WIN Laundry Detergent

Product Review: WIN Laundry Detergent

I don’t particularly pay that much attention to my laundry detergent, but one thing I do notice is when the sweat stank doesn’t really leave my clothes. I was pretty excited when I got to try WIN detergent and found that I no longer have this issue!

WIN Laundry Detergent

WIN Laundry Detergent Really Wins

The reason I really wanted to try WIN detergent was the lofty claims of getting the sweaty smell out of workout clothes. Well, being the multi-sport athlete that I am, spending more days sweating than not sweating, and living in a van where things can stink up reeeaaallllll quick, I knew I could for sure put these claims to the test.

As I originally said, I never really notice the smell of my clothes after I wash them which means whatever detergent I happen to buy must be doing its job. Except for synthetics. All of my synthetic activewear just STINKS. No matter how many times I wash it, no matter how much soap I use, air dry, dryer sheets…doesn’t matter. It stinks.

After you sweat in synthetic clothing once, they’re basically ruined forever.

Or so I thought.

Summer Testing

Mountain Biking Slick Rock Trail

I received my WIN in June right before I went on a 10-week road trip and spent the summer traveling, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing almost every single day. Most of the clothes I word everyday were synthetic, moisture wicking t-shirts, socks, shorts, and even underbritches. In some places, the temperature rose well above 100 degrees.

Regardless, every time I left the laundromat, my clothes smelt great.

Winter Testing

Snowboarding Mammoth Mountain

This was the big test. My base layers [obviously] cover me from head to toe, and even though it’s cold out, I still sweat like a wildebeest when hiking or biking in the snow and while snowboarding. There’s more material than my summer clothing and it’s also thicker and heavier. I thought, “no way.”

I grabbed my base layers out of the dryer and could barely believe my nose. The usual “sweat stink trapped inside synthetic material” was no longer there. Like, WHAT?!

The Feelgood Part

WIN laundry detergent does NOT test any of their products on animals; they have a dye-free, fragrance-free version; it’s made and shipped in the U.S.A.; and it’s probably, most likely hypoallergenic (though they admit they have not specifically tested it against every single possible allergen_).

WIN Detergent VanLife

I received this product from DeepCreek PR for the sole reason of this review. I do not receive any financial benefit from DeepCreek or WIN Laundry Detergent. Thoughts are my own.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie

2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie – Initial Thoughts

I’ve always claimed that mountain biking was my 3rd favorite outdoor sport, but I don’t know, man. My new 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie might be changing that. My previous bike, a Giant Anthem-X 29’er, was stolen a few weeks ago, and while I loved that bike too, the Stumpy has already blown that thing out of the water.

2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie

This bike retails for $3,500 so it’s positioned right at that more than a casual rider, but still just a ‘weekend warrior’ price point. The 2016 models were released in late 2015 so I actually bought my bike as a used rental from the local bike shop. It was meticulously cared for and other than the scrapes and scratches you’d expect on the pedal arms and bottom bracket, you could barely tell it was used. I got one helluva price on it, which really helped since I was working within my insurance claim budget. What a great way to get more bang for your buck!

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie singletrack
The Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie’s oversized tires allow more traction and therefore, higher speeds on the downhills and increased handling around corners. It’s bomber!

650B, Plus-Sized (Fattie) tires

The first thing I noticed about this bike was the fatty 3″ wide tires. They’re much wider than a standard tire (typically 2.1-2.25 inches wide), but still narrower than a typical fat tire (that start around 4″). That does add a little weight to the bike, but mine is running tubeless tires, which helps, and there is at least one other weight savings (coming later).

The advantage of plus-sized tires is simply more surface area on the ground for increased traction. I can tell you, I have never gone faster and felt more comfortable and in control while screaming downhill with my hair on fire.

Another concern of mine was downsizing from 29″ tires to 27.5″ tires (650B). My first bike was the old standard 26″ tire and after upgrading to the 29’er, I really enjoyed the ability to roll over virtually anything. I was still able to roll over everything on the moderate trail I rode, and I think the plus-sized tires helped, but I did notice that it wasn’t quite as smooth and efficient as the 29’er. I highly doubt that’s going to drive me away from enjoying this bike, but it is noticeable.

Fox FLOAT Performance DPS and Fox 34 Plus Performance Suspension

At the tail-end of my ownership of the Giant, I found an affinity for dropping off stuff.

A video posted by David Sandel (@davidsandel) on

The Anthem is a true cross country bike and the front fork only had 100mm – 110mm of travel. While that was great for 95% of the trails I rode, I still wanted something that could handle bigger things more frequently.

The Fox 34 Plus Performance has 150mm of travel, and I’ve already bottomed it out. It felt so good! But when you’re not hucking off drops and jumping off rocks, there’s a 3-way tension setting for more moderate trails or completely locked out on the rare paved trail.

The same is true for the Fox FLOAT in regards to the 3-way setting. One for hucking, one for moderate trails and climbing, and completely locked out. The 135mm of travel also provides a nice, soft cushy landing.

SRAM XG-1150 Drivetrain

As I mentioned earlier, the other noticeable weight saving to this bike is the 1×11 drivetrain. My first bike was a 3x front cassette and the Anthem was a 2x front cassette. In both cases, the larger ring just ended up being an expensive bash guard. On the Giant, I rarely used my granny gear, but there were times. Which was my only hesitation with 1x, but I was already considering that anyways. It’s just going to make me a strong rider I thought.

Anyways, I did find myself on a very long, though not steep nor technical, climb, and I was very pleased with the low-end. On the way down, I didn’t even hit the highest gear for maintaining momentum up slight inclines before another down.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie Drivetrain
Catching some rays to highlight the 1×11 drivetrain on the 6Fattie

Dropper Seat Post

Man, what an unnecessary invention. And now I can never own another mountain bike without it.

I’m going to assume you’re like me, and don’t know what a dropper seat post is. Otherwise this section just isn’t worth it. Basically, instead of a solid, fixed seat post that is only adjusted to one height and then locked down, this one is designed more like a shock with with a sleeve and seal. No, your seat post is not actually a shock that will allow you to bounce on a cushion of air as you ride down the trail, but it does allow you to adjust the height when you’re climbing and when you’re in downhill mode, which is where it really shines.

There’s a control on your left handlebar where the shifter used to be (because remember, this is only 1×11; there’s no need to shift the front ring), and all you do is push it in while sitting on the seat to lower it and when you want to raise it back up, just stand on your pedals, depress the lever again, and the seat automagically raises back up.

So, since the trail I was on climbs 1,000′ ft. before you get any downhill action, I started out with it all the way up in the locked out position. Once I started downhill, I didn’t even consider adjusting it. What for? Fixed seat posts have been a thing since forever.

But then I found that the trail builders added some fun little jumps in the middle of the trail on the way down (probably to slow down the less daring and less experienced riders), and every time I’d go over one and catch air, it’d feel like I was going to go ass over tea kettle because the high seat post kept my center of gravity up higher. Then I remembered the dropper and lowered my seat about 6″. Wow. I could keep my center of gravity so much lower now, which allowed me to go faster, which allowed me to get some sweet little air time over these jumps, and still maintain perfect control. You need this in your life.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie
My 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie posing at the scenic overlook at Heil Ranch

My Initial Reaction for the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie

Well, if you can’t guess how I feel about this thing yet, I’m going to make it very obvious for you:

I. Love. This. Bike.

It’s true, the trail I took it on is very moderate, if not beginner, so there is still time to find something that could be improved, but in terms of downhill, imagining more technical terrain, I don’t think there’s anything this bike can’t handle.

But now imagining more technical flat sections and climbs, I will be interested to see how it performs on tight switchbacks, rolling over steeper obstacles, and just steeper climbs in general. The added friction due to the added surface area could pose a challenge. But then again, maybe I’ll just get stronger because of it.

The Scrubba Wash Bag

The Scrubba Wash Bag – A washing machine for VanLife and traveling

I received this product from DeepCreek PR for the sole reason of this review. I do not receive any financial benefit from DeepCreek, Scrubba, EarthEasy, or affiliate links. Thoughts are my own.

The Scrubba Wash Bag: Laundry on the go

Let me tell you something about VanLife. After a day of hiking, biking, climbing, snowboarding, or some combination of all 4, your clothes stink. And it’s not like I can just throw them in the laundry room or conveniently wash them while binge watch Stranger Things. Since those things are my entire life, as well as wrestling my friend’s dogs, I need to do laundry pretty frequently so it doesn’t stink up the van, and I can’t fit a wash machine in there. So, The Scrubba Wash Bag filled an essential need since I haven’t found a laundromat in the middle of the desert/alpine/Narnia. Yet.

Van and Travel Friendly

Scrubba Wash Bag packs small
The Scrubba Wash Bag plays nicely with the rest of my laundry accessories in the van.

The Scrubba Wash Bag folds down to about 6″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″ and only weighs 5oz. Space is a premium in the van as well as my suitcase, but I can find some empty corner to shove it in. If I would have had this a year ago, it would have definitely found it’s way to Thailand and Mexico with me. Sink laundry in some of the sketchy sinks I saw just didn’t seem…..sanitary.

In terms of usable size, it can hold 3 gallons (11.4 L), but it does best when you only use 1/3rd of that volume. That’s approximately a day’s worth of summer clothes or your baselayers and a couple pairs wool socks in the winter.

The Results

So, those are the reasons I was interested in reviewing The Scrubba Wash Bag, but how did it work?

Scrubba Wash Bag Nodules
Scrub your stains on this surface and the Wash Bag does the rest.

First, I have to say my days of rolling around in the dirt and mud are pretty few and far between. I don’t get a lot of visible dirt or stains on my clothes. When I do, it’s pretty light. Like, a few mud splashes from riding or walking through a wet trail, or maybe the hot sauce dripping out of a delicious burrito. For this use, the Wash Bag worked well enough. There’s a textured surface with hundreds of nodules on the inside of the bag so if you can kind of guess where the stain is, you can work it out pretty easily. It gets a little tricky when you have a few pieces of clothing in there.

When my clothes aren’t really all that dirty, but are more stanky, I fill the Wash Bag to a little over half. I don’t really use the textured surface that much and just really need to work the detergent through the clothes thoroughly to get the smells out.

When you’re done, responsibly dispose of the dirty water, rinse a couple times, and then hang them out to dry.

All in all, this is a great addition to my van.

Scrubba Wash Bag in Van

Walker Ranch Loop Valley

Walker Ranch Loop: Maybe the only Boulder mountain biking trail I never want to return to

I haven’t ridden every single mountain biking trail in Boulder yet, much less the entire front range, but I have ridden quite a few. And several of them multiple times. While I’m not a front range expert, I can say that I don’t really want to return to Walker Ranch Loop.

Walker Ranch Loop River Bridge
The end of the first forgettable downhill section at Walker Ranch is a bridge over some rapids.

Continue reading

Things from Wisconsin People Outside of Wisconsin Don’t Understand

The Winters are Worse than You Think

Lake effect snow on Halloween. 0" the day before, 8" that morning.
Lake effect snow on Halloween. 0″ the day before, 8″ that morning.

It’s true, we don’t get 12-36 inch dumpers like mountainous states, but what we get typically sticks from November through March, give or take 2 months on each side. That is unless you live in the towns on the Lake Superior or Lake Michigan coastlines. Then lake effect snow is a real thing.

And I know Westerners like to complain about skiing in 5-below-zero weather at 12,000 ft. above sea level, but how would you like to spend the better part of the winter that cold at sea level? Growing up, I remember schools shutting down due to cold and -65 windchills.

Add in the lack of daylight and lack of outdoor recreation (should you choose to go outside) and seasonal depression is a real thing. I didn’t even realize I had it until I moved to Colorado.

Winter camping on the shore of Lake Superior on New Year's Eve. It was -15 with the windchill.
Winter camping on the shore of Lake Superior on New Year’s Eve. It was -15 with the windchill.

We Don’t Care About Canadian or Vermont Syrup

We have our own.

We’re not Canada or Vermont, but being the 4th largest producer in the U.S. means there’s more than enough to go around. And it tastes just as good.

A maple leaf in the fall with some turbo dork in the background. No photoshopping required.
A maple leaf in the fall with some turbo dork in the background. No photoshopping required.

Our Autumns are just as nice as New England’s

While we don’t have 4,000′ peaks like New England, we have plenty of rolling hills and arguably the most lakes and rivers of any state. (Screw you, Minnesota.) That sets quite the backdrop for a plethora of colorful Maple, Oak, Ash, and Birch trees when the leaves start changing.

Colorado autumns? Pleeeaaaassse. People go bizzonkers for Aspen yellow. But that’s all you got. One color. Yellow. To make it even worse, there’s not even any Fall Festivals, pumpkin patches, or corn mazes.

The Mosquitoes are the Worst

This might be the only time I’ll allow Minnesota to be Wisconsin’s equal, but our mosquitoes are truly horrendous. All that water I just mentioned? It’s a breeding ground for these little bastards and they’re in every lake, pond, puddle, and bird bath.

And what right do I have to speak against the rest of the U.S.?

I lived in TX for a year, and while their mosquito bites are the worst, they’re few and far between. I’ve spent two months working in two separate remote locations in FL. Granted, it wasn’t smack-dab in the middle of the Everglades, but I had representatives from both those locations claiming it to be the worst. I also spent a month working in Vermont’s White Mountains. I don’t even remember seeing a mosquito.

Sorry, Florida, despite your humidity and pretty Spanish Moss, your mosquitoes aren't that bad.
Sorry, Florida, despite your humidity and pretty Spanish Moss, your mosquitoes aren’t that bad.

For the Love of Packers and Badgers

When people from out of state hear the word Wisconsin I’m betting the first thing they think of is cheese, followed closely by Packers. I’m not going to guess the actual reason why we’re so passionate about the Packers, but I will just state that it’s the smallest city in the U.S. that hosts an NFL team and usually ranks Top 5 in the NFL for all income generated and crazy fans (usually 1 or 2). I think we’re pretty proud of that.

And if you look at the rest of the professional sports in WI, the Bucks and Brewers, there’s not a lot of history or prestige associated with those teams. The Brewers at least used to be the Braves and was home to Hammerin’ Hank Aaron for awhile, and there is a decent fan following (which I don’t understand since they’ve only appeared in one World Series; I think it has something to do with a reason to binge drink). But the Bucks? Why are they still there?

You’d think we’d like hockey given our icy winter status and proximity to Canada and Minnesota, but it’s just not true. We don’t care.

After all of that, the only other team(s) in the state to root for are the Badgers. It’s funny, when people think of college football, places like FL, OH, TX, AL, and MI come to mind. When people think of college basketball, it’s usually Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky. But did you know the Badgers hold the nation’s longest bowl bid/NCAA tourney streak?

That’s just good sportsball.

Binge Drinking

I’m not saying I’m proud of this, I’m just saying, please re-read the section on Winter. There’s a lot of time with nothing to do. And in the summer, with all those lakes and rivers, who DOESN’T want to have some beers while they’re out boating and fishing?


**Just enough beer and brats for one person to start their evening

We’re just as Bass-Ackwards as some Southern States

Big trucks, country music, beer-drinkin, rebel flag displayin’ rednecks. We love guns and shootin’ stuff too.

Travel outside of Madison and Milwaukee metro sprawl areas and that’s commonplace. I’ve had many a tense moments almost getting into fights just because my friend happened to be black.

Random internet picture. May or may not be WI.
Random internet picture. May or may not be WI.

And for all of those reasons (even the bad ones), I’m proud to say I’m from Wisconsin.

Your Winter Camping Sleep System: Sleeping Pads

Prepared Winter Tent SiteLast year I wrote a “How-to” set your tent in the snow to maximize warmthyness whilst winter camping. To be honest, that is where your cold-weather sleep system begins. If it’s too humid, too drafty, unprotected (assuming there’s wind protection available), or in any other way susceptible to the harsh winter weather, you’re gonna have a bad time. But since you read my post and admired my exquisite 3D CAD drawings, you know exactly how to protect against all of those things.

So today, I start a series on your entire sleeping system. First up: Sleeping pads

Winter Camping Sleeping Pads

Which pad(s) you choose to bring with you very much depends on the other activities surrounding your winter camping experience. If you’re doing some legit winter mountaineering, you’re probably sleeping in a snow cave and trying to cut pack weight and pack size. Or even if you do bring a tent, size and weight is still an issue.But let’s say you’re a beginner. You’re doing a more casual winter camp and can carry more gear. Perhaps you’re car camping and pulling right up to the tent pad, or maybe you’re just going to snowshoe in a mile or so. OORRRRRRRRRR, you’re not a beginner and you’re doing something totally rad like ski-touring and pulling a pulk sled.

All of these things matter when choosing your sleeping pad(s).

R-Value

This is the rating used to determine how much you’ll be insulated from the ground. For winter camping, the higher the R-value, the better. You’ll learn more about this later on, ya heard?

Closed-Cell Foam Pad

If you fall into the first category of activities I mentioned, I’m probably wondering why you’re reading this as you’re already sufficiently badass. But just in case you’re not, all you reeeaaalllllly  need is a closed-cell foam pad. The thick layer of snow beneath you will insulate you from the frozen earth, and the closed-cell foam will insulate you from the snow. In this case, a very very warm sleeping bag is very required.

The R-value of a closed cell foam pad is right around 2, give or take a few digits after a decimal point. i.e. 2.x. This is why a heavily insulated sleeping bag is required if you’re just using a foam pad, but fret not, there are hundreds of millions (if not billions) of mountaineers that get by with just this every single day. Emphasis on the billion mountaineers.

Inflatable Insulated Sleeping Pads

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Big Agnes Storm King
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core inflatable sleeping pad and a Big Agnes Storm King 0-degree bag

If you fall into the second category of activities,  you can tolerate the extra weight. In this case, I say bring two (2!!!) sleeping pads for true winter camping luxury. Not only can you more than double your R-value, but sleeping on a cushion of air is much more comfortable than a thin little piece of foam.

You can find insulated inflatable pads at R-4 or higher depending on your needs and budget. Typically, the higher the R-value the more the pad will weigh and more space it will take up. Again, not a big deal if you’re hauling it on a pulk sled or driving up to your site, but if you determine what you can really get away with, you might be able to sneak an inflatable with you on your mountaineering trek. When I am afforded the option of bringing two pads, I never leave the house without a combined R-value of 6 or higher.

Sleeping Pad Bonus Tip

I am not the first person to ever write about sleeping pads for winter camping, but I will say I haven’t ever read anyone suggesting this. This was born out of my own sleeping system and discovered the hard way. Read: freezing my butt off at night.

Most other posts you’ll read will tell you to put your closed-cell foam pad down first, then the inflatable one, then your sleeping bag. I’m saying this isn’t ideal.

R-values are additive regardless of how you use them so in that regard, it doesn’t matter what order you put them down. But let’s logically look at each pad.

A closed-cell pad is solid foam, through and through. An inflatable pad is only insulated directly on the external material, and the rest is filled with air. Air that can become chilled and cold and eventually end up as the same temperature as the outside temperature. It’s winter, remember? That outside air temperature can easily be in the teens or single digits. Do you really want that cold air right against your sleeping bag/body? I didn’t think so.

Just like the foam pad would insulate you from the cold snow, it can also insulate you from the cold air that filled your inflatable pad. So I always put my inflatable pad down first, then the closed-cell pad on top, and then my sleeping bag.

The combined R-value is still 6 or above, and I still get the added comfort of floating on a pillow of air while I sleep. If this ain’t genius, I don’t know what is.

Next in the winter camping sleeping series: Sleeping bags

Stay tuned!

Wadi Rum Sunset

A Look Back at #TryingStuffinJordan

It’s one thing to write a post as soon as you get back from a life-changing, completely eye opening vacation/experience/location/all above, it’s another to write a ‘review’ 4 months later.

When I got back from my trip to the Kingdom of Jordan with Columbia Sportswear, I could not put into words the things I saw, felt, experienced, and lived. I failed to do, what I claim to do best. But can you blame me?

It was more than anything I could have imagined. Outside of Mexican resort towns, I had never left the U.S. Including Mexico, I had never left North America. I grew up, went to college, and live in areas that are predominantly white. As such, the religion is mostly Christianity as well. Despite those things, I still consider myself a fairly cultured individual and keep up on world affairs. However, reading BBC or Al Jazeera from my couch, living near the cultural hub of Minneapolis, MN for 6 years, still did not prepare me for a first hand experience.

I was so blown away by the generosity and joy the people of Jordan display every day that I wrote a post while we were still on the trip:

Young Jordanian Girl

A Cultural Awakening: The People of Jordan

The Secrecy of #TryingStuff with Columbia

On top of all the new personal experiences, there’s also the ever-present height of anticipation. When you try stuff with Columbia Sportswear, you have no idea of what comes next. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but this is how we were told to prepare for the entire trip:

Here’s some gear and clothing; pack it in this duffle; bring this bag; here’s your plane tickets; show up to the airport on time. See you in Jordan.

Yeah, ok!

It didn’t get much better once we arrived. We had no idea what was going on from day to day until dinner the previous day or breakfast the day of. And then it was basically, “we may or may not be getting wet. You may or may not want board shorts. You may or may not want your PowerDrains.” Or, “Today might be dry. You should consider the regular shoes.”

C’mon, MAN!

Can you imagine? All the anticipation, all the treasures Jordan has to offer, and all you can do is sit and wonder? We were never disappointed when we’d arrive at a destination. Every single day was one jaw dropping experience after another.

And I think this is why keeping everything a secret is so important and so awesome. It prevents you from looking past one day’s experience and onto the next. It forces you to live in the moment and take everything in. Because you have no idea what comes next, there’s no need to occupy your mind with anything else.

Admittedly (and very obviously if you read my site), I’m not a huge fan of hiking. I mean, I’ll do it, especially when we’re hiking through The Lost City of Petra, one of the Wonders of the World, with 11 of my best friends in the world, but it’s still not something I’d be like, “hey, let’s go to Jordan so we can go hiking!” If I knew we were going to the Red Sea the day after hiking in Petra, I can guarantee I’d be thinking about the sea instead of enjoying my time learning about the ancient history of Petra.

Without knowing that, without knowing anything, you truly get to live the moment.

Our Jordanian Guide: Mohammad

Never stopped working, just to make sure everything was perfect for us.
Never stopped working, just to make sure everything was perfect for us.

It’s one thing to get on a tour bus and listen to someone that has done the same tours over and over and over again to a bunch of senior citizens going to the local casino, it’s another to have someone that appears rejuvenated every single day he comes to work. There was never a time I didn’t see a smile on this guy’s face. If there wasn’t a smile, it’s probably because he was building up to the punchline of a joke.

There was no history question he couldn’t answer, and there was never anything we couldn’t do (inside the laws, of course). If there was something we wanted, chances were good, Mohammad could make it happen.

One of my favorite memories of the trip, and possibly the best day of the trip (possibly) was the last full one. Justin and I were giving interviews and the rest of the group went swimming up a slot canyon. We had to stay back so Mohammad took the two of us and Jeff (a badass slow-mo cameraman) up to the waterfall himself. I can’t remember the last time I saw 3 grown adults acting liking such children. We were jumping, splashing, swimming, smiling, and laughing for the entire trip up the canyon. It was a bittersweet end to the entire trip. Without him, who knows if it would have turned out the same.

Mujib Biosphere

The OmniFamily

I know you’ve heard me talk about this before, after I got back from Park City for the original Season 4 #OmniTen trip, and those feelings only strengthened. I absolutely loved getting to know better the nine other people with me.

When we were in Park City, it was a zoo. There were 30-something of us running around, partying, and acting like morons. It was really hard to spend quality time with people to get to know them. I was there a couple of days earlier with my Season 4 posse so I did know Seth, Beth, and Andrew already when we got to the airport in Chicago. Heather and I live close to each other and have hung out on other Colorado trips so this gave me the opportunity to bond with Jon, Casey, Erika, Caleb, and Justin.

Of course, I not only extend this designation to all #OmniTen, but also to all of the Columbia people that made this happen like Mark, Daniel, Scott, and the rest of their teams that we haven’t met.

And there’s new people too! The film crew that followed us around tirelessly easily put in double or triple the miles and double or triple the hours. These guys weren’t just faceless film crew, walking around like android props, but actual, real people with stories of their own. I know, right?! It was a blast hanging out and getting to know all of them.

 

Dead Sea

Four Months Later…

If you remember, I started this post talking about not being able to aptly describe the experience as soon as I got back. And here’s why I think a ‘review’ 4 months later might have even more value than the knee-jerk reaction:

After the initial exuberance wears off, after you forget the tiny little details, after you forget about the exact daily itinerary, what’s left?

What’s left is what truly stuck with you. What’s left is the important stuff. What’s left are the things that you’re going to tell people for the rest of your life.

Here’s what’s left for me:

Everything I mentioned above: the Jordanian people, our guide, the #OmniFamily, our film crew.

I remember seeing the sun rise over Amman.

Sunrise over Amman, Jordan

I remember seeing Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan from a single point in the Red Sea.

Red Sea Sunset

 

I remember sleeping under the stars at Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum Sunset

 

I remember walking into the most breathtaking and picturesque hotel I’ve ever seen or been in, and it was 100% off the grid. Feynan Ecolodge:

©Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Bashar Alaeddin
©Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Bashar Alaeddin

I remember floating in the Dead Sea.

©Columbia Sportswear, photo by Mark Going
©Columbia Sportswear, photo by Mark Going

I remember spectacular slot canyons and more nature than I had ever expected.

Slot canyon

I remember giant burial tombs for kings and MASSIVE stone architecture in Petra.

Petra Cathedral

I remember camels.Wadi Rum Camel Ride

This trip will forever hold a place in my heart. Right before we left, I put up a Facebook status: “I may never return from this.” And I don’t think I have. Since we’ve gotten back, I’ve focused my time around freelancing. I’ve focused my money around #VanLife. I’ve took control of my life, and it’s time to start living it to the fullest. This trip provided the insight and motivation to make these things happen. I was right. There is no coming back.

Thank you, Columbia Sportswear, and thank you, everyone in the Kingdom of Jordan.

Zeal Optics Brewer Sunglasses – Perfect for the Outdoor Lifestyle

I met with Zeal Optics this spring because let’s face it, who doesn’t like meeting with reps from top of the line companies? It was just slightly more convenient since Zeal is also based out of Boulder, and he suggested we meet at a Biergarten. Ok, fine.

See, just by having Zeals on my shirt makes me look better. Right?!
See, just by having Zeals on my shirt makes me look better. Right?!

After our beer, we headed over to the office where I learned more about the company and the products. Did you know they have ski goggles with built-in 1080p video cameras with wifi? Now you do. Did you know all their products are made from sustainable materials and biodegradable? Now you do. Did you know they’re supplying the NFL with the new helmet-cams to study the game and concussions? Now you do. There’s more to know as well, but I’ve forgotten it. See? I don’t even know. Neither does Scotty.

I left the Zeal offices with their Brewer sunglasses with no expectations or demands of a review and a simple request to keep the conversation going. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s converse like an All-Star . (You see what I did there?) You have yourself a deal, Zeal. A Zeal Deal!

While it is true, these are just sunglasses – they’re not safety rated, can’t stop bullets, and don’t prevent destructive laser beams from shooting out my eyeballs like Cyclops – they performed really really well while hiking 14’ers, spring snowboarding, climbing, extreme downhill trail running, and mountain biking. Also, looking good in public. True story (as hard as that may be to conceptualize).

You see, if I’m going to tell someone to pay a premium price for these glasses ($129), I wanted to make sure I abused them as much as possible before doing so. And I did.

The Pros:

They look good. Really good.

Climbing

I normally HATE wearing sunglasses while climbing. They seem to either get in the way, or the lens somehow distorts the rock in such a way that it messes with my depth perception. If you remember, I said that about my Stage Ideas goggles too. I don’t know what’s going on in the lesser-quality lens factories around the world, but as soon as I step up to a higher-price, higher-quality lens, I don’t have any more issues.

The Brewers made it through this climb.
The Brewers made it through this climb.

While climbing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I was climbing in a shady area and hung them from my shirt. I was at the end of pitch 2 when I looked down, and bloop. There goes my sunglasses. Fantastic! They fell about 50′ down the pitch and nestled nicely amongst the sharpest granite known to man. I had my follower pick them up as he went by, and there’s just one teeny-tiny scratch. Not bad!

Hiking

Yup, just about anything works here. I like them for hiking because I at least have the piece of mind that if I’m going to lose expensive glasses in the nature, they’ll decompose should no one else find them. Again I reiterate, they look good too. Which makes me look good. And that’s good.

Snowboarding

I don’t suggest wearing simple sunglasses on a bluebird day in January, but then again, I’m just a noob that still falls on his head while launching off sweet jumps. I wore these while snowboarding in May (MAY!!!! – Sorry. That was a first for me. I get a little excited thinking about that.), and I had no issues seeing the terrain. See afore mentioned concern with lesser-quality lenses and depth perception issues.

Anti-Pros:

C’mon, you thought I’d wear these things for 3 months doing everything I do in the mountains and think they were perfect?! Psshhhht

Do I look smug? I think I look smug. I blame the beer and snowboarding in May.
Do I look smug? I think I look smug. I blame the beer and the snowboarding in May.

Looking down

Yup. Whether it’s being active while mountain biking or extreme downhill trail running, or just simply looking down when the glasses are propped up in my head, they have a tough time staying on my face.

Zeal tried to prevent this with their Proflex Design technology, but there is still room for improvement. Looking down with a vibrating face will definitely rattle these off your…face. Before anyone says, “yahsure, that’ll happen to any sunglasses,” hush yourself! I have yet another review for different sunglasses in which this is not an issue.

Should You Buy Them?

Yes.

Maybe.

Depends.

If you’re like me, vanity is a real world concern and issue. I’ve had dozens of $10 gas station  sunglasses that function well enough, but at the end of the day, none of them perform like the Zeal Brewers. On top of that, the Brewers look infinitely better than anything I have ever owned. So, are they a bit spendy? Yes, compared to the gas station. NOif you compare them to other leading brands. In that case, they’re on the low end of the price spectrum AND better for the environment. That’s cool with me.

When it comes down to it, I get a great looking pair of sunglasses that I can wear out on the town to fit in with the hipsters, AND I can wear them doing some of my favorite activities. This is the paramount reason Zeal designed the Brewer: to fit seamlessly with an active urban and wilderness life.

Zeal Brewer on Mountain

Full disclosure: I received a press release from Zeal Optics, contacted them out of the blue, had a beer with their rep, and then we wandered over to their office in Boulder. I walked away with these glasses for the price of free, but there were no expectations, no promises of a blog post, and all the opinions expressed above are my own.

Wadi Rum Sunset

Visit Jordan – Wadi Rum: Mars on Earth

I feel bad that I haven’t written more about my trip to Jordan quite yet. I’ve continued to post pictures of our journey on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep the stoke for this amazing country high. It’s just, spring time in Colorado is magical. It’s not too hot; it’s not too cold; and there aren’t any bugs. We have unicorns prancing from rainbow to rainbow, and pleasant little mountain nymphs playing their flutes.

Kidding. I’m just going through my annual re-fall in love with climbing thing where that’s all I think about every waking moment. And if I’m not thinking about it, I’m actually doing it. Also, camping. Mostly camping and climbing together all of the times.

Anyways, I was going through my Jordan pictures again (because that’s what I do nearly every other day it seems), and I saw the ones from visiting Wadi Rum. If you have no other reason to visit Jordan than Wadi Rum, you’re not doing it wrong. I could spend weeks just in this area alone. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, with it’s seemingly flat, powdery sand and MASSIVE sandstone features appearing out of nowhere, for no reason. It was Mars on Earth. And quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Wadi Rum Sunset

The sandstone was endless. You could spend a hundred lifetimes climbing here. And never make a dent. You could get lost ducking in and out of the various canyons of this 280 sq. mile reserve without a guide very easily. Though, that might be your intent. And I wouldn’t blame you.

There’s something freeing here. I can’t quite describe it. Maybe because this land was settled 10,000 years ago. And I can imagine probably looks the same.

Wadi Rum Hiking

The local Bedouin guides and hosts were some of the friendliest people we met the entire time in Jordan. They started playing pranks and jokes nearly as soon as we showed up. After they served the bottomless glass of tea, that is. We weren’t exactly roughing it, despite being in the middle of nowhere.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Tea

After tea time, I made friends and decided to partake in some traditional hookah.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Hosts

By this time, everyone was exploring. There were so many wonderful things to see. But while I enjoyed a comfort of the tea and the relaxation of the hookah, I was enamored by the sounds.

That soon wore off, and it was time for my own exploring. It didn’t take long to find everyone playing on the rocks above our camp site for the night. It wasn’t hard to understand why. I witnessed the most awe-inspiring sunset I have ever seen.

Wadi Rum Sunset

After that magical scene, it was finally time for a traditional Bedouin dinner. Our lamb and chicken were buried in the sand with hot coals and left to roast for hours while we were out playing in the desert all day. When it was time to eat, the meat was succulent, tender, and moist. Afterwards, our hosts started playing and singing more music. It wasn’t long until they were dancing. And then we were dancing. Not as Americans, but as the Bedouins.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Food

As the evening dwindled away, we watched Shaboola roast, grind, and brew fresh Arabic coffee with cardamom. And of course, more tea and hookah around the fire. The night ended perfectly with several of us deciding to sleep under the stars instead of in the tent. We stayed up just a bit later with our hosts and had a memorable time with more jokes and laughter that went on into the night.

The next morning was undeniably bittersweet. We weren’t ready to leave yet. But with Columbia running the show, you know it’s only going to get better.

We didn’t have breakfast at the camp, but yes, we did have more tea before we set off on our camel ride back to the bus.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Tea

Wadi Rum Camel Ride

I don’t know if my camel was a male or female, but I like to think it was a female. She was very loving and willing to get to know me, which is more than I can say for my real dating life.

Wadi Rum Camel Ride

And that’s Wadi Rum as best as I can put it. The whole Jordan experience is too surreal for words, much less the best part of it. I purposely wanted to say as little as possible and let the pictures and sounds do the talking for me. This is one place I will never forget and will absolutely be coming back. The climbing community is growing here rapidly with many developed routes and areas already, and as I said earlier, there is no lack of new exploration to be had. I highly suggest you do.