5 Utmost exquisite high-tech camping items

The summer in Vancouver has already started, and there is no more time to waste. Besides some rain in June, we are expecting a warmer than usual Summer temperatures, so we should all be camping! And now is the perfect time to start buying your camping accessories to be ready for the season.

DRZ400 camping

Sugru.

Sugru is a next-generation play-doh that you can use to fix virtually anything. Its amazing qualities facilitate the use of it in various applications. Sticking things together, isolation, fixing shoe holes, making small bits and pieces to replace missing parts – the list goes on.

Just watch this funny video below.

To buy Sugru in Canada:

Amazon.ca link logo

To buy Sugru in the USA/Internationally: 

Amazon.com link logo


FlameStower.

Charging your smartphone, camera, flashlight, GPS and etc. is among the biggest problems during lengthy camping trips. However, the Flamestower solves this problem.

This compact device works off heat, and helps you charge your USB devices while you are cooking food.

To buy FlameStower in Canada:

Amazon.ca link logo

To buy FlameStower in USA/Internationally:

Amazon.com link logo


Grandpa’s fork.

Sitting around a fire pit is an essential part of any camping experience. Of course, it is even more pleasant if you have food to cook – be that marshmallows, pieces of salmon, wieners, steak, potatoes, or whatever else that you like smoked.

Skewers are not always convenient to carry around. Grandpa’s fork attaches to a wooden stick commonly found in the wild for the purpose of roasting food on it.

To buy Grandpa’s Fork in Canada:

Amazon.ca link logo

To buy Grandpa’s fork in USA/Internationally: 

Amazon.com link logo


BioLite KettlePot.

BioLite KettlePot is an ultimate hiking food cooking device. It is designed to reduce the amount amount of weight carried with respect to space efficiency. It is shaped like a kettle, and works well as a pot.

The entire assembly with the heating element and the pot weighs a 1 lbs.

To buy BioLite KettlePot in Canada:

Amazon.ca link logo

To buy BioLite KettlePot in USA/Internationally:

Amazon.com link logo


Eton BoostTurbine 2,000 mAh Portable Backup Battery Pack.

This is not an ordinary power bank – besides the solid design and case, it has a handle on the side that you can use to generate power if the power bank runs out of juice. Very handy for longer camping trips.

To buy Eton BoostTurbine in Canada:

Amazon.com link logo

To buy Eton BoostTurbine in USA/Internationally:

Amazon.com link logo


Please comment, and share this article with other camping and hiking enthusiasts!

My experience with CRC Research INC

I have a big smile on my face. There is a crispy fresh $50 bill in my hands for about an hour of my time. This was my first time being a part of a focus group, and dealing with a consumer research firm. It couldn’t have been more pleasant and simple.

I have a Facebook friend who posts about taking a part in these studies. This time it was about coconut water sampling. I like coconut water, and I think it is an awesome thirst quencher, and a great option when I am in the mood for something other than plain water or carbonated sugary nastiness.

So the idea of getting $50 for tasting coconut water samples and providing my opinion on the taste and appearance seemed like a reasonable choice.

I filled in a short questionnaire on their website, and got a call back within less than an hour. My focus group appointment was made for Monday, May 11th at 4 PM at a facility near Granville @ Broadway.

I arrived about 20 minutes prior to the beginning of the study, checked in and hung out in the waiting area reading about Jerry Yang’s involvement with Jack Ma in the latest issue of Forbes.

The study began about 5 minutes past the scheduled time. The group was about 15-20 people altogether. Everyone was assigned a laptop; and before the samples were handed out, we had to fill in a short survey.

I don’t know how much I am allowed to tell about the study itself, so I’ll refrain from telling too much; but overall, it took less than 40 minutes, and I got to taste the coconut water that is yet to hit the market.

Did I mention it tasted amazing?

P.S.: E-mail Me, or leave a comment below if you want to know more.

Recommended camping gear

When it comes to camping, we don’t screw around.

When there are 4 grown men in the car, or when I am moto-camping, the cargo space becomes a scarce resource. To avoid having to throw the portliest friend out (they may come handy if you run out of provisions), you need to select gear that is light and space-efficient.

I have gone through a number of sleeping mats, chairs, tried a few different camping stoves and portable BBQ grills. Some have proven to be money-worthy, some – not so much.

In this post I will disclose the intelligence collected over the times spent “in the wild”.


Best Affordable Camping Equipment from SimpleVancouver


 1. Tent

Coleman Popup tent

Choosing the right tent is an essential part of going camping. Do you camp mostly during the warmer months? If so, you don’t need an fancy and expensive tent, and as long as it has a water-resistant cover (3,000+ mm), which most of them do, you should be fine.

Currently, I have a Coleman Company Popup Tent, which is awesome. When assembled, it is a circle with a diameter of approx. 35 inches (88 cm), and about an inch thick.

I like it mainly because I do not have to spend a lot of time to set it up. You just take it out of the carrying bag, take off the rubber band that holds it together, and throw the tent in front of you. This tent opens up on its own, so all you have to do is to secure it to the ground using the metallic pins.

2. Sleeping mat.

thick sleping mat
If you are not picky, a simple yoga mat would do. However, if you are not staying at a designated campground, chances are that the surface you are sleeping on is uneven. Sometimes there are rocks on the ground; so unless you are using vodka blanket, a yoga mat will not do the trick.

There are two options: getting a thicker pad ($15-20), or getting a self-inflating mattress ($50-60).

You can get a conventional inflatable mattress from a store like Walmart, but they do not last long. For $10-20 more you can get a much smaller self-inflating mattress that would be a much durable solution, and will not require an air pump.

I have a thicker pad that I bought at AliExpress for USD$15 with free shipping, which is very comfortable to sleep on; and it does not take too much space.

If you can justify spending CAD$47 on a quality sleep, ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Self-Inflating Air Pad is what some of my friends use, and it is truly incredible.

I am contemplating getting one of these myself.

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3.  BBQ grill.

In our group, going camping and not cooking meat is completely unacceptable. We are committed carnivores, and we love our steaks (for my tips on getting proper grass-fed meat read this post).

BBQ grill

Unfortunately, most of the time our summer is quite dry, and unconfined fire pits are not allowed (you can get in serious trouble for not following this); so a portable grill becomes a necessity.

I like my meat with minimum chemicals, so we have a charcoal grill.

IMO shape of the grill is the most important part: the round ones are not good because they take too much space, and they are difficult to efficiently pack. Go for the rectangular ones instead.

This Folding Charcoal BBQ Grill is highly portable and is only $35.00. When disassembled, the dimensions are only 17.3” x 13.4” x 2.2” inches (44 x 34 x 6 cm), which is approximately the size of a closed 17.3″ laptop.

4. Waterproof socks.

Outdoor-Sports-Nylon-Socks-Waterproof-Windproof-Breathable-Trekking-Socks-Dexshell-DS8836

Gore-tex is an amazing material; but it is pretty expensive. MEC carries Gore-Tex socks for $65 + tax, so if you don’t mind spending this much on socks, or are not willing to wait, get them, they get a lot of positive reviews.

I have bought these ones for USD$33.00 off AliExpress. I do not know how they compare to the Gore-Tex ones, but they work for me, and I like them.

5. Hiking boots.

Men's Hanagal Outdoor Hiking Boots with Waterproof Membrane

Hiking boots are not detrimental, but are certainly helpful. Until recently I used my street shoes that are not waterproof and have little grip (they are STREET shoes, after all).

Now I own a pair of Men’s Hanagal Outdoor Hiking Boots with Waterproof Membrane that I got at Amazon.ca for $59.50 + tax and free shipping.

Why have both the waterproof socks and the waterproof boots? Because nothing is 100% waterproof, and some water will get through sooner or later. The socks offer a second layer of protection in that case; and they can be used with any boots that you have.  

6. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter.

LifeStraw

LifeStraw is a portable water filter that requires no batteries. It filters out a minimum of 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria (>LOG 6 reduction); a minimum of 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites (>LOG 3 reduction) and reduces water turbidity by filtering particles of approximately 0.2 microns.

LifeStraw is the second most sold product in Sports & Outdoors section on Amazon.ca, and I can see why.

7. Camper’s Knife, Fork and Spoon set

Camping knife utensil set

Since you need the knife and fork / spoon anyway, it makes sense to have them in one utensil, so you can lose them all at the same time. There are a lot of high-priced ones, but in reality the basic one for under $10 should do just fine.


Summer is upon us! If you need trip ideas, check out the 25 Hidden Hot Springs in BC.

Ucluelet – Tofino – Victoria trip (Apr. 2 – 5, 2015)

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Catching some ZZZ on the ferry

After a few weeks of 10+ hour days, I felt that a longer weekend was overdue, so I have asked for the entire Easter Weekend off, including both Good Friday and Easter Monday. The boys have booked the ferry rides both ways (the ~$18 fee was well worth it for the sole purpose of avoiding the stress of rushing to secure a spot), leaving at 5.15 am on Friday morning, and coming back at 8.15 pm on Sunday.

Getting on an early ferry was no easy task; but we managed to not miss it, because what better incentive can you have than the punishment of losing the money paid and the humiliation of having staying in the city for the entire weekend.

Note, if you are going to Tofino from Vancouver, I recommend to go through Nanaimo to spare the extra ~1.5 hour drive from Victoria to Nanaimo, because there is only one driving route to Tofino, and it goes through the Nanaimo.

We have docked at the Nanaimo terminal at ~7 AM. On the way to Tofino we have decided to stop at the MacMillan Provincial Park to see some giant sequoias, which I have shown you during our family’s Summer RV trip around BC/AB.

PANO_20150403_083704

On the way we were caught a little off-guard by the snow on the overpass somewhere midway between Port Alberni and Ucluelet (I was trying to catch some sleep so I wasn’t paying much attention to the road). At that point I was really glad I decided to ride as a passenger, and not on my motorcycle.

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IMG_20150404_115126At around 10.30 we got to Ucluelet to rent the surfing equipment (which was cheaper than the last time in our 2014 Oregon surfing trip); and by noon we were in our full gear and at the beach. There are several beaches along the strip from Ucluelet to Tofino; and, according to the guy who works at the rental place, the waves are diferent at each beach. He suggested we go to the top beach, as the waves would not be as big, since we were new, and the conditions were stormy.

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After a few hours of surfing, we, exhausted, went to the nearby Westcoast motel’s sauna and swimming pool (~$7 one-time admission); which was really nice after the somewhat intense workout.

1NazbALLHMlVfMmBsLjQAYwWFqsyCcIS6del930pNEwIt was raining, and it was raining pretty hard; so we decided not to risk it, and rent a hotel room (~$135 for 4 people) to stay dry at night. Before we went to bed, we decided to go for a walk and get lost, and after a 2 hour wander under the rain, there was nothing better than to take a shower and pass out.

The battery on my camera was dead, and since neither I not anyone else brought a charger (it needed the standard micro-USB plug), we went to Tofino to get one. The cables in the store were $9.99+, but there was a power bank for just a few bucks more, so I got that one instead. I highly recommend owning one for the convenience; those who don;t know what a power bank is, it is a portable device that you use to charge your gadgets, just as if they were plugged into the wall. Power banks come in different sizes and capacities; and I found that for my purpose, a 2600 mAh bank was big enough.

Once the camera had some juice in it, we went to the beach for the day 2 of surfing. The waves were just as good as the day before! There also was significantly less rain; which didn’t matter since we were wearing wetsuits anyway.

We got out of the water by about 4.30, returned our gear by 5.30; made a decision to check out Victoria, and left Ucluelet at about 6 PM. Since we were not sure about the weather, we decided not to risk it, and rent a hotel room for another night.

Super 8 Motel in Duncan is where we stayed that night. Us grilling wieners on the parking lot prompted a lot of unnecessary attention from the locals. After getting called wannabe Indians and finishing our meat supply, operation Late Dinner has come to an end, and it was time to go to bed.

After the breakfast, we were on the way to Victoria at around 11.30 AM. We have parked near Beacon Hill Park, and made a loop starting from Douglas @ Dallas towards the breakwater, through the Fisherman’s Wharf, to the Parliament Building, and back to the car.

We returned to Vancouver a little after 10 PM, and I was home by 11.30.

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Total trip budget:

$195 for ferry, gas, food and hotel;
~$40 for the surfboard + wetsuit rental;
~40 beer and snacks;


Filmed with SJ4000. You can buy it here for USD$66.55 with free shipping – it is a 1080P camera with a waterproof case, that comes with a free monopod and a replacement battery.

Nan Lian Garden 7

SimpleHongKong – a visitors guide to the “Fragrant Harbour”

In February of 2015 I had a pleasure of being in Hong Kong for 2 weeks (well, 13 days to be exact), 10 of which I was rolling solo, and the remaining days were spent showing my family around; so I have spent the first part as a tourist, and the second part as a tour guide.

For the more detailed set of events, see My Hong Kong Vacation – February 2015; but I will be referencing the places I have visited, and my recommendations throughout this article anyway.


Simple Hong Kong.


Solo Traveller Tips for visiting Hong Kong.


What to do in Hong Kong.


Let’s start with the short list of things to know about HK:

1. Streets and public transit in Hong Kong are very clean. Eating on public transit is prohibited, and frowned upon. Seriously, DO NOT EAT OR DRINK ON PUBLIC TRANSIT.

2. There are a ton of public recreational areas, be that the soccer/basketball fields, elliptical machines, or vertical chin up bars. If you like jogging, you will not be disappointed.

3. Despite the location, there are no seagulls. Given their diet, they should thrive there; yet I have not seen a single seagull. In Vancouver, which is pretty similar in a number of ways, they are everywhere.

4. As bizarre as it is, Hong Kong has more smartphones than people. Everyone owns a smartphone, and free public Wi-Fi is very easy to find (if you need Wi-Fi, go to any mall, or to a Starbucks; the former usually has free 30 minutes per visitor every 24 hours).

5. Smoking is prohibited in most public areas, and most people seem to follow that rule. My guess the reason is the hefty fine involved in disobeying.

6. Contrary to the common stereotype, HK residents are pretty good drivers. I have not seen a single accident during the entire visit. People are just less overly cautious than in North America.

7. Consuming alcohol in public is allowed, but only a few people do it, which is odd given the wide availability and the cheap price… I’m not sure if it is a cultural thing, or if it is considered tactless, but I did not feel like I was getting any weird looks, and I’ve had a can of Guinness in my hands and 2 in my bag almost the entire time.

7/11 has deals on beer too, which are really good.

8. People are generally more reserved; and, unlike North Americans, are mindful of your personal space. I’ve had strangers strike up conversations with me only on two occasions: once by an Irish dude, and once by a local gentleman who used to live in Seattle.

Another thing, stretching or singing in public is not viewed as odd behavior. Or maybe it is, but people just choose to ignore it and mind their snarky and smarmy comments to themselves.

9. Overall, Hong Kong feels very safe. The policemen are friendly and not intimidating. They have helped me each time I was lost and asked for the assistance. There was no “us vs. them” attitude, just people helping people.

10. Giving and accepting money (and credit cards) with both hands is a sign of good tone.


What to see in Hong Kong.

Must:

1. Kowloon skyline + Laser Show (8.00-8.17 PM daily);

It looks better in real life, I promise

2. Avenue of starts + Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade – this can be done on the same day as #1.

3. Chi Lin Nunnery + Nan Lian Garden (can also be done on the same day as #1 and #2, just keep in mind that the Nunnery closes at 4 pm)

Nan Lian Garden 7 Chi Lin Nunnery 1

4. Shek-O beach.

5. Stanley (can be visited on the same day as Shek-O)

6. Ngong-Ping (Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery)

 

7. The Peak (Victoria Peak). 

Unfortunately, the pictures that I took at the Peak are awful, so I did not make a post about it, nor will I be uploading them; but let the view be a surprise for you; just take my word for it – on a clear day it is just as impressive, if not more impressive than the view from the Grouse or Cypress Mountain.

When you go to the Peak, make sure to dress warm, as the temperature there is much lower than down in the city (it was initially built for the rich folks to escape the heat), and the winds are staggering cold.

If you are in HK for one day only, you must visit the Peak.

Read the detailed trip report of my Hong Kong trip: My Hong Kong vacation, Feb. 2015.