There are more than just bananas in there...

Category: The Monkey Uses Stuff

I like gear, sometimes I like to share my thoughts. Think of it as a bizarre, discombobulated review of things in the world…that can be used.

In the Sack with Big Agnes


A snow angel’s view of the world

Big Agnes Encampment +15° Sleeping System
$159.95 @ REI

When it comes to your sleeping arrangements, you can’t be too careful when it comes to climbing into someone else’s sack. This is especially true, out on the trail, where your choice of sleeping arrangements can be the difference between life and death, or comfort and discomfort in my non-mountaineering world. I have searched far and wide for a truly comfortable cold-weather bag at a reasonably backpackable weight and I now own a rack full of failed contenders. They are all great bags, but they fall short somehow. My 6’3″ more than amply padded frame requires more space than most off the shelf bags allow for, so it has been a challenging search at times.  Like a trailbound Goldilocks I would go from bag to bag, this one was roomy and warm but too heavy; that one is lightweight but too constrictive and not warm enough. So the search continued until I finally found one that is, just about right.

Continue reading

Art is Everywhere…

Even in my iPhone.

First off, let me say that I love the photographic revolution that digital photography has precipitated. The fact that anyone can now afford to shoot thousands of pictures with no cost, beyond start up, has made the world of photography a better place. Of course, with greater access comes greater volume, without necessarily generating a corresponding increase in quality, in fact often the converse is true. In other words, there are a lot more “artistic” photos out there and a lot of it is crap. But who cares, I think it is awesome that anyone can grab a camera, snap a couple of shots, do some minor photoshop work and suddenly they are a low-rent Ansel Adams, or even a Mapplethorpe, but alas that is a whole other discussion. Anyway, I do quite a bit of work in photoshop and I am constantly amazed at how processing can make a terrible shot something impressive, to the point where I am a little jaded about modern amateur photography. We have gained great technical prowess, but it seems like we have lost something of the artist’s soul. What ever happened to the days of buying cheap cameras and shooting to try and find art within the confinements of their capabilities, turning their weaknesses into strengths? Well, in a way, those days are back and they are as close as your iPhone and an app called CameraBag.

Continue reading

Neti Pot or The Abominable Nose Kettle?

Like many of you, I have nostrils. My nostrils have been the source of great pleasure over the years, providing easy access to oxygen, allowing me to french inhale cigarettes in my youth and helping to give my nose definition and the appearance of greater depth. However, as wonderful as nostrils are they are connected to paranasal sinuses, the source of sinus pain and pressure. Living in the southeast, I learned to welcome the changing of the seasons with purchases of sinus medication and fresh boxes of tissues, then something amazing happened. Four years ago I quit smoking and my sinus troubles disappeared nearly overnight. Until this Autumn, I have lived gloriously mostly mucous free. In fact, the change had been so complete that I had nearly forgotten about sinus pressure when it popped by to see me again.

Over the last few years, I have tried to find small, easy ways to live a healthier lifestyle, nothing political, nothing preachy, I am just getting older and it looks like I am going to have to take better care of this carcass if I want to make the standard “three score and ten”. I did not relish the thought of loading up on sinus medicine, but I was skeptical of more “holistic” methods. Still I felt I needed to try something new, so after hearing about them for years, I finally broke down and purchased a Neti Pot.

Continue reading

REI Trekker and Lite-Core Sleeping Pads

4 of 5 bananas

Trekker $49.00 @ REI

Lite-Core $65.00 @ REI

OK, time for an update, if anyone is listening.

Scoot and I have been very happy with our big pads, but over the last year we have slowly been upgrading our gear with lighter, more compact pieces and we finally got around to upgrading our sleeping arrangements. This time we opted for two different pads of similar construction and we have both been very happy. I will hit on the high points for both of them and then address the differences between the two pads at the end.

Continue reading

Therma-Rest Basecamp Sleeping Pad

3 of 5 bananas

$74.95 @ REI

After a couple of years of carrying a queen size inflatable mattress when we were car camping, or just sleeping on the ground when we were hiking, Scoot and I decided to buy a couple of those self-inflating sleeping pads. We were skeptical about their effectiveness and we hated to spend that much money on something that we had no confidence in, but we caught them on sale and decided to give them a try. It was one of the best camping gear purchases we have made. Continue reading

Fisher Space Pen

5 of 5 bananas

Various office supply stores $12.00-$25.00

You may have seen several cachers carrying a small black or chrome pen in their pants pockets and wondered just what the deal is. Are these special secret club pens? Well, yes and no. There is no secret club for folks who carry the Fisher Space pen, but it sure is special, and it has several features that make it the perfect geocaching pen.

Continue reading

REI Travel Sack +55° Sleeping Bag

3 of 5 bananas

$59.00 @ REI

I bought one of these lightweight bags at REI on July 4th and even modeled it for some folks at the event that afternoon. I finally got to use it a couple of weeks ago while camping down at Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama. I have trouble finding sleeping bags for two reasons; they are often too small for my overabundant frame and when I find one that fits I burn up in it unless it is freezing outside.  Continue reading