Black Diamond Storm Headlamp Review

I got the Black Diamond Storm headlamp a couple of years ago after I got tired of Black Diamond Storm Headlampreplacing the duck tape holding the back of my old headlamp together. When I was looking at headlamps, I knew I wanted something relatively light, but still powerful, and I wanted it to be versatile, with a more than a couple of options for adjusting the brightness levels. The Black Diamond Storm headlamp is all of that and more.

First off, the variety of lighting options is amazing, and the headlamp helps you see what you’re doing in any situation. The main light is a QuadPower LED, with 160 Lumens, and is ridiculously powerful. The maximum distance for it is 70 meters, more than enough for most of the things one would be doing. If that’s too bright, you can switch to the two SinglePower LEDs, with 25 Lumens. While the main LED is better for looking down the trail or a distant objects, these are much better suited for up-close tasks like walking around your campsite, reading a map in the dark, and talking to someone at night without blinding them. The last set of lights is the pair of SinglePower red LEDs, which is good to use if you don’t want to kill your night vision.

Modes
So those are the lights, but what can you do with them? A lot of things! The Storm headlamp has one main button that can be used to adjust the lights to suit all of your needs.

  • Clicking the button once turns it on and off, and each time you power it off and then on again, it will switch between distance and proximity modes (the single LED and the two white LEDs).
  • While the headlamp is on, holding down the button will let you dim the light down from 160 to 25 Lumens. Just release it when you get to the desired brightness.
  • With Black Diamond’s PowerTap technology, once you dim the light, you can quickly switch between low and max brightness by tapping the housing of the headlamp.
  • Holding down on the button while the headlamp is off turns it on with the red night vision LEDs. Do the same thing to switch back to normal lighting.
  • Triple-clicking the button when the headlamp is off activates strobe mode.
  • Lastly, holding down the button for 6 seconds while the headlamp is off will lock the headlamp. (A blue light will appear in the battery power meter window, indicating it’s locked.)

This last mode is extremely useful. Locking it prevents the headlamp from powering on if the button is pressed while in your backpack, so you’ll never have to worry about accidentally running down the battery. You can check the battery level by simply turning it on, and the battery power meter on the side of the headlamp will light up for 3 seconds, letting you know how much power you have left.

Lastly, there’s the housing of the headlamp. The headlamp is waterproof up to 1m of water for 30 minutes, so basically you’ll be safe as long as you don’t take it snorkeling. I’ve used it multiple times in the rain, and it still works perfectly. Another cool feature is that the battery casing can be opened with the clip on the headband, allowing you to easily change batteries on the the trail. (Or at home, since you may not want the weight of extra batteries in your pack.)

There were a couple things I didn’t like about the Storm headlamp. At 3.9 oz, it’s heavier than some of the other headlamps I’ve used, and may take some getting used to. The battery case is also pretty cramped with 4 AAA’s, and it took some work to get the lid completely closed.

Some may find the weight and $49.95 price tag off putting, but I thought that the wide range of settings and quality construction of the Black Diamond Storm headlamp definitely made up for it. If you’re looking at headlamps, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out!

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REI Passage 65 Backpack Review

Hey everyone! I’ve been pretty busy this semester, but I wanted to share this review with you. Hope you enjoy it!

By now, I’ve had the REI Passage 65 Backpack for 4 years, and have used it on quite a few backpacking trips. It has held up very well, is still in very good condition, and I’ve never had any problems with the pack on any of my trips. In this post I’ll review and discuss the different components of the backpack.

The backpack’s shoulder straps, hipbelt, and back padding are simple, but are well designed and very comfortable even if you are carrying heavy loads. The mesh on the back is somewhat breathable, however it doesn’t really allow air to circulate like the backings of some of the other backpacks on the market, such as the Osprey Aether 60 Pack. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are also extendable to accommodate growth, which extends the life of the pack for younger kids and teenagers. The back padding is adjustable to accommodate torso lengths of 15-19 inches.

The backpack’s top-loading main compartment, sleeping bad compartment, and two zip pockets make it very easy to organize gear. In total the backpack has a gear capacity of 65 liters. I’ve found that the main compartment has enough room to hold and organize the majority of my gear, and the zip access on the side lets me access items buried in the main compartment without unloading the whole pack. Even for my five-day backpacking trip, I was able to easily fit everything inside the bag and didn’t have to clip anything to the external daisy chains. If you don’t want to use the sleeping bag compartment, there’s a divider that can be unzipped to increase the space in the main compartment. For smaller items, I always use what REI aptly calls the “front essential zip pocket”. For the most part, I use it for items I may need to access quickly, like the 10 essentials.

The floating lid on the backpack is very useful and can even be detached and used as a lumbar pack. I often use the zip pocket on the lid to store snacks or a camera, so that when I set my pack down they are easily accessible. In addition to this, the lid’s connecting straps are extendable to accommodate a larger load in the main compartment.

The two mesh water bottle holders on the sides of the pack are large enough to hold 1-liter sized bottles, but they aren’t tall enough to hold the bottles in securely. I had a “fun” experience in which my water bottle fell out as I was crossing a river, but after a mad dash down the bank, I was able to snag it with a branch. If you’re not hoping for a similar exciting experience, I’d recommend passing the side compression strap around the bottle to better secure it.

Some other useful components of the REI Passage 65 Backpack include sleeping pad straps on the underside of the pack, elastic cord crisscrossing the front of the pack (which can be used to hold a jacket in place on the outside of the pack), ice axe loops, side compression straps, and water-repellent zippers. The water-repellent zippers were a lifesaver when they saved my gear from getting wet in Washington when it started raining and my backpack cover seemed to have suddenly disappeared.

As a simple backpack that’s great for scouts, teenagers, and older kids, the Passage 65 Backpack does its job well. It was just as comfortable to wear on an overnight backpacking trip in the desert as it was on a five-day trip in Mt. Rainier National Park. I’d highly recommend this backpack for scouts and older children. It’s relatively cheap, very durable, and the option to extend the shoulder straps and hipbelt allows the backpack to be used by children even as they continue to grow.

Good luck finding an awesome backpack and I hope I was able to help!

Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Lite Knife

A few years ago I got this knife as a present and have used it a lot since then. It’s extremely durable and the tools are very useful in both the house and the campground. Even if something happens to it, since all Swiss Army knives come with lifetime warranties, chances are you can get it fixed or replaced. I once bent the tip of the larger blade, so I sent it in. After a couple of weeks I got it back and everything was in order. 

The Huntsman Lite is, in my opinion, a great balance between size and functionality. The knife contains enough tools to assist you in nearly every situation, but is not over sized. It consists of 20 tools:

  1. large bladeHuntman Lite Open
  2. small blade
  3. corkscrew
  4. can opener with
  5. small screwdriver
  6. cap lifter with
  7. screwdriver
  8. wire stripper
  9. reamer
  10. key ring
  11. tweezers
  12. toothpick
  13. scissors
  14. multi-purpose hook (parcel carrier)
  15. wood saw
  16. pressurized ballpoint penHuntsman Lite Light
  17. pin stainless
  18. LED white light
  19. mini-screwdriver
  20. Phillips screwdriver

Admittedly, I have not extensively used every tool. I’ve used the hook only once or twice and have never used the key ring. On the other hand, I’ve used the knives and scissors on multiple occasions and the can opener tool is great on car camping trips when someone doesn’t bring a can opener.

The Huntsman Lite is a great product and will serve the buyer well for years. Of the many Swiss Army knives, this knife is great for its reliability and good selection of useful tools.

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack Review

I’ve had the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack in the “small” (4 liter) size for a few years now and have used it quite a bit. I got the most use out of it on my canoeing trip a couple of years ago on the Colorado River. The small size is perfect for storing small items such as a camera, a compass, Chapstick, sunglasses, or small snacks.

Sea-to-Summit Lightweight Dry SackThe dry sack is made of coated nylon, which is both lightweight and durable. Inside the bag is a white lining which makes finding items inside the bag easier. I like this design and find it a mild improvement over bags with dark interiors. The dry sack also has a durable buckle that is very secure when clicked shut. A D-ring attached to the buckle allows you to clip it to your kayak or pack so it doesn’t get tossed overboard in rough water.

On my trip I accidentally knocked it into the water when reaching for my paddle, and Sea-to-Summit Lightweight Dry Sack 2although it was submerged and then floated in the water for a bit before I retrieved it, my gear inside remained completely dry. If you’re looking for a good dry sack to hold small electronics such as phones or cameras on either an extended water trip or a weekend of kayaking, take a look at this bag. At $13.95 at REI, it’s a great bag for it’s price!

SealLine Black Canyon Dry Bag Review

On my Colorado River canoeing trip a couple of years ago, I needed to keep my clothes, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag dry. I didn’t have any dry bags at the time, so I went to REI to get some and ended up with the Sea to Summit UltraSil Dry Sack, Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack, and the SealLine Black Canyon Dry Bag. Out of all three, I used the SealLine Black Canyon Dry Bag the most and it held the majority of my gear.

SealLine Black Canyon Dry Bag OpenI used the 30 liter version of the dry bag, and it easily held all of my clothing and my Therm-a-Rest. The nylon material that the SeaLine dry bag is made of is incredibly durable. This is because it’s coated with thermoplastic urethane, which is an eco-friendlier alternative to PVC coating and is resistant to abrasion. The top of the bag has two parallel rubber strips, called double-sealing strips, that when rolled down create a water-tight seal. This is officially called a “Dry Seal roll-top Closure”. Lastly, the buckle on the bag is very secure and isn’t hard to unclip. The D-ring attached to the buckle allows you to secure the bag to your kayak or canoe.

This dry bag is pretty heavy, a tradeoff for its great durability. This bag would be best used for paddling, say, on a canoeing or kayaking trip. In my opinion, it’s way to heavy to use for backpacking. If you need a dry bag to take on a backpacking trip to protect your gear, I’d recommend checking out a lighter dry bag, such as the Sea to Summit UltraSil Dry Bag.

At REI, the 30 Liter version is $39.95. However, if you need a smaller or larger size, the bag also comes in 5L ($23.95), 10L ($26.95), 20L ($32.95), 40L ($49.95), and 55L ($57.95).

REI Quarter Dome UL Tent

Over the summer I went on a backpacking trip in Mt. Rainier National Park (which was awesome, but more on that later). Rather than using my REI Half Dome 2+ Tent, I instead tented with someone else who had an REI Quarter Dome UL Tent, which was lighter and more suitable for the 5 day backpacking trip. The tent worked very well and kept us warm throughout the trip, despite rain and cold weather.

At just under 4 lbs and packing down to a size of 7 x 20 inches, the REI Quarter Dome UL REI Quarter Dome UL SideTent lives up to its name. It’s a great backpacking tent for 1 or 2 people, depending on how big they are, and is very light; when divided into two backpacks it really is “ultralight”. I say it may fit 2 people depending on their sizes because it doesn’t have an abundance of floor space. The floor is only 85 x 52 inches (7’1″ x 4’4″). While this may work for many people, it will be pretty snug for two people with broader chests.

Set Up
The tent is very durable and easy to set up. The footprint for the tent is very well made and, as with any tent, should be bought as soon as possible to extend the tent’s working life and prevent the floor from being torn up. The tent is very simple to set up and can easily be set up in a few minutes by one person. It also features Dead End Pole Sleeves, which help speed up set-up.REI Quarter Dome UL Front

Design
As with many other REI tents, the Quarter Dome UL has two doors and two vestibules, a plus for a smaller tent. Nobody has to crawl over someone else to exit or enter the tent and dirt encrusted boots can be left under the rain fly on one’s own side of the tent. The two roof vents prevent condensation from building up in the tent, keeping the interior dry. Mesh walls provide for good ventilation in warmer weather. Additionally, the floor has a waterproof seal, so the floor on the inside remains dry on damp ground.

Rainfly
The nylon rainfly doesn’t leak, is simple to set up and is very durable and light. Velcro pieces allow you to attach the rainfly to the pole sleeves on the tent, which lets you keep the rainfly attached to the tent when taking it down. This makes setting up the tent later in the day on a backpacking trip easier and faster. Furthermore, the rainfly corners are color coded to match the corners of the tent, which eliminates any confusion when attaching it to the tent.

REI Quarter Dome UL InsideAdditional Parts
The tent comes with guylines and tighteners, stakes, bags for the stakes and poles, a pole repair tube, and a compressible tent stuff sack. The stakes are durable and don’t bend easily, and the guylines keep the rainfly taught and away from the sides of the tent, keeping the tent sides dry. The pole and stake bags provide for efficient organization and easy packing.

All in all, the REI Quarter Dome UL Tent is a well-built, durable tent that’s great for backpacking trips. I would recommend it to someone who’s looking for a lightweight, 1 or 2 person tent and who doesn’t mind a little reduction in space.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack Review

I’ve had a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack for a few years, and I’ve put it through a fair amount of use. I’ve found it to be a good dry bag for both canoeing and backpacking trips and it hasn’t torn or malfunctioned yet.

Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackThe dry bag is made of Cordura nylon, which is waterproof. The inside is also coated in Polyurethane, which increases durability. Lastly, the dry bag features a “Hypalon® watertight roll-top closure” (per REI’s description) that prevents water from leaking in. All you have to do is roll it down at least 3 or 4 times.

Although the Ultra-Sil Dry Sack is okay for canoeing trips, it’s not the best, due to the fact that if submerged, the contents might get wet because it’s not completely waterproof when that exposed to moisture. This is why the dry sack is best for backpacking. I use it either to put my sleeping bag in (and once in my backpack, it pretty much guarantee’s the bags dryness) or to put my clothes in, after which I kneel on it to get all of the air out. This way it acts as a compression bag and protects my clothes at the same time. Pretty good, right?Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack Filled

The price of the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack is pretty reasonable at REI and it comes in a range of sizes: 2, 4, 8, 13, 20, and 35 liters. I definitely recommend getting it to keep your gear dry!