe. If I had to pick one superlative to match this place, it's simply unreal. Constant jaw-drops and awestruck gazing took place in those few hours we drove through the park. I knew I had to come back to this special place. Now I am, and I am so stoked. I'm even more stoked to check out three new national park properties I've never been to: Devil's Tower, Wind Cave and Theodore Roosevelt. Three places I've always been intrigued by and had an urge to go explore. It will however, be very, very, very hard to resist the temptation to drive down a few hours southwest to Colorado, my home away from home.

People go west to find out who they are and start new, especially people in their twenties like me. I'm eagerly craving a trip west to really re-evaluate a few things and aspects in life happening right now. It's like an escape, I need it. I need that new, unfamiliar land, riding solo and breathing in some fresh air to put the mind at ease. I need that untamed, slowed-down sense of freedom and adventure. It's the perfect prescription. It's hard to explain it to those who haven't ventured westward. Once you go, you just crave it, thinking about it constantly and look for any excuse and opportunity to get back out there once you return. That spirit is strong. 

Less than a month, less than four weeks. I've never been more ready for this.

See the route here: https://goo.gl/maps/4dtDwDF22av















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Monday, July 11, 2016

Iceland 2016: Comparing and Choosing the Rental Car


As the countdown clock starts to roll down...almost three-and-a-half months until I leave for my grand Iceland adventure! Advance preparation and planning is exhausting along with time consuming, but oh it's so fun. Last week, my new Lonely Planet travel guidebook to Iceland arrived at my door step and I find myself reading it every night before awaking in the wee hours in the morning to scramble out the door for work. Obviously I'm way excited. And I was just as excited this afternoon to finally book the rental car for the expedition- a Suzuki Jimny. Look at this little box on wheels, with its manual-transmission and a burly four-wheel-drive system approved for travel along northern Iceland's F Roads during the late-fall and winter. Hah, to think I could have had some lame Ford Escape or other wannabe 4x4. I spent hours comparing different prices across the rental car company spectrum, probably some five or different services' sites. This exact same car, was through some companies nearly $200-$300 more expensive. 

For an 11-day loaner, I went with GoIceland Car-Rental, charging a cool 77,000 ISK (Icelandic Krona) or $626 USD onto my credit card. This includes unlimited mileage for those eleven days which is perfect for the massive amounts of on-and-off 'The Ring Road' driving I plan to do. Choosing to walk five minutes to their pick-up counter at Iceland's Keflavik saves me almost $33 all together. Plus, knowing how to drive a manual with three-pedals and a gear shifter saves some cash too. Like I did with the new Fiat 500x rental I had in Colorado a few months back, I'll be blogging a review about this Suzuki Jimny as well.

So, do your homework and shop around.Make sure to read the rental agreement and terms of rental. 

To compare prices at different car rental services in Iceland, for this exact model for those exact eleven days:

GoIceland Car-Rental: $626
Budget Car Rental: $902
Reykjavik Cars: $802
Cars Iceland: $902



Cheers,
Robby



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Iceland 2016: Comparing and Choosing the Rental Car


As the countdown clock starts to roll down...almost three-and-a-half months until I leave for my grand Iceland adventure! Advance preparation and planning is exhausting along with time consuming, but oh it's so fun. Last week, my new Lonely Planet travel guidebook to Iceland arrived at my door step and I find myself reading it every night before awaking in the wee hours in the morning to scramble out the door for work. Obviously I'm way excited. And I was just as excited this afternoon to finally book the rental car for the expedition- a Suzuki Jimny. Look at this little box on wheels, with its manual-transmission and a burly four-wheel-drive system approved for travel along northern Iceland's F Roads during the late-fall and winter. Hah, to think I could have had some lame Ford Escape or other wannabe 4x4. I spent hours comparing different prices across the rental car company spectrum, probably some five or different services' sites. This exact same car, was through some companies nearly $200-$300 more expensive. 

For an 11-day loaner, I went with GoIceland Car-Rental, charging a cool 77,000 ISK (Icelandic Krona) or $626 USD onto my credit card. This includes unlimited mileage for those eleven days which is perfect for the massive amounts of on-and-off 'The Ring Road' driving I plan to do. Choosing to walk five minutes to their pick-up counter at Iceland's Keflavik saves me almost $33 all together. Plus, knowing how to drive a manual with three-pedals and a gear shifter saves some cash too. Like I did with the new Fiat 500x rental I had in Colorado a few months back, I'll be blogging a review about this Suzuki Jimny as well.

So, do your homework and shop around.Make sure to read the rental agreement and terms of rental. 

To compare prices at different car rental services in Iceland, for this exact model for those exact eleven days:

GoIceland Car-Rental: $626
Budget Car Rental: $902
Reykjavik Cars: $802
Cars Iceland: $902



Cheers,
Robby



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Monday, July 4, 2016

Kayaking to Loew Lake, WI



I had my first Saturday off of work in about six months and it was glorious. Sleeping in, a quick kayaking adventure followed by downtown BBQ in Milwaukee's Third Ward and Summerfest. Getting to stand in a mob of drunk Wisconsinities listening to Nelly's "Dillema" played live was pretty perfect. Wait... I first started hearing Nelly in the late 1990s and early 2000s? Time is flying by. Well, now I can tell my kids back in my day I saw Nelly live. Followed by of course, aimless stares of confusion. Let Nelly live on. Back to the kayaking.

There aren't many places accessible via water in southeast Wisconsin that lead  you to places that feel like you're paddling through straight-up raw wilderness. The 1,200 acre Loew Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest does. There are six units (designated patches) of Wisconsin's gorgeous ~56,000 acre Kettle Moraine State Forest: Pike Lake, Lapham Peak, the Norhtern Unit, the Southern Unit, Mukwanago River and Loew Lake. I'm an absolute geek for trees and forests which means I'm lucky to work for the DNR at two of these units, Pike Lake and Lapham Peak. We (staff at Pike Lake) also manage Loew Lake Unit just minutes down the road. Parks and recreation on-and-off the clock. I love it.

Rich, detailed superlatives filled my ears every time I spoke with other parks staff or visitors who had made the trek out to Loew Lake via canoe or paddle. So I had to check it out for myself. I put in at the boat launch located on Highway Q, just east of the town of Monches. Parking on the side of the road, I carried my kayak down to the shoreline, hopped in and paddled off. The entire paddle to the lake took me a little over an hour to complete, at a relaxed yet spirited pace. You head north, upstream the Ocnomowoc River. The water was so calm, almost glass-like. Birds were chirping in the tall cattails and a few fresh water river otters (yes, we have those in Wisconsin and they're adorable) swam parallel to me at times. I even got to get about a foot away from a big snapping turtle just hanging out on the surface of the water, poking its head out. SO cool! I'd never seen a snapper that close in the wild. About half-an-hour into the paddle, you'll have to duck almost entirely flat underneath a precariously low bridge. I found it easier, in my eight-foot kayak to just bobble parallel to it slowly. Thankfully, there's a path next to the bridge if you do need to portage. Keep an eye out for some decent-size Northern Pikes just chilling at the bottom of the river.

Weaving around and meandering through the state forest, the Oconomowoc River eventually dumps into this ending, stunning final destination that is Loew Lake. It's a small lake, but once you enter into it, you feel like you're hours north in Northern Wisconsin or in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is crazy beautiful and quiet. Look to the eastern shore and see a bunch of aspens near the shore, their leave rapidly flickering in the wind. In some parts, the water was clear enough to see to the bottom. I spent about 45 minutes just floating around Loew Lake, reflecting and soaking in this rare parcel of peaceful wilderness. We're so lucky to live on this fascinating planet and we should be grateful for untouched land like this. The paddle home, to the car took about 50 minutes as it's all downstream.

I've got to get back here in the fall, with chillier temperatures and the forest's trees awash in gold color. Plus, I heard today that people will snowshoe out to the lake in the bleak winter. Sold, sign me up.


GPS tracking from my SPOT Gen3 SOS beacon, photos are from the VSCO app on the iPhone.




































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