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GREAT GEAR RECOMMENDATION - Book - Damn Few By Lieutenant Commander Rorke Denver

Suggested (strongly) reading in the Nelson sphere of influence.

You know when you are really looking forward to something when you find yourself meeting the Mailman at the box upon hearing his truck working its way down the street.  That was the case with this book.  I took the package, said thank you, unwrapped it, sat down and read it cover to cover. 

If you have ever anonymously picked up the breakfast tab at Clayton's for a group of young service members.  If you prefer a Slam Burger at Danny's to Ruth's Criss across the bay.  If you like the fact that U.S. military aircraft fly so low, slow and close that when you wave at the crews from the window of your condominium they wave back.  If you actually like being woken up early by the sound of men running to cadence on the beach.  Or if you recommended the movie Act of Valor to everyone you knew then you'll love reading Damn Few:  Making The Modern SEAL Warrior by Rorke Denver and Ellis Henican

Oh big surprise, right?  The guy who vacations next door to SEAL central likes the new SEAL book.  Shocker.  OK, admittedly, I am a fan.  I have read many of the books published on this subject and I can tell you that this one is better written than most and it gave me a timely and distinct view of what is going on with the Teams.  Denver like most SEALs I have known is bright, interesting, entertaining, and candid about what he does for a living but he is also an officer with a college education and has an intense appreciation for history.  His inspiration to join the Navy and go for SEALs was a book by Winston Churchill and he quotes Tecumseh if that gives you any indication of who this guy is.    

Damn Few is another one of those good books written by men that have paid the price and done the deeds but keep it all in proper perspective.  These are smart, highly energetic, talented people with a broad range of sharply honed lethal skills yet they tell a good story in a clear, direct, matter of fact way that even a layman can understand.  Denvers account of his time in the Navy is honest, authentic, understated, and inspiring to anyone remotely interested in and receptive to the warrior ethos.  For me, reading this book is like spending a few hours over dinner at a favorite restaurant with a superhero I immediately like and respect.  You get to know them a little, gain some insight into their unique world, laugh a lot and don't want the stories to stop or the evening to end.

Yes, it is a book about Navy SEALs, the authors life, and combat in shitty places but it is much more than that.  It is also about what type of man becomes a SEAL, the intricate process of creating one, why SEAL Teams have been so successful over the last decade and how that has caused a major problem for Naval Special Warfare Command and the BUD/S instructor cadre.  Specifically their recent string of highly publicized successes which made the rocket surgeons in Washinton (civilian political leadership) want what?  Well, more SEALs of course.  Like ten times more and the guy (Denver) who was responsible for selecting and turning recruits into world class fighters tells us why that can't and shouldn't be done.  An explanation sure to cause the lets not keep score at Little League games and every child deserves a trophy crowd great consternation. 

Let me distill it down for you.  SEALs are the military personification of exceptionalism and only a select few are ever capable of achieving that level of excellence...at least using the current definition of what being a good SEAL is which gets to the bigger question hanging over the entire U.S. Special Operations community.  Should standards be adjusted to facilitate increased numbers of special operators?  You will have to buy the book or download it from iTunes to find out the Lieutenant Commanders opinion but you already know mine.  Hell no!

Anyway, I liked the book very much and have encouraged my children and players to read it.  It is an outstanding story about exceptional people taking on colossal challenges and winning.  Not just winning but finding a way to win life or death contests using their heads, hearts, and unique training.  I am pleased to recommend it to you too.

UPDATE 4/14 - I had the pleasure of meeting Rorke recently.  My brother and I got to spend a couple hours with him talking about all kinds of things and he was pretty much who I expected him to be after reading this book.  Genuine.  Inspiring.  An all around good guy I would like to have some cold Coors and hot Mexican food with.   


Wade Nelson

Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.

We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs'd.

Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can't or won't turn back.

Ultimate Overland Trailer - From Down Unda

The MK1 UEV (Urban Escape Vehicle) 490 from Conqueror Australia.

If you think big overland vehicles, like the EarthRoamer, are super cool but need something smaller or prefer to tow a trailer behind your rig then you will want to take a look at this Youtube video.  

Looks like a pretty thorough effort to me.  I especially like the features that are dedicated to help keep dust out of the interior living space.  A filtered positive pressure fan system and heavy duty rubber seals?  Nice.   

If anybody has one of these I would like to know what you think.  As persuasive as I can be I don't think I will be able to get them to send me one to play with so we will have to settle for anecdotal evidence.


Best Field Pants In New Colors - Arborwear

The Ascender Pants in Olive.

Arborwear makes two of my favorite field pants but I have been asking them for some new, more appropriate colors.  They delivered and here they are.

The Ascender is a high tech synthetic pant that sloughs moisture, dries quickly and is not only cut for movement but they also stretch.  I absolutely love them in charcoal grey and now they come in a green color that works for hunting or other low viz applications.  These are wonderful for everything except maybe turning away heavy briars.

And the Original Tree Climber Pants in Driftwood.

For many years I wore the thick canvas Carhartt Dungarees for bushwhacking through Arizona's extreme terrain and they held up very well but I always felt a little restricted in them.  The Arborwear Original Tree Climbers have proven to be just as durable but much more comfortable and easy to move in.  Great pants for just about everything but cold wet conditions.

Thank you to the good folks at Arborwear.  Keep up the great work and please don't forget about those Ascender Bibs!

NEW GEAR ALERT - Scarpa Wrangell GTX

The Wrangell GTX replaces the Liskamm in the Scarpa line.

The Scarpa Liskamm GTX is a boot I recommend for those that need a very substantial 8 inch big mountain boot.  It is perfect for the NWT sheep hunter, in my opinion, if that puts it into proper perspective for you.  Well, like all great gear eventually does, the Liskamm is going away but it is being replaced by something I think might be just as good or maybe even better.  The Wrangell GTX.  Here is some information on them. 

Rubber rand for extra protection
Gore-Tex lining for confidence in wet conditions
Tall cuff for extra support
Ankle flex zone for added comfort
Double tongue for an excellent fit
Vibram M4 Tech sole has aggressive tread and excellent cushioning

Upper: 2.8mm Crosta Pro HS12
Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
Insole: Pro-Flex XT
Midsole: EVA
Sole: Vibram M4 Tech
Last: DL
Weight per boot: 2 lbs 6 oz / 1070 g

My Quandary - Solved

Alright folks, we need to have a little discussion.  First and foremost, I want to thank you all for your continued readership and positive comments.  You have made this site one of the most influential in the segment and I appreciate it, very much.  Second, I want to make you aware of a few changes and then ask you for some feedback.

You will notice that all of the ads but one are gone from the green panel on the left side of the site.  Here is the reason.  The two affiliate ad groups that I was apart of are wonderful for the advertisers but not for the host site.  In short, affiliate advertising didn't work for me.  Also, I wasn't crazy about some of the content I was seeing on those ads so they are toast.  Gone.

The Google Ads are gone too.  I was making a little money on them but I am not willing to continue to work with what is becoming a very powerful and intrusive entity in almost every aspect of our lives.  It just doesn't feel right to me so I am opting out.

Starting and running this site has been quite an experience, a valuable learning experience that I could not have received from any university or trade school.  As most of you know, this is not how I make my living but the truth is I dig what I do here and am convinced that I could do a lot more.  Those things cost money though.  The deal that I made with my wife a long time ago was that this would not become a giant sucking black hole in terms of cost but it has, and if I want to keep doing this I either need to find a good revenue plan or an even better divorce attorney.  I am only half kidding on the latter.

So I sought professional advice on ways to "monetize" this site and frankly everything that was suggested was unacceptable to me.  The four most popular were:
  • Become an annual subscription fee-for-access site?  No. 
  • Sell access to my readership and subscriber info?  No. 
  • Sell advertising space to non-outdoor equipment related companies?  Yea, that would be OK but while my numbers are good and steadily growing they are not big enough to interest somebody like Southwest Airlines or American Express. 
  • Sell advertising space to outdoor equipment related companies?  Meaning sell ad space to and collect ad fees from companies that make or sell the very equipment I review and write about on these pages?  Ah, uh, ooh.  No but that is a tough one since I have been very critical of magazines and TV shows that do that because of what I perceive as a conflict of interest.  I mean do you really think Jim Shockey would use Leupold binos if he were not being paid to do it?  Hell no he wouldn't, he would be using Swarovski, Zeiss or Leica.  So the answer to that one is still no...for now.

However, I seem to be the only person that gives a shit about this issue because you are all still buying those magazines and watching those TV shows.  Right?  This has been a big topic of conversation around here for some time and I am a one man minority with my position.  Everybody else says I am over thinking it and being too high minded about it.  Really.  Is it possible to be too committed to the principle of independence when it comes to recommending best-in-class gear that people depend on?  Maybe it is.  So I ask you, my readers, do you care who advertises on this site?  Would you still value and trust my recommendations if I sold ad space to companies whose products I was also reviewing?  Do you think I can maintain a church and state distinction between advertising slash revenue and editorial content?

Not liking what was being proposed to me I came up with a couple of my own ideas.  

First, from this point forward you will see a PAYPAL DONATE button at the bottom of each post.  They are not there for decoration so I hope, ask, politely suggest, that you use them occasionally, especially if you like that particular article.  If you like what we do here I ask that you prove it by supporting this site.

Second, you all know that I have had a long relationship with WILDERNESS ATHLETE.  My family and I have been very satisfied users of their products since the company started.  Based on the many positive comments I have received from you, it is clear that you like them too.  To that end, I applied for and have been approved as an official Wilderness Athlete dealership.  So, if you are going to buy WA products, I hope you will buy them from me.  The proceeds from those transactions will directly fund what we do here in the future.  To order, just click on the ad to get to my ebay storefront or call the telephone number listed and talk to one of us in person. 

In a nutshell I think Hardcore Outdoor has a great deal of potential and can do some very special things but in order to make that happen it has to pay its own way.  I think the Paypal button and Wilderness Athlete mechanisms are a fair and honest way to do that.  Whether we add a third component in the form of outdoor equipment related advertisers is up to you.

So lets hear it.  Don't be shy.

UPDATE - I am getting quite a response to this post.  Thank you, I appreciate you all taking the time to share your opinions.  It is valuable input.

There are two other changes you might have noticed on the site.  I am now publishing some comments.  I have received thousands over the last five years but have never posted them until now.  You should know that they are edited for inappropriate language (although that has never been a problem with you guys) and the use of full names.  Also, the subscription block is gone so unless you have already signed up you are going to have to come to the site to find out what is going on.

UPDATE #2 - Well, after much consideration I have decided that the best thing to do is what my gut told me to do from the very beginning.  No advertising, no sponsors, no more Paypal buttons, no compromises, no distractions.  Just me, my opinions on great gear and the occasional commentary on other things I find interesting.

This wasn't about money when I started it and it shouldn't be about money now regardless of how much traffic this site gets.  Money in this case just muddies the water and it never comes without strings attached.  
This way is just cleaner all the way around.  Independent and influence free is what works for me.  Please forgive my brief swerve off the high road. 

That is all.

Premium Ice Chest - Canyon Coolers Outfitter 125 - UPDATE

I need a really good ice chest that gives me as much capacity as I can get but it has to fit in that space.

Up to this point I have used Polar Bear softside (still great for the beach) or traditional Igloo coolers but I think it is time to upgrade to something that gives me more features and more time in the field.  There have been many new products in the premium end of this market segment so I had to do some homework.

I am trying to get as much bang for my buck in terms of size because of the limited space left by the three big Pelican boxes in the back of my truck.  From the high end models that are available the Yeti Tundra 105 looks like the one that will fill that spot the best.  It is made specifically for truck beds, is almost the same size as the #1660 cases, will hold 87 quarts or 22 gallons and keeps ice for days.

I will let you know how it works out.

UPDATE - Well, after hearing from a number of you and doing some additional research I have changed my mind.  I have decided to go with an Outfitter 125 from Flagstaff based Canyon Coolers.  The reasons are pretty straight forward.  Dig deeper into the numbers and the Canyon Coolers Outfitter 125 gives me much more capacity for roughly the same space while offering similar if not better performance (according to reader reports).  

I had been aware of Canyon Coolers but hadn't seen their new Outfitter line.  Once I did the decision was easy.  For those of you that care about price, the Outfitter 125 is $75 less expensive than the Yeti Tundra 105 yet it has 39 more quarts of capacity.  Then again Canyon Coolers doesn't have a bunch of highfalutin celebrities on their payroll either.

BTW, the whole naming regime in this segment bugs me.  I think it is a little misleading and reminiscent of overly optimistic sleeping bag temperature ratings.  Why name a cooler "105" when the true capacity according to their own numbers is only 87 quarts?  Makes me wonder.  Canyon Coolers on the other hand did it right in my opinion.  The Outfitter 125 has a capacity of 126 quarts.  There you have it.


A perfect fit with everything else in the bed of the truck and my system.  I am very pleased.

The Canyon Cooler Outfitter 125.  The most high end cooling capacity I could fit in that space.  Nice, huh?  Look for lots more on this in the future.   

UPDATE #3 - It dawned on me that this cooler has another use that I had not considered.  One that would be much more important than a cold can of Coors on a camping trip and one that easily justifies the price of a premium cooler.  

What do you do with all that food in your refrigerator freezer when the power goes out?  You frantically move it all into your ice chests, right?  Well, these big Canyon Coolers would come in very handy in those situations.  7, 8, or 9 days of cold could be a big help and save you a lot of money in spoiled food.  So, add practical prepper to the list of people that could benefit from owning one or two of these.  

Be prepared or be sorry.    

Sitka vs. Kuiu - Advantage Kuiu

This one... 

...or this one?

Kuiu or Sitka Gear, that is the question.

So, who is winning the hearts, minds and patronage of high activity, western style, mountain hunters right now.  That is an interesting and ongoing question that we will revisit from time to time. 

I think it is interesting because the two guys that run the companies, Jonathan Hart and Jason Hairston of Sitka Gear and Kuiu respectively, serving this specialty niche were once partners and are in fact responsible for creating the high end hunting gear segment.  Although, regular readers know that bringing best in class mountaineering level clothing to the hunting community is an issue I have been griping about since the early 90's, before Messrs. Hairston and Hart began the revolution or at least the civilian side of it at Sitka. 

UPDATE - So, who is winning?

Kuiu has come out recently with updated products and new offerings like tents, sleeping bags and boots so it looks like they are building a one stop shop for the high end hunter.  Advantage Kuiu. 

I understand that they may have had no other choice but Kuiu has gone full speed ahead with a customer direct sales model where they cut out the middle man retailer and it appears to be working.  After some consideration I have to say that I like it, a lot.  If you could get a comparable or potentially superior product in a color that you liked for two thirds or half the price why wouldn't you buy it?  Advantage Kuiu. 

At this years SHOT show in Vegas the Kuiu booth was mobbed every time I walked by compared to a relative ghost town over at Sitkas which indicates a shift in momentum to me.  Advantage Kuiu.  

Sitka's biggest asset, parent company WL Gore, looks more and more to me like it is its biggest liability.  Big corporate mentality, trying to manage something way out of their core competency, and a severe lack of organizational agility amongst other things are hobbling Sitka.  Advantage Kuiu.

Kuiu is the independent start up and seen by many as the scrappy under dog.  Advantage Kuiu. 

I take issue with their sizing, question a number of his claims, and think he could do a much better job of responding to my inquiries but the founder of Kuiu seems to be in charge of and fully engaged with the running of his company.  I can't say the same for Sitka.  Advantage Kuiu. 

Stay tuned for much more on this later. 


Wade Nelson

Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.

We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs'd.

Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can't or won't turn back.

NEW GEAR ALERT - Outdoorsmans Panner - Better Panning For Pistol Grip Head Users

An exploded view of the Outdoorsmans Tripod, Panner and Pistol Grip Head set up.

The Outdoorsmans in Phoenix recently came out with a panning attachment to go with their outstanding Pistol Grip Head.  I like the Pistol Grip but have, at least up until this point, preferred their Pan Head because as the name suggests it does an outstanding job of panning.

Savvy hunters, birders and law enforcement know that smooth panning (viewing left to right or right to left at a fixed elevation) is a big deal when you are trying to get the most out of your high end optics while surveilling a large area and needing to achieve a high degree of certainty that you have covered every inch of it thoroughly.  Simply fix the vertical elevation and systematically, methodically work your way from one side of the field of view to the other.  When you are done with that section adjust the elevation up or down then work your way back to the other side.  So on and so forth until you have covered everything in front of you.

Here is the Tripod, Panner and Pistol Grip put together ready to accept the Outdoorsmans Tripod Adapter and your super duper glass of choice.  For those of you that prefer a pistol grip but also want to be able to pan effectively, here you go.

As much as I like the Pan Head I know that some of you are just as fond of the Pistol Grip but you could not pan or couldn't pan as well as those using the Pan Head.  That is no longer a problem.  If you are a Pistol Grip fan just get the new Panner, screw it on and pan away.  

This new Panner is shorter, lighter, smoother and locks up to hold its position better than the previous model which takes care of any complaints I had.  I still think the Outdoorsmans Pan Head is the best head on the market for the things that I do (especially if I will be using a spotting scope) but their Pistol Grip with this Panner is pretty damn good too.  It should absolutely satisfy anyone that prefers a squeeze 'n move rig and may even win some converts.  Of course I suggest you have both just to make sure you have all the bases covered.

Power Management - Batteries and Charging

I try to keep all my batteries, cables and chargers together in one place.  This way I don't forget anything and charging everything is easier and quicker.  The power strip is a plus when AC outlets are far and few between, like in hotel rooms.
Part of me is embarrassed to show you this picture because, admittedly, it is a little over the top.  Another part thinks I need to redo it to make it better and cleaner.  Never satisfied, right?  The rest of me thinks, who cares what anybody else thinks because this works.  Just pull it out of the bag, plug everything in and wait for green lights.  Regular readers and people that know me will say that is so Wade and they are right, it is.  I still adhere to the old military adage of the 7 Ps of success (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance...and Push-ups if you played football for me).  Although, I actually like the original British Army version too (Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance).

I won't say that the modern outdoorsman relies on a bunch of battery operated devices because I think that we should all be proficient without them but the reality is that they have become part of our kit and they require attention to work.  iCom two way radios, Garmin GPS unit, inReach SE, SPOT Global Phone, iPod, ipad Mini, iPhone, and Goal Zero Switch 8 batteries all require charging. 

In addition to all that;  ACR Firefly III strobe light, Surefire Fury flashlight, SPOT gen 2, Steripen water purification, laser rangefinder, and Petzl headlamps require fresh disposable batteries which I keep in the same bag with an inventory list. 

In order to keep it all squared away and make sure everything makes the trip when I hit the road in a hurry, I keep all the batteries, cables, and chargers together in one Shoebox Duffel made by The Wilderness here in Phoenix.

The moral of the story?  Get your shit together and keep it tight or suffer the consequences at the worst possible time. 

Congratulations Overland International

Overland International, parent company of one of my favorite websites, Expedition Portal, and favorite magazines, Overland Journal, celebrates 10 years of adventure.  Congratulations guys and thanks for blazing the trail. 

Their story is a good one, 
here it is.

Wade Nelson

Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.

We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs'd.

Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can't or won't turn back.

NEW GEAR ALERT - WPB Shell Layer Jacket From First Lite - UPDATE

The Boundary Stormtight Jacket from First Lite comes in solid Dry Earth, ASAT, Realtree Max 1 and Realtree Xtra.

It was about 0300 when I walked in the door from our trip back from SCI in Vegas and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open until I saw the box from First Lite on my desk.  I immediately opened it and gave the shell layer jacket that was inside a quick once over.  It looked right, the sound was muffled and it felt good weight wise.  Then I tried it on over my fleece jacket.  Ahhhhhh.  I was afraid it was going to be another Kuiu type sizing disappointment but it was wasn't.  They told me the Stormtight was sized properly for layering and they were indeed correct.  The size XL fits the way it should. 

Here is what the First Lite website says about this product:  

"The Boundary Stormtight Jacket is the weatherproof shell component of the First Lite Layering Kit. Using patented Cocona Technology and the industries best DWR and lamination combined with custom constructed fabrics made to First Lite specifications, the Boundary Stormtight provides unsurpassed protection against the harshest conditions Mother Nature has to offer. There are so many features in this compact, packable jacket that they can't all be listed making the Boundary Stormtight the perfect jacket for chasing that monster bruin in B.C.


  • Completely waterproof (20,000mm) and unsurpassed breathability (30,000 MVTR)
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Exclusive Cocona fabric uses Active Particle Technology
  • Built-in stretch for complete range of motion
  • Constructed with biomechanically correct Shooter's Cut sleeves, shoulders and hood
  • Pressure tested watertight zippers on all enclosures


Available in men’s sizes: s, m, l, xl, xxl"

This jacket reminds me of the old Sitka Gear Nimbus Jacket which I liked very much.  This is a touch heavier at 21 ounces but it has the same slick type interior backing, minimal three pocket set, and relatively quiet exterior fabric (feels like the Patagonia Storm jacket). 

I noticed a few other things.  The top of the main zipper swerves off to the side about an inch, the cuffs have both elastic and hook & loop so you can keep them set the way you like but still don/doff the jacket (I like that).  It also has water resistant zippers all the way around.

The hood adjustment cord holes on the back are unprotected, the Dry Earth color has orange trim and the zipper pulls are metal but those are about the only nit pics I can see at this stage of the game.

I am anxious to see how the Cocona performs in the field.  To my knowledge this will be the first time I have used it. 

Now remember how I do things here.  I don't test any junk so if you see it here it must be pretty good but if I really like this piece and want to make it part of my system then you will hear more about it from me, if not then you won't.  Make sense?

UPDATE - I wore this jacket working around the house and walking the neighborhood for several hours Saturday during a heavy rain storm.  I am pleased to report that it was comfortable and completely watertight.

I am still getting used to the off set main zipper but it doesn't bother me, it is more of an aesthetic thing for me.  Also, I prefer my cuff adjustment straps to run out away from my body as opposed to inward.  Overall, so far so good.

Can't wait to get the matching pants.

Grab Some Trash

Pack it out, even if it isn't yours.

It isn't me and it isn't you but somebody is making a mess of our beloved wilderness areas.  As usual, it is the responsible that have to clean up after the irresponsible among us.  No sense in griping about it, 
just grab some trash when you are out there and little by little we can make things better.  It's the right thing to do.

Netflix - On The Treadmill - UPDATED

Netflix, iPad Mini, True treadmill, a backpack and sweat.     

My kids got me a Netflix subscription recently and I watch it mostly when I am on the treadmill.  A good movie or a couple episodes of something goes nicely with a two hour hill climbing program.  

Ewan, Charley and their BMW GS 1200s.

My most recent favorite is the Long Way Down series with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.  They did 15,000 miles in 85 days on motorcycles from John O'Groats, Scotland to Capetown, South Africa.  Great show.

UPDATE - I am now watching their first trip series called The Long Way Round where they head East from London and end up in New York.  It is outstanding too.

2/23/14 - A few days ago I finished Ken Burns documentary series about the national parks (outstanding by the way) on Netflix for my treadmill slash elliptical machine time and have been looking for something new to look forward to.  Based on a number of your recommendations I just finished the first episode of House of Cards and I am already hooked.  Great writing, very realistic and I love Kevin Spacey in this role.  Talk about your den of thieves and snake pits.  Reminds me a little of my days at the House of Reps and on McCains staff but it didn't seem so glamorous then.

Can't wait to see the next one.

Jos A Banks To Buy Eddie Bauer

More uncertainty for a once venerable expedition outfitter.  I am afraid that this deal will erase all the progress EB has made in getting back its roots.

I meant to mention 
this a few days ago when the news broke but I got busy with other things.  I don't know what this will mean to the First Ascent part of EB but I don't think that it is good long term.  I have some experience in big corporate M&A and while I am no expert I can't see the logic in this play. 

I smell a revenue maximization effort coming which means a focus on high margin products and that doesn't bode well for the high end user part of the Eddie Bauer line.  Two steps forward and three steps back for Eddie Bauer I am afraid.

Sitka Gear Kelvin Down Hoody Jacket

Sitka Gear with yet another outstanding piece of kit for the performance hunter.  Their version of the goose down puffy and it is a very good one.

One more facet of the best high end hunting clothing line on the market is the Kelvin Down Hoody Jacket.  Stuffed with a generous amount of premium 800 fill goose down including the hood and just two pockets the Kelvin Down Hoody has everything it should have and nothing it shouldn't.  I like that and I love that it is available in both Optifade Open Country camo and the go with anything Lead solid color.

This is basically half a down sleeping bag so it is well suited to long stationary periods behind the tripod and field glasses or an unexpected bivy so you can wake up on 'em at first light.  However, as with any goose down piece, I have to make this admonition.  Don't rely on down to save your bacon when you're out there on the ragged edge unless you are 99% sure that you can keep it dry.  Remember that their are a number of very good synthetic alternatives including Sitkas very own Primaloft Kelvin Jacket.

Cody Lundin Sacked

Later dude.

Cody Lundin has been fired, his words, from The Discovery Channels Dual Survival show.  See his Facebook 
page for more details and his side of the story.

I like Cody and am a fan of his aboriginal skills courses but I always thought the bare foot thing was kinda stupid.  I mean come on, it's 2014, put some damn shoes on will you please.  I will say this, the man knows how to start a fire but he is off the show so if you want to see him you will have to visit his

Big Kitty

Oh Floyd!

From the Wenatchee World comes this picture of a Mountain Lion that is just looking for some love, affection and maybe a little something to eat.  Come on, let 'em in.

My wife is from Fillmore, California where she lived on the outskirts of town in the hills.  She has often told me stories of these big cats hanging around the house and picking off pets on a regular basis.  I usually just roll my eyes and ask is that like the time your dad shot the neighbors dog with a 30-30 for knocking you off your bike?  I say that because I related that story to her father once and he looked at me like I had three heads but I might have to start cutting her some slack on the cougar thing after seeing this pic.  Wow.

I will have to ask my friend at Fish & Wildlife but I am betting if you dispatch this nuisance yourself you would end up in the back of the good Wardens pick-up wearing cuffs.

Good thing these folks don't have a doggy door or this could have gotten pretty western.

Avalanche Safety Is One Thing - Distress Signals Another

The slide has come to a stop, now what?  Time is of the essence and the clock is ticking.  You had better get the first responders started right now or the search and rescue operation is going to turn into a body recovery.

We have news today of another deadly avalanche, this time in Colorado.  I have been through enough avalanche training to know that prediction is a dicey proposition at best but that is not the reason for this post.  My take is based on reports from the first responders that those who survived and were rescued were very lucky to get an emergency call out via cellphone because there is no coverage in that area.

The good thing is that they were all wearing avi beacons but it is astounding to me that in this day and age the survivors were left to rely on cellular and not satellite communications technology.  That tells me that we have done a much better job of educating people about avalanche transceivers than we have on satellite messengers and PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) so we have some work to do.

Avalanche training and wearing transceivers are obviously important but so is the ability for survivors or witnesses to call for specialized emergency assistance when the worst happens.  The solution to that last part is get a SPOT, DeLorme inReach SE, or SPOT Global Phone then learn how to use it, make sure it is fully charged and carry it every single time you go out.  I repeat, carry it every single time you go out.  Seriously folks, this is an easy fix and I would say it is irresponsible, at the very least, if you don't make this affordable preparation.    

By the way, if you think that your satellite distress beacon will work when you are buried in the snow you better do some tests because if you are deep enough that you can't dig yourself out you are too deep for the signal to get out.

For avalanche safety education start by going to the National Ski Patrol and Mountain Rescue Association websites then get some practical field training.  Ignorance is a condition that can be treated and cured.

Old School Ad - Transcendent Technology

One of you sent me this ad, thank you.  Check out the "write for a new catalog today" call to action.
As you may remember, I have one of these parkas.  My Dad learned about it from an ad like this in Off Belay magazine then bought it from them in 1976.  He paid, according to my Mother who was still livid about it 35+ years later, $400.  I don't use it anymore, it is part of a reference collection I've built over the years, but I could.  It still works.


Good design, high quality materials and craftsmanship stand the test of time.  The Gore-Tex technology that made this shell a game changer then is still with us and evolving today.

Synergy Works was one of the first to make a parka using the new Gore-Tex laminate and it is interesting to note that they don't even mention it in this ad nor is there the black diamond "Guaranteed To Keep You Dry" logo that we are so familiar with now. 

I have another one of these ads from the same period that actually uses the term "breathes" so those of you (Wiggy) that take exception to that description have to go all the way back to the beginning to assign blame.

The Bandana

Elegantly simple yet universally useful.  I give you the humble bandana.

I have mentioned the bandana many times here as part of a gear list and featured a specialized version (the McNett CamoVat) but never given the basic one the respect it deserves with a dedicated post of its own.  My bad.

I suggest that you carry at least two made of 100% cotton that gets softer and better with age.  Here are some of the uses I am aware of;

nose wipe/handkerchief
signal flag
lens cleaner
water bottle filter
trail marker
wash/sweat rag/towel
sun protection for your head
hot pot holder
neck gaiter
toilet paper
dust mask
pressure dressing
hole plug
flying insect swisher
make shift strainer
tie down
Dog collar
dog muzzle
hobo pack

Kuiu Sleeping Bags - Toray Quixdown - Super Down

If you want me to believe that Toray and Kuiu have bested the biggest players in the outdoor equipment business by developing a solution to the one weakness goose down has then I am going to need more than this.  
OK, I am getting a lot of questions about treated down in general but specifically the new Kuiu sleeping bags and the coated goose down (Toray calls it Quixdown, Kuiu calls it Super Down) they have chosen to stuff them with.

Here is what I know.  Kuiu has bought into the Toray (a Japanese company) program lock stock and barrel.  They use Toray products for their waterproof breathable laminates, DWR coatings, goose down insulation source and tent fabrics.  Seems the only thing that doesn't come from Toray on a Kuiu piece of gear these days is the zipper.  Those come from YKK.

Toray is a name that has been knocking around the outdoor industry for years but never really made it into prime time with a game changer.  You will be hard pressed to find more than one or two companies that use them and they are not big names in the US market.  I have an old Lowe Alpine shell layer jacket with Toray Entrant, Bergans of Norway uses Toray Dermizax now on some of their jackets and I remember that TAD Gear used Toray for a couple of seasons before switching to eVent.  

Look, the Toray stuff might be the greatest thing since sliced bread but the problem is that it is not commonly used and there are very few independent reviews of its performance in the field.  Making matters worse neither Kuiu founder Jason Hairston or his media guy will respond to my inquires so I can't get any real details beyond the typical marketing hype and based on my experience in this business that just doesn't pass the smell test.  

Normally people at the highest levels in companies like Marmot, Patagonia, Arcteryx, Wild Things, Sitka Gear, Western Mountaineering, Valandre, The North Face, Feathered Friends, etc, etc, etc are always more than happy to talk about their new products and eager to make samples available to legitimate requests.  Even up and comers like First Lite are not afraid to belly up to the bar and compete side by side on a level playing field.  They welcome it because that is how this process works but here the only reports we have on these new Toray applications are anecdotal fan forum posts or from Kuiu Guides and Outfitters via Hairston who supposedly say it is wonderful.  Well, sorry, I don't accept that from anybody else and I am not about to start doing it now for Kuiu.  I have a lot of questions.  

The footer on many of my posts talks about sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry...as far as I am concerned waterproof goose down (that is how they refer to it) is just that until proven otherwise which I sincerely hope is soon.  If you, dear reader, are asking for my recommendation here it is.  Sit tight and wait for some good independent reporting and field trials before you bet your life on the next big thing because I have been around long enough to know that many times it isn't.

I have had complimentary things to say about Kuiu products in the past and would love to do so again in the future but I won't recommend to you what I have not proven to myself.  Bandwagons are cool but they just aren't my thing.

UPDATE - Hey thanks for all the positive comments on this issue, I appreciate the support.  I didn't mean to make a big issue out of this but I have gotten so many questions about it I felt obligated to respond.  Apparently that frustration came through in the piece.  

One of you pointed out that I am the biggest independent reviewer on the web in the hunting gear space so I am the obvious guy to do the field trials.  I don't know or really care if that is true but the commenter said when you Google hunting gear review or hunting gear recommendation my website is always at the top of the first page.  You should know that we spend zero time and even fewer dollars on SEO efforts so those results, if accurate, have to be based on what is contained in over 700 posts.  I suspect that we are at the top of those searches because that is what this site is about.  My media consulting buddies call that content authenticity and like experience, you either have it or you don't, you can't buy it. 

The point of this piece was that if you are going to ask highly discerning consumers to spend $700 with a new company to pre-order a brand new product from a brand new product line featuring a brand new technology from a less than well known foreign chemical company then there are going to be some questions.  I don't have answers to those questions.

NEW GEAR ALERT - Vortex 20x56 HD Binoculars

Did I tell you that Vortex Optics has a new set of high power binoculars.  20 power.

It's been a good year if you like high power binoculars.  These new 20x56 HD Kaibab binos are about the same size as the 15s 
Vortex also offers.  More power is good in a quality set of optics and of course they work with the Outdoorsmans Tripod Adapter so you can get the most out of them.

Are you a Coues Deer, sheep hunter or a LEO with a big piece of ground to keep an eye on but don't want to spend $5000 on a giant set of Kowas?  Then these are a much more reasonable alternative that gets you most of the way there.   Check 'em out.  Great glass, great service, great warranty equals great value.

1500 Foot Free Solo Climb - El Sendero Luminoso, Mexico

El Sendero Liminoso, the shinning path.  See the red line?  That is his route.

Free solo means no rope, no harness, no protective gear what so ever.  It is just you and the rock.  You either climb or you die.  That's commitment.

It is hard to grasp just how exposed he is but the route is five football fields long.

1500 feet rated at 5.12d and it looks thinner than that to me but then again I have never climbed anything like that outside of a rock gym.  It's incredible.  Check out this Youtube
video.  It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and the camera work is beautiful.  I don't know how you climb that well with huevos that big.

Congratulations young man.  Anything else you do in life ought to seem like a piece of cake compared to this.  That is if you live long enough so how about we start using a rope and some pro.  I think you have made your point.


Bibs are better and the Alpha Bib from Arcteryx LEAF are the best made.

I told you how good the Arcteryx Theta AR Jacket is but I didn't tell you what shell layer I pair it with for lower half protection when I have to stay out and work hard in nasty weather.  While there are some outstanding waterproof breathable pants out there, like the newly redesigned Sitka Gear Stormfront Pants, I often prefer bibs because they provide full coverage, keep my waist clear for hip belts and harnesses, and they ventilate better than pants.  My favorite shell layer bibs are the Arcteryx LEAF Alpha Bib.

My first great pair of mountain bibs were from The North Face circa 1985ish and they were expedition grade if not overkill robust.  They are still wonderful bibs but they are heavy at 41 ounces compared to the Alpha Bib which I think provides just as much protection and durability at only 23 ounces.  The Alpha Bib also breathes much better than my 25 year old Gore-Tex TNFs.

The Alpha Bibs use three layer N70p-X GORE-TEX and have full length side zips for easy donning slash doffing and ventilation.  They also have highly functional BDU style cargo pockets which is what first attracted me to them.  I have a set of these in black for skiing and mountaineering and another in Crocodile (tan) for when I don't want to stick out like a sore thumb.  They are absolutely fantastic but be aware they are not quiet because we still seem to be limited by technology in that regard.  I am OK with that because these are not really designed for up close and personal trigger pullers or bow hunters anyway.  I can't wait 'til we finally get everything we want in one shell set. 

Side note - What do I want?  Waterproof breathable, technical mountain feature set, light weight, durable, subdued colors and quiet is still the elusive holy grail of hunting shell layers.  Right now, Sitka Gear and Kuiu are closer to reaching the ultimate goal than Arcteryx or Patagonia.  

Oh, I almost forgot.  Why do I say bibs breathe better?  Think of pants or bibs as a fabric cylinder.  The top of the cylinder is open or more open in bibs then belted pants which allows greater chimney effect air movement and active ventilation.  They can also be cinched down and sealed off when necessary.  I like that flexibility.

The Arcteryx LEAF Alpha BIb is an outstanding piece of gear that plays a critical role in my outdoor clothing system and that means I think you should have a set or two of your own.

UPDATE - I told you in January that Arcteryx had come out with a Gen 2 version of their LEAF Alpha Jacket.  I received a note today from LEAF advising that other pieces had gotten the same treatment including the LEAF Alpha Bibs described above.  That is a good thing.  Here are the details.

3/3/14 - Every time I wear these I am impressed with how good they are.  Other than larger cargo pocket openings and making them quieter I am not sure that these can be improved.  Simply outstanding and I am especially pleased that they come in black and Crocodile.

Thanks for visiting.

Wade Nelson

Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.

We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs'd.

Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can't or won't turn back.

Reader Question - Cold Weather FR Gloves

I received this question recently.

"Hey Wade,

I was wondering if you know of any winter type gloves that would work in wet conditions that are FR. I work for a electrical utility in Lake Tahoe and would appreciate any input you have. The gloves do not need the to have any electrical insulation value. Most guys now wear a "ski" type glove in those conditions.



No problem Justin, there are several choices available.

My personal solution is the Nomex glove liners from 
Hanz worn inside an Arcteryx Alpha SV Glove, Mitt or Caden Glove (aka Vertic SV Glove).  I have written about these many times because they are so versatile.  They are still my favorites.

Masley Gloves makes the Cold Weather Flyers Glove for the military.  They have a Gore-Tex liner and are lightly insulated.  It is a good medium to heavy duty version of the traditional flight gloves.  I got mine off of ebay and like them a lot.

Outdoor Research makes the FR Swoop Liner Gloves for their Swoop glove system.  I have not used them but OR has been making great hand wear for a long time so I don't have any problem recommending them to you.  These are only listed on their government site so you may have some difficulty getting them.

Massif is a great company that grew up making Flame Resistant gear for flying SAR Techs (like me).  Now they make an entire line of outstanding FR base, insulation and shell layers for military air crews.  Check out their Cold Weather Flight Glove (FR) which is made with Gore FR Stretch technology. 

I am sure there are others out there but these are the ones I know and can recommend to you.