Thursday, June 9, 2011

SteriPen, Big Agnes & GSI Gear Review

Ready for Action!
Everyone has their favorite tool, mug or trail mix recipe for the backcountry. I like to stick with what works, but I'm always interested in testing out a new product. And when every other page in backpacker is a GSI ad, it's easy to be tempted! Although magazine gear guides are a big help, I like to find and read personal reviews before I rely on something new. If it doesn't work at the moment of truth, it can be challenging to find a suitable solution in your pack.

Something we were really excited about on our last trip trying was the Steri Pen. It's a water sterilization tool that uses UV light. Very cool idea. Here is more on the power of UV.  Instead of bringing a water filter (which we did bring anyway as a back up), you can pack this lightweight (not even 5 oz!), small, nifty pen in it's own carry case. We brought the Journey LCD pen. The LCD screen has a countdown timer and a little smiley face pops up when the water is ready. I found it worked best with clear nalgenes, as far as watching the light. But you have to hold it the entire time (so it doesn't fall in). The Steri Pen fits great in a narrow neck bottle though (like a metal green bottle etc.). It still doesn't take as long as a filter bladder bag or as painstaking as a Katadyn pump. And without the aftertaste. The website claims "At 8,000 doses, lamp life for the Journey will allow you to purify water for a long time to come.  If you purified four liters of water each and every day, your Journey would last almost six years!" 
The pen lights up the same green as this bottle..
 Personally, I found it took about 90 seconds to sterilize the water in one standard Nalgene. AND, we got a lousy FOUR bottles out of it before the Steri Pen popped out a frowny face on the LCD and claimed that the brand new batteries were dead. Which we tested in a flashlight and this was not the case. After some cursing and playing around, I think that we got a dud, a lemon etc. We are returning the Steri-Pen and hopefully the next one works great! The only other thing I don't like about it is: batteries. While they do last a long time, and if the pen holds up as long as claimed, there is not need to take out the batteries. However, (and luckily) I did find a battery on the ground. I some ways, I hate batteries. I hate batteries that are not disposed of properly even more! I think it is easier to LNT with a traditional filter. But the pen is fun and I'll probably continue to use it!
At $100, if it lasts a lifetime, that's a deal.

50% Recycled Material ( image)
Big Agnes Pad
Something I was REALLY excited about was a new pad! I've had the same 2 Thermarests forever. One is the classic lightweight foam, and one is an okay inflatable. A couple years ago I used my in-laws Thermarest inflated pad on a last minute backpacking trip in NC and thought I was in total heaven. It had this layer of cush above the inflatable space.  But had second thoughts every morning when I was half asleep trying to wrestle the air out and sitting on my pack to get thick cushy mat strapped back on. With all it's fatness, I still longed to have one. The one thing I will sacrifice weight/space for is a cushy mat. Sleep well, hike well. :) Just my personal indulgence. 

Enter Big Agnes! These mats have been heavily advertised and I loved the idea of the Mummy style. This review is for the Insulated Air Core Mummy Style. Indulgence, but still cutting down on space and weight by cutting off the corners. This mat is ultra light, packs easily (into a bag!), comes with a patch kit (the one thing I worried about was gravel/holes) and oh yeah, it's deluuuuxe comfy. Takes 5-10 minutes or so to inflate, about the same to pack up. If you are trying to max miles and cut down on packing time, this may not be your mat... but really, it is so worth it. For those of you that like to sleep against the ground, good for you! :) I can only take so many days of that before I'm a total JOY to be around in the morning. I'm in LOVE. My photos from inside the tent are blurred. Here is one from the website. I have the 20 x 72 (2.5 inches thick inflated), and it was 21 oz. a Deal at $75!

Hot Ravens Brew! Mm mmm
GSI Pinnacle Backpacker & Java Press
So the hubs had to have his coffee. And I'll admit drinking hot coffee early in the morning was total heaven! Also helps move certain things along (ahem). The GSI Java Press ($30) became the highlight of the morning and the item packed at easy access. It works, it's durable, it keeps the coffee HOT for a long time and well, it's a coffee press. This is definitely a luxury item and only really feasible if you have a lot of extra space (or you want to strap it on the outside of your pack). Obviously not an ultralight item. 

Pass the Pig
Next up is the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker Set. ($80) Heavy advertisement for this item too. We didn't actually purchase this item. A friend brought it and we played with it. First thing, I'm not into the Teflon coating. Period. Bleh. I ended up using our 'ol MSR more because of this. I'd rather carry/use extra oil to prevent sticking than the Teflon, but I can totally see the appeal. I like how the set all fits together. The cups actually fit inside of each other (so well that my friend thought she lost one!). High quality material, lightweight and every piece is super multi purpose. I'm looking into purchasing a different set though. More photos of this set to come with the next post (a recipe post).

Last but certainly not least is the lifeline! ACR Res Q Fix.  Thankfully, we didn't have to use this.. so no real review, but an amazing piece of equipment. ($649)


Thanks for your input!

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