Darren's Outdoor Page

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This is page two of my product reviews! Because this area is very popular, I'm expanding! :) Again, I am not paid by these companies for these reviews, yet feel that their products are useful in many outdoor pursuits. I will rate the products on a scale of smiley faces, with being the lowest and ***** being the highest.

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Cascade Designs (Thermarest) Staytek Lite Long
Reviewed on June 14, 2001
The Thermarest Staytek Lite Long is the mattress I received as a gift one Christmas. It's a 'self-inflating' mattress, which means that it's an open-cell foam pad surrounded by a waterproof, airtight nylon cover. When you open the valve on the cover, the foam expands and sucks in air. Add a couple breaths of air to firm it up if you wish, close the valve and you're set! No huffing and puffing, no hassle! The mattress is fairly light and compact, which makes it much easier to carry than a traditional air mattress. Thermarest is the company that invented the self-inflating mattress, and they're good at it! The quality is great, and I've had absolutely no problems with this mattress in 3 years and counting! This 'staytek' model has a non-slip top surface, so that you don't slide off in the middle of the night. However, I have found that I still slide a bit (or maybe just roll, I guess it's hard to tell). Usually if it's cold, you'll wake up and roll back onto the mattress! I don't think that the 'Staytek' model is made anymore, as all of the new models have the non-slip cover. I know that many other companies make self-inflating mattresses, but I feel that this is a great mattress, and why not support the company that invented them? The best way to roll the mattress is as follows:
  1. Open valve all the way
  2. Fold mattress into quarters horizontally
  3. Sit or kneel on mattress to remove most of the air
  4. Close valve
  5. Unfold mattress
  6. Fold mattress in half vertically (only some models...others just skip this step)
  7. Begin rolling tightly at the bottom end (i.e. furthest from the valve)
  8. As you roll closer to the valve and push more air forward, open valve again
  9. Continue rolling until you're done
  10. Press down hard with one knee on rolled mattress to remove more air
  11. Close valve
  12. Place in stuff sack with valve towards the top
  13. Open valve one final time (opening the valve allows the foam inside to 'breath' so you don't grow mold inside
I know that that seems like a lot of instructions, but it's really simple once you get the hang of it, and it's the best way to do it if you want to get the mattress into the tight stuff sacks! To remove the mattress from the stuff sack, squeeze tightly again, and close the valve before removing it from the sack. Then open valve again, and leave mattress to inflate by itself.
Problems with this mattress? Not many... One thing is that I wish Cascade Designs would include a stuff sack with the mattress, instead of having to buy (or make) one seperately. Another thing I've noticed is that the label on my mattress is peeling off. This makes absolutely no difference to the performance of the mattress, so it's not a big deal. When you get home, try to store the mattress completely unrolled, and with the valve open. Under the bed or on edge in the closet is a good place for it!

Check out the Cascade Designs homepage.

Darren's Outdoor Page Rating:
Cascade Designs (Thermarest) Staytek Lite Long: ****

Ryders Sunglasses
Reviewed on Sept.29, 2001
I've had these sunglasses for oh.. probably 4 years or so now. I bought them for around $40, because I wanted a decent pair of sunglasses, but didn't want to spend too much in case I broke or lost them. These glasses have so far held up quite well. One problem being that some of the nice paintjob has started to flake off. Oh well, it's not like I've treated them gently :) I don't know the model name of the ones I have, but since they change styles every year I don't think it'd matter - you'd never find the same ones. I know that they have polarized lenses, which most of them don't. This is great for watersports, because it cuts the glare from the water. The only problems with these glasses are:
  1. the aforementioned paint problem
  2. the glasses take up a lot of space even when 'closed' and therefore don't fit in a standard case
  3. the hinges don't seem to be equally 'stiff' as one seems to close much easier than the other
  4. the rubber earpieces slide off (until I Crazy glued them on)
Overall, these glasses have done a pretty good job despite their problems. I'm no expert on lenses and such, but they seem to provide a good distortion free view. Durability wise, the frame seems good, but the paint and earpieces are not quite as durable (which is to be expected I suppose.) Overall, for the price I think these glasses are a pretty good value.

Updated on Jan.23, 2002
Unfortunately, I lost these glasses on my last trip to the Poker Lake Route. Read the story here to find out what happened. So, I guess I will have little more to say about these particular glasses. However, now that I'm shopping for new ones, I'll definately take a hard look at (through?) more Ryders. They seem to be good bang for the buck as far as I'm concerned.

Check out the Ryders homepage.

Darren's Outdoor Page Rating:
Ryders Sunglasses ***½

Trek Celestial Light Set
Reviewed on Nov.23, 2001
This set contains one Celestial Headlight, and a Disco 5 LED Tail Light, both with batteries. I purchased this light set for biking back and forth to school when I have night classes. However, I didn't even get to use the headlight, because it was broken before I had a chance! At first glance, I was very impressed with the attachment system that Trek had designed to mount the headlight to the bike. However, this attachment broke (in two places) before I even got to use the light! It appears to be made of very cheap stiff plastic, and it just snapped for no reason! Also, it's been sitting here on my computer desk so I remember to take it back and get a refund. Since it's sitting here, I tend to play with it when I'm bored. I've managed to break the plastic a third time, and I didn't abuse it in any way - simply unscrewed the bolt and the plastic around it cracked. Maybe I got a dud...but I doubt it. I can't hardly comment on the rest of the light (ie. brightness, battery life, etc.) since I never got to use it. As for the taillight, it seems a little bit better. Again, the mounting system is interesting. The taillight has a softer plastic band that attaches around the seatpost, and a screw type mechanism which tightens the stap down. Seems to work well. The light has two modes - solid light, and a flashing mode. I tend to use the flashing mode, since I feel it will get attention better than a solid light. Again, I haven't had this for long, so can't comment on it more than that, and since I plan on taking the set back for a refund, this is likely all the info I'll have on it. For $35 I think you should be able to get a better light set. Two thumbs down on this one.

Update: November 23, 2001: I took the light set back to the store where I purchased it, and in return got a brand new set. I figured it'd be worth a try, just in case I did get a dud. When I got the set home, I put the batteries into the rear flashing light, and it didn't work! So, I tried everything I could possibly think of, and it still wouldn't work. However, the front light worked fine (just like last time) and the attachment didn't break (but of course I only had it out of the box for an hour or so, and it didn't leave the couch.) So... my overall opinion of this is that the quality control must be non-existant in order for me to have had two set of lights which didn't work. I would say three thumbs down on this if I could. Buyer beware I suppose. Don't assume that because Trek makes good bikes that they make good accessories (of course they probably don't even make them at all - I'm sure they just slap their name on a piece of junk)

Check out the Trek Bikes homepage.

Darren's Outdoor Page Rating:
Trek Celestial Light Set ½

Nashwaak Paddles Solo Strap
Reviewed on July 14, 2002
Thanks to the kindness of Richard Munn over at CanadianCanoeRoutes.com, I have been using the Solo Strap from Nashwaak Paddles on my last few solo excursions. The first test of the solo strap came on a day trip down the Nith River, while it's second use came on a three day trip on the Rockaway Lake route.

First impressions of the solo strap where that it was very heavy (in weight) and appeared to be very sturdy and well made. The "piping" used to make the gunwhale hangers was very heavy, and I would think this would be a good place to save some weight.

Actual use of the Solo Strap was not as promising as the first impression of the product. I found it very difficult to get the strap to tighten when it was on the canoe. It would bind in the mechanism, making it hard to adjust. It did work reasonably well as a "seat" but not nearly as well for kneeling and resting against it. I found it difficult to get it adjusted properly to rest on while kneeling.

Another problem with the Solo Strap is that it makes your boat hard to manhandle on land. I often pick the boat up by the gunwhales in the center to move it around on the campsite. However, with the Solo Strap in place, this becomes impossible, as you can't grip the gunwhales directly, and the strap slips and slides, often coming completely loose.

I also tended to smash my lower paddle hand against the edge of the "piping" while I was paddling. This surprised me, as I didn't know I paddled that close to the gunwhale, but apparently I do! I imagine this problem would be easy to fix just by using and getting used to the SoloStrap being there. However, I couldn't catch on in 3 days of tripping!

Another annoying problem was the fact that the strap had to be removed for portaging. I first tried to portage with the strap in place. I managed to make it about 1 m before the strap fell off onto the ground. One solution to this would be to tighten the strap as tight as it would go. This keeps the strap on during portaging. However, as mentioned above, it's hard to tighten the strap as tight as possible, and even if you could, you would have to re-adjust it to your paddling position after each and every portage!

Overall, I would say that the Solo Strap is more trouble than it is worth. I'll give it another try shortly, but can't imagine becoming too attached to it. Also, it appears that Nashwaak is now out of business, so I guess if you want one you'd better act fast!

Check out the Nashwaak Paddles homepage.

Darren's Outdoor Page Rating:
Nashwaak Paddles Solo Strap **½

I will soon be reviewing:
Suunto Comet
Suunto MD-3 Leader
Outbound Aurora/UCO Candle Lantern
Kombi Mitts
Woods LiteLoft sleeping bag
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Swan Dryfoot Long
Outdoor Research Alpine Hat
Coghlans Camp Towel
Nike Liner Gloves
Smartwool Hiking Socks
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Mistral Light II
Petzl Micro
MEC/Wickers T-Shirt
Adventure Medical Personal First Aid Kit
Northwater Small Throwbag
Merrell Eco-Trek Leather
Garmont Odyssey
Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) Glacier Zip-T
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters
SoftMap Ontario topo50
Trek 820 (1999 model)
MEC River Pants
MEC Lightweight Powerdry Long Underwear Crew-neck top
O.A.S.I.S. Compression Sac
Cateye HL-500II/TL-LD500-R Light Set
MSR Miniworks
Mountain Equipment Co-op Midweight Powerdry Boxers
Wigwam Merino Light Hiker Socks
  This page was last updated on March 25, 2011 at 03:04 PM