FIRST IMPRESSIONS: DryGuy Force Guy DX

We’ve been in the ‘cabin in the mountains’ market for awhile now, chasing the ol’ ‘work from home while getting back to back to back pow days’ dream. Of course this plan works better when you’ve actually been able to find something, but that’s another story for another day. So, when the folks at DryGuy reached out to review their Force Dry DX glove and boot dryer (as well as their wader adapter) I thought why the hell not as it would be a great addition to the eventual mountain dwelling, and in the meantime useful around the house post-fishing or when snot nosed little heli plays in the snow this winter.

Unboxing the DryGuy is straight forward with just a touch of excessive packaging (the plastic bags over the already plastic boot arms seemed excessive to the hippie in me…).  Lightweight yet slightly bulky (this probably isn’t going in your travel kit) there are a minimum of removable/movable parts and assembly requires zero instruction.  The only assembly you’d ever need is if you want to add the boot extensions for larger boots or the wader adapter, both of which just slide over the shorter vent arms.  From there simply plug in, choose whether you want heat or not from the control panel and BOOM you’re drying.  Anyways, looking forward to getting some gear wet and seeing how well this baby operates (and with any luck not melting any of my stuff in the process….)

 

Nice box

Full frontal

Side view

Control panel. Plug her in, set the timer for up to 180 minutes, choose heat or no heat, and boom you’re drying.



Short vid so you can hear how loud the DryGuy is. I’d say this video actually makes it sound louder than it was in person.

Review: Hoo-Rag

The guys and gals at Hoo Rag hit me up a few weeks back asking me if I’d be interested in reviewing their product. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have paid any mind to their inquiry as I’m not really a buff user, but as I’d literally just finished joking with a buddy about bringing the Mambosok back I figured fuck it, it’s a sign from the blog heavens, let’s do this. Flash forward two weeks and an envelope arrived…

If you look closely you’ll see their logo incorporated into the digi camo

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
My first impressions upon opening the envelope was “Damn, really?” These things pack up small, really small. Not sure how much space I thought they’d take up, but I assumed at least as much as a bandana, if not more. And that envelope they sent? It had five(!) Hoo Rags in it with a note that they threw in some extras to stoke out a few readers – pretty damn generous for a newer company. Once my drone arrives from Amazon we’ll get that giveaway fired up on the tweeters.

THEY SAY
Hoo Rag bills their product as a ‘multifunction bandana’, and suggest 8 differents ways you can wear them. While the pictures make it pretty obvious what it is and what they can do, but I think they’d do themselves a favor by mentioning that their product is also UPF 30, as their competitors aren’t shy about using that point for their own marketing.

I SAY
Overall, there are only so many words you can write about about what is essentially a sonic welded (I think?) fabric tube. Since Shaun White made wearing a buff/neck gaitor cool again you’ve seen a ton of similar products on the hill, and they’ve really taken over in the flats fishing community (and rightly so with that glare). To be honest, it was something way outside of my wheelhouse and I’d never given thought to wearing one. However, after hearing they are UPF30 AND given my intense dislike of wind I’ll be keeping one of these in my camera pocket at all times, and it will definitely be making an appearance on some stealth trout stalking trips this summer. Given the Hoo Rag sells for 30-40% less than comparable UV buffs and they’ve got a ton of options (including reflective for bikers and a variety of camo patterns) I’d say give them a look if you’re in the market.

Oh yeah, and parents beware

REVIEW: Hobie Horizontal Rod Holder

My review of the Hobie horizontal rod holder and shortest review ever:  Broke while installing – hell I was just seeing if the strap would make it over the butt of my halibut rod.  Better to break in the grass than on the ocean though, would suck to lose that setup.

 

 

First look: Rockymounts Pitchfork car rack

Convinced the world’s slowest mountain biker that since I shuttle us to all our rides that she should use our REI F&F coupon to pick up bike racks for the roof of the blackhawk. Hate Thule with a passion after they refused to honor their warranty on a faulty product years ago (in fact they actually accused me of lying about ever having the surfboard I said I lost since I had no receipt for it….apparently filing a report with the state patrol isn’t enough…), and the Yakima stuff looks nice but the Rockymounts (out of Boulder, CO) caught my circa-1997 Honda Civic pimping eye with their color selections.

It checked most of my needs out of the box – works with standard Yakima racks, no adapter needed for disc brakes, ability to lock, same price or cheaper than the competitors. Two things that aren’t a current issue for me but should be noted 1) Rockymounts list a max weight of 35 lbs per channel (that’s low for you downhillers) and 2) for thru axle you have to purchase a separate adapter that costs about what I paid for the racks! Lame.

Anyways, order placed, two days later arrived at our local store, installed.

First impression out of the box: Siiiiiiick! Nice powdercoated finish, wheel channel feels substantial. Wheel channels look short, but they aren’t (fit my 21″ frame 29er no probs). Would prefer rear wheel strap to be ratcheting as that just seems more secure (even though I know it’s not).

Install process: Easy. Three screws (they include the allen key you’ll need for two of ’em), two key insertions, done. The only issue I ran into during the process was one of the QR levers wouldn’t unlock. Pinged them via the twitters and they said to call them and they’d walk me through the removal and reinsertion process. They walked me through it, didn’t work the first time, I played with it for a bit and got ‘er.

Installed impression: Looks sick. Very low profile. The little detail of powdercoated color really makes the rack and will help me find my generic Portland vehicle (Subaru wagon) from the rest of the generic Portland vehicles in the parking lot. Seems odd that the rack only locks to the crossbars in the front, with the rear being a hand tightened wing nut, though maybe they all do that? In the end one lock should be more than enough though.

Nice rack

Final first impression: Thus far have only used the rack once to transport my bike to a ride. Loading/unloading is the same process as any other fork mount rack and easy unless you’re a midget. Gets to be a little difficult getting a perfect tight fit on the dropouts due to the room you have to work with to spin the plastic handle then trying to close it, but it’s a minor inconvenience. When the bike is locked on the rack it seems like there’s more side-to-side play in the fork mount than I’d expect (see shaky video above), though maybe it’s like buildings in quake zones and they are built to sway to dissipate energy? Also noticed a lot of creaks and moans coming from the rear attachment area when driving, I’m hoping that goes away with time and it’s just the parts settling in. Time will tell, and will have an updated full review once I’ve had more time to use everything.

Rockymounts not available at your local shop? Check out the selection at REI and backcountry.com.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 sleeping bag

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any gear reviews. Between a move back to the Pacific Northwest, working on getting a startup off the ground and enjoying the local beer scene I haven’t been outdoors as much as I’d like outside of daytrips v. last summer when I spent every weekend somewhere in the Sierra. So, first up in a list of long overdue reviews is this review of the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 bag.

Stock photo from Mountainhardwear.com

Stock photo from Mountainhardwear.com

Overview
Their most popular down bag, the Phantom 32 is one of the many bags Mountain Hardwear makes at this temperature rating. Every bag in the Phantom line is targeted more towards the fast and light crowd due to their use of weight saving 800 fill down and .85 oz./yard nylon shell and design considerations such as a snug mummy cut and 2/3 length zipper, and this one is no different. The Phantom 32 comes in at 1 lb. 8 oz. (11 oz. of which are down) for the long version (at 80″ the long gets you 6″ more inside length, 2″ more diameter in the shoulders and the footbox), weighing in less than a similarly rated Montbell Down Hugger #3, and only a few ounces more than the UL crowd uber-hyped (and IMO uber-ridiculous, though admittedly I’ve never tried one so for all I know they could be the bee’s knees) Jacks R Better quilt.

A few other details (and when it comes to bags the devil really is in the details) of the Phantom 32 that may get missed when glancing the racks at your local retailer are:

• Tight 5″ baffle spacing creates optimal loft
• Lightweight two-way zipper for easy entry and exit
• Six-chamber hood design maintains even loft around head for consistent warmth
• Down-filled face gasket comfortably blocks drafts at the hood opening
• Ergonomic draft collar blocks the escape of heated air from inside the bag. The two-piece collar drapes naturally over neck and shoulders creating a soft comfortable seal. Two draw cords can snug down as needed to secure the collar.
• Insulated draft tube with anti-snag panel prevents cold spots along zipper
• Comfort Footbox follows natural foot position for maximum warmth and comfort
• Single-handed drawcords simplify adjustments
• Nylon mesh storage sack and stuff sack included

Build
Overall, the Phantom 32 feels well built and similar to other mainstream manufacturers high-end bags. I wouldn’t say it has the same quality feel of a more boutique brand such as Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends, but overall it’s a well built and on par with its peers.

Performance thus far
I was a bit hesitant when deciding on this as my two/three season bag as I tend to sleep warm and went back and forth on the 32 v. 45 bag, and also wasn’t sure if I’d be too constrained by the fit on hot summer nights. I liked the thought of the weight savings and pack space savings v. my (realllly) old synthetic bag and ended up deciding to go with the 32 as worst case scenario I could use it as a quilt over me if I got too hot. In the end I’m glad I did. The stuffed size of the bag is ridiculous (check the pic below!), and it’s significantly warmer than my old ’30 degree’ synth bag – which actually came in handy on an unexpectedly cold night in the alpine a few weeks back.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 with Sigg bottle for size comparison

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 with Sigg bottle for size comparison

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 with Sigg bottle

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 with Sigg bottle

Another hesitation I had when deciding on this bag was the fact that I knew I’d be eventually relocating to the Pacific Northwet, and down and rain don’t typically play well together. I actually slept under only a small tarp (rainfly from a Hennessy Hammock I couldn’t setup due to lack of strong trees…) in a downpour and while the outside of the bag was damp due to condensation from my breath and the wind driving the rain under the tarp the DWR kept the bag from soaking through – though it’s not something you’d want to do regularly, and especially not if you were expecting multiple days of rain with no chance to dry your gear if it did soak through.

Overall the bag has performed as expected, though I’ve yet to experience any nights near it’s temperature rating. The only issue I’ve got with the bag thus far is the zipper. For some reason the damn thing doesn’t want to let me out of the bag half the time, and the anti-snag panel doesn’t live up to it’s name. I’d gladly take another ounce of pack weight if it meant I’d get some stiffer material along the zipper to keep it from snagging the shell fabric as I’m worried that one day the snag is going to result in a tear. The shell fabric is wispy enough that you can hold it up to a bright light and essentially see through it.

Got this zipper snag when taking the bag out and unzipping it.  Seems like a frequent occurence with this bag.

Got this zipper snag when taking the bag out and unzipping it. Seems like a frequent occurence with this bag.

That being said, if you’re looking for a well made, lightweight bag that stuffs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle that regularly goes on sale for under $225 I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32.

If you can’t find it locally you can pick up the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 online at the usual suspects. Threw together the little widget below to hopefully help you find it on sale quickly.