Monday, September 24, 2012

Do you like camping?

I'm not talking cabining. I'm talking camping: a tent, a campfire, folding chairs, Coleman stove and/or lantern, flashlights, bug spray, marshmallows, etc. If I can find a campsite with water and electricity, I usually prefer it mainly for the fact of having running water to wash the camping dishes after use and the electricity is for maybe a fan in the tent for the hot days/nights in the Texas summer. If you think I'm not really camping because of the water and/or electricity, then you come to Texas and see how hot and humid it is in July or August in a wooded campsite with no breeze. I like the outdoors but I don't want to have to peel my shorts and underoos off everytime I take a piss or shit. Nor do I enjoy being sticky hot when trying to sleep in the tent during the night.

I like camping because it forces me to disconnect. Not completely, but enough to just sit back and relax for hours without constant distractions.

The wife doesn't like camping. She wants to go cabining and I'm not just talking about a screened shelter. She basically wants the amenities of a hotel room in a campsite. I told her what's the point of going camping then. She said, "My point exactly!" I fell right into that one!

Anyway, I've picked up a few items here and there that I thought I might need when I go camping...with or without the wife or family. I've picked them up because I found them for a very good price and I don't want to want/need it later and have to buy it a higher price because I basically need it immediately.

4-Man Dome Tent

The first thing I bought was a 4-man dome tent. Regularly $120. I got it on sale for something like $24.99. After tax, shipping and handling, I think it totaled around $30.00. I believe it has a sort of screen sunroof type top and a full-tent tarp for draping over the tent to keep the wind, rain, and dust out. I would put the brand and model but I'm at work right now. I got this idea to post about camping and didn't want to lose the moment like so often I do. Anyway, I've had this tent for almost two years now. The weekend I got it it was like 25 degrees outside. The kids were all about camping in the backyard that night but the wife poopooed the idea when she decided it was just too damned cold. We don't have quality sleeping bags and only had a few blankets and pillows which the wife said wasn't enough. I had already put it up to see what it was like so it just sat in the backyard unused for the night. I packed it up the next morning and it was in my garage for about a year before a neighbor borrowed it to go camping with her two kids. She said it worked great and was easy to put up and take down. She even packed it back in the carrying bag better than I originally did. Someday I guess I'll get to officially test it out.

Titan LED Lantern

Also about two years ago, I purchased the Titan Lantern from Black Diamond Equipment. I think I saw some email deal in regards to this LED lantern. At first, I was hesitant because I grew up campign with a Coleman fuel-burning Coleman lantern. Coleman fuel was the campers' choice back in the late '70s, '80s and even '90s. I don't even remember anything mentioning using propane until the late '90s. They did have butane lighters. Anyway, that's getting off the topic of THIS lantern. I have used the Titan Lantern more than a dozen times since it was delivered although never for camping. We have neighborhood block parties and lights are always needed while cooking, eating or for whatever reason. Instead of carrying out my dual 1000-watt halogen work lamps, it's been much easier using the Titan Lantern. My friends and neighbors have all complemented on how bright it is and how when it's too bright it can be adjusted. That's right. This lantern's brightness is "fully" adjustable. It turns on at its brightess but can be dimmed and then brightened again. I think the spec sheet says the lumens range from 10 to 250. I don't have a lumen gauge but it does get pretty bright, very bright in my opinion. I've had to dim it down occasionally because I just needed enough light to read my Kindle or something like that while sitting under my patio canopy during the evening/night. It takes 4 D-cell batteries and so far it's lasted at least 4 hours on high. I haven't used it longer than 4 hours straight so I can't tell you the complete run time on it but the specs sheet says '15 hours' at the full 250 lumens. I didn't see any dwindling in the brightness at 4 hours so it very well could go 15 hours but I'm sure it'll dim somewhere along the way. I was a little nervous about purchasing an LED lantern for $79.99 because I've seen LED lanterns for around $20-$30 that didn't fulfill their spec promises. However, how I found out about this lantern is from a review I read on a tech blog. They highly recommended it and so I thought I'd take the chance. I have to say that I'm glad I did.

Coast PX20 Dual Color LED Flashlight

I may have mentioned this before but I guess you could say I have a flashlight...flashy lights...blinking lights...lights fetish. I can never have enough flash lights. You just never know when we may be shoved into the "darkness, zombie apocalypse" and you need a battery-operated light. I'll definitely be prepared!

As such, I have another item that I purchased for muliple purposes. One of which is/could be camping. I have the Coast PX20 Dual Color LED Flashlight. I don't have this exact model but it's damn near close. The only difference between mine and this one is the color of the exterior of the flashlight. I have the white aluminum finish while this is more of a black. I've actually had my version for two or more years. I was at a Home Depot store and saw this flashlight.

I previously had purchased from a Frys and lost somewhere into oblivion an Inova XS a few years ago. I liked the Inova a whole lot and it was expensive...something like 40 bucks or so. It was very bright and portable which I liked a lot. I have no idea where it went but I was very disappointed to lose it. I learned about lumens measurements from the Inova because it was my first flashlight to talk about or list the lumens output. This is very useful to know and a very immediate way to compare dozens of flashlights hanging on racks at the stores (although not the only way). The Inova was like 53 lumens and based off of its brightness I knew I wanted something at least 53 lumens if not more. Also, the flood versus spot or a flooding spot vs spotting flood (tee hee).

Hence, the purchase of this Coast flashlight. It rated 125 lumens for the white LEDs and it has a separate switch for a red LED. Having the option of white or red in one flashlight was a bonus. Mainly because I could use the red LED to see but without showing this bright light letting everyone and their dog know where I am whether it be in the woods or in my house. I used the red LED for reading in bed at night sometimes. Probably not the best to read by but it served it's purpose. The construction on the Coast PX20 is no where near as durable (feeling or actual?) as the Inova XS but it was much cheaper...about half the cost. I used this thing on road trips to here and there as well as going hunting—mainly to see things within 30 feet or less—and it worked(s) nicely...up until a point. I'm on my 2nd one.

The first one started having trouble with the white LEDs on/off button. I'd press the button, it would click but the light wouldn't turn on. I could do this anywhere from 1 to 50+ times and it wouldn't turn on. Then one time it would and I'd be clicking so fast out of frustration that I'd turn it right back off. I took it apart, hit it on a table, or whacked it with a pipe wrench and nothing helped. Finally, I said, "Fuck it!" I threw the bitch away. I mulled over whether to purchase another one (exact) or find a different but similar one. Even though I was still hanging on to the anger of losing the Inova and now this obvious manufacturer's default on the Coast, I decided to purchase another one after about four months.

The 2nd one functioned same as the first. I used it quite a bit over the next few months or so then...the white LED on/off switch started sticking. I'd push the button, it'd lock in the 'on' position but no light would come on. I'd push the button again to turn it to 'off.' Unlike the first light where the button would properly click off and on but no light like it wasn't making a connection, this button got a soft feel to the push and would stick like it had gum or gunk in the switch. It almost became a shattered product on the cement floor in my garage because of my anger and frustration. However, I found a temporary fix. I found that if I push on the button a little deeper and then hold it down for just a second, the light turns on. If I do the same again, it turns off. So, basically, the sensitivity of the button has changed to I can't just do a simple push on/off. It's been about six more months now and it works fine with this little caviat. Originally it was a pain in the ass to do but now that I've done it for so long, it's not even something that I think about to do. I do have to mention this technique to anyone who might use it.

So, I would still recommend the Coast PX20—showing $24.93 at HomeDepot.com although the picture showing isn't as silver as my version. I think they may have a 'sort of' updated version in the Coast G35—black only, no silver, and 111 lumens for the white LEDs at $19.99, maybe Coast PX25—although it's only white LEDs at 208 lumens and $39.97, or the Coast TX10 4-Color LED Flashlight—73 lumens for white LEDs but has colors of red, green and blue for $32.97. I have not used or seen these flashlights officially/physically (like at the store) but have seen them on the Home Depot website as well as a Google search.

nanoSTRIKER XL

My last purchase that I haven't actually used yet is the nanoSTRIKER XL from Exotac. Exotac in general has some really cool products. What lead me to the nanoSTRIKER XL was a deal posting on slickdeals.net. If I remember correctly, the nanoSTRIKER XL was on sale for like $20 at the time of this deal but it's regularly priced at $32.95. I read reviews and decided it was worth a $20 chance at having a pretty cool, firestarter. The standard (regular) shipping was pretty fast. I think I got this thing three days after I ordered it. It came in a nice little box. The product itself looks pretty cool. It's bright orange (I opted for this color versus the darker colors) so I can find it easily in a camping tackle or whatever. It's small like 3 1/2 inches and little wider in diameter than a standard No.2 pencil. It's tiny enough to put on your key ring without be obtrusive.

Again, I haven't actually used it but I have confidence it will do what it says and do it well (according to all the testimonials/reviews). I have been looking forward to cooler weather so I can either use it to start my campfires or the firepit at home. If I remember, I will post an update to this post or a reference to it from another regarding my actual usage.



I guess that's about it for the camping toys I have purchased. I am looking to camp more with the cooler weather months approaching in Texas. Right now, it's still 95 degrees and humid at times which makes camping completely miserable especially when you figure in the insects factor, particularly mosquitos.

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