Tag Archives: travel

What’s in the Box: Nomadik February 2017

Apparently I am a difficult person to buy gifts for owing to my general lack of things that I “need” and a vehement insistence that people do not need to buy me things to celebrate milestones like birthdays.  In the absence of direction a family member went out and purchased a six month “subscription” to Nomadik.

I am a little late to the entire subscription box idea.  What started as a way for makeup aficionados to have new products delivered to their door for a nominal price relative to the retail price of the goods in the box has morphed into an entire industry.  This industry caters to every possible niche imaginable.  Nomadik is the subscription box that centers its offering around adventurers.  The target market is the type of person who travels, reads Outside, considers a ski pass to be a good investment…oh shit, that sounds like me.

So, what is in the box:

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The Parks Project “Park Watcher” beanie is a comfortable, if somewhat standard, knit beanie for those cold mornings:

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The idea here, in my estimation, is that I am being exposed to the Parks Project brand.  It’s interesting.  Parks Project sells items—usually clothing—for which the proceeds will benefit projects within a particular national park or generically the national parks in general.  Love Rocky Mountain National Park?  Buy the t-shirt and support habitat restoration.  Maybe in an era when Donald Trump is directing the federal budget such private support will become more critical than ever before.

Plus, the beanie is “Made in the U.S.A.”  In these times of Trumpian bloviating and blustering it is good to find something that would meet with the approval of the Donald.

Nomadik included three Ritual Energy peanut butter and chocolate caffeinated energy snacks:

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These little buggers claim to contain the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee, which I have always found to be a problematic unit of measure given the differences in brewing coffee.  My grandmother’s coffee probably had about a tenth the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee because she used so few grounds and what was there was cut with chicory.  My friend makes a pot of coffee with about a half pound of grounds, so I imagine these would not have the same impacts.  As of right now, Ritual Energy only offers these little nuggets of caffeinated goodness in a single flavor.  My intent is to pack these for my upcoming ski trip and use them on mountain.  Risky?  Sure, but so is strapping wooden sticks to your feet and sliding down a mountain covered in frozen water.

What person do you know that spends any times outdoors that cannot find a use for another carabiner:

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The Mizu collapsible shot glass is kind of a throwaway for me:

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I rarely drink anything that would come in a shot glass sized serving preferring drip coffee over shots of espresso and IPAs over shots of Fireball.  It might however make a nice little re-gift option for my friends who do tend to favor the harder stuff.

Overall, a winner with the beanie, a couple of so-so items, and a throwaway in the shot glass.  A bonus is that included in the box were coupon codes for the Parks Project and Ritual Energy, so if you were a fan you could feed your need for a little less money.  I am interested to see what future boxes hold over the next five months, but I am not totally sold on the concept right now.

Stuff I Like: L.L. Bean Ascent Jacket

The weather has turned cold, so the fleece and other winter wear has come out of hiding for the season.  How cold?  On November 11th the mercury was dipping toward single digits in the evening before I went to bed.  Even more than the temperature dropping was the feel of cold weather.  It just feels like winter is coming in your bones.

This year I wanted something to replace my nearly decade old softshell jacket for those days when the full-on winter coat is just too much.  Plus, I wanted it to be stowable for travel.

Down was out of the picture.  The down feather industry just seems pretty nasty.  If viable options existed that could provide warmth without the cruelty I was down.  Pun intended.  Plus, natural down is known for losing its insulation properties when wet because it loses its loft.  Synthetic insulation does not necessarily have this problem.

I first looked at the Nano Puff from Patagonia.  This is usually my first and last stop for casual outdoor clothes.  Something just did not fit.  The large was much too snug and the extra-large felt like it is was roomy in all the wrong places.  Reading reviews it became apparent that the fit had been changed recently.  Oh well.

The new Thermoball jackets from The North Face seemed like it might be the ticket.  There were two problems that I had with the Thermoball.  First, it felt like I was the Michelin man when I wore the jacked because of its puffiness or loft.  This may seem silly given that the loft is one of the reasons why these jackets insulate so well, but I am willing to sacrifice some technical proficiency for a little bit of fit.  Second, the price.  The price tag was ~$200.  Even with my annual fall member coupon from REI I was staring at a $160 jacket to bridge me between the warm fall days and my full on winter coat.  Seemed a little excessive.

Enter the L.L. Bean Ascent Packaway Jacket:

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The cut is a little looser than the Nano Puff, but it is not as puffy as the Thermoball.  Filled with 60g PrimaLoft One the jacket is plenty warm, blocks the wind, and packs away into a really small package for stowing somewhere until needed.

The cost hit a nice target for me as well.  I got this jacket for ~$80 using a 20% off coupon and free shipping.  At half the cost of the Thermoball I think the tradeoff in performance for price and fit was a worthy bargain.

Jackets that stuff down into manageable sizes are critical when you’re traveling.  If you’re stuck doing the airline tango you want to carry as little as possible because there is probably some new fee where you have to pay for space to put your feet.  Or, if you’re like me and have kids, space is at a premium when you are packing the car for a trip.  Trust me, by the time you get the gear all loaded up the back of the Outback is pretty jammed.

We tend to travel to places where the weather is a little schizophrenic.  I have been in Colorado Springs visiting family friends and seen the temps swing as much as forty degrees in the days that we are there.  Or, if you end up driving from the Front Range to altitude the temperature drops.  Having a warm jacket that is packed away discretely is a life saver that makes things just that much more comfortable.  I wish I had one of these jackets when I was in Amsterdam in 2008.  My friend and I were at the main train station in mid-March watching snow fall on the massive bike parking area wondering why we did not pack warmer clothes.

As much as I like my Ascent jacket, I do have to point out that L.L. Bean heir Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster eatery is a pretty nasty place for a crustacean to spend its last moments on Earth.

Note: I receive no compensation for writing about this product and actually purchased it with my own money.

Nothing Draws a Crowd Like a Honu

I am finally back from vacation on Kauai and I have a lot to talk about, but it is going to have to wait until I have time to sleep after a hellish day of travel—thank you American Airlines—and the joys of several inches of snow.  We’re still in a drought, so I will only complain about moisture a little bit.

One thing that is true about your time at the beach in Hawaii is that nothing draws a crowd quite like a green sea turtle or honu:

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This fine specimen beached on the left side of the trombolo at Poipu Beach State Park on the south shore of Kauai.  Apparently, on the other side of the trombolo that very night a half dozen honus decided to come ashore to the delight of everyone waiting for the sunset.  Although we did not see any on our time in Poipu, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal is also known to beach itself near these very shores.

It’s amazing how excited people get about animals and nature without paying it a conscious thought, but if you asked many of these same people their views on conservation I bet the response would not be so excited.  Heck, I bet it would be hostile.

However, we have a need to be connected to nature that persists.  It’s why it is so important to preserve what we have left and recover what we can while we can.

New Belgium Brewery Odds & Ends

After my trip to Colorado I was in the mood to sample more of what the brewing’s mad scientists across the Front Range had to offer.  A quick trip to Benz Beverage Depot yielded a couple of interesting beers from New Belgium Brewery: Brett Beer and Prickly Passion Saison.  Both are beers in the Lips of Faith series at New Belgium.

The Brett Beer is first:

The best Belgian beers that I have had try to find a way to balance the malt with either hops or alcohol.  With this beer I think that the New Belgium folks were trying to go the alcohol route—granted the beer is not that heavy—but it comes across as too much.  Like homebrewers who get obsessed with making the most potent brews possible without regard to flavor the Brett Beer just tastes of alcohol to me.

How about the Prickly Passion Saison:

Let me get this out of the way: I did not taste any prickly pear cactus at all in this beer.  In fact, it tasted like a well-crafted saison and nothing more.  That is no mean feat, but the inclusion of any other flavors seemed like a complete marketing gimmick to me.  Maybe my palate is just not very refined.

This seems to be a growing trend in beer land—gimmicks.  It’s no longer enough to produce a well-made beer.  It’s no longer enough to refine your craft to a level that allows the ingredients and method to be showcased in a subtle and surprising way.  Nope, now it is about brewing beer with yeast cultivated from some dude’s beard or uses an insane amount of hops.

With that being said, the Prickly Passion Saison was a good beer.  It was just not worth the extra price that I paid compared with other well-crafted saisons.

Friday Linkage 10/28/2011

I’m back!  Okay, I way back earlier in the week and even managed to weigh myself, but after 16 hours of traversing Nebraska it really took until Friday for me to feel like I was home and not between car trips.  Colorado was great.  On to the links.

A Conservative’s Idea of Conservation:

Google Beer–Google has placed bee hives on one of its buildings and, like President Obama, has used the honey to brew some beer.  My most recent homebrew was a honey Kolsch that is still fermenting away in the carboy although it should be going into bottles this weekend.

A Googol of Heat Beneath Our Feet–Man, I love Google.  If it is not beer, it is green energy.  The potential of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) is kind of amazing.  Especially considering that EGS would be baseload power–the type that can replace coal fired power plants.

Brave New Thermostat–Household temperature control seems like such a boring item to talk about compared to mounting solar panels on a house or other eco minded activities.  But home heating and cooling is a major opportunity to save energy on a massive scale.  The soon-to-be released Nest Thermostat is one of the coolest improvements on a normally invisible household product in a long time.

Dow Starts Mass Marketing of Solar Shingle–While I think the Nest thermostat is really cool, I still think solar panels are sweet.  Solar shingles seem to be a sweet compromise between being green and maintaining “normal” aesthetics.  I remember reading about these solar shingles months, if not years ago, and the product is finally coming to market in scale.  Progress.

From a Farm Stand, New and Old Insights–Just a nice little snippet on someone who came back to the land to farm.

The Passive Pasta Cooking Method–Now I have something else to try.  The passive pasta cooking method reminds me of some people that I knew who use insulated boxes to cook in a similar way.  Hmmm….

The Sheer Scale of the Shark Fin Trade–These photos just show the insane brutality of the shark fin trade.  At least Toronto has joined the march toward banning this barbarism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Really Greener?

On the way to Colorado for vacation, I stopped in Omaha with the family and stayed at an Element by Westin.  It was not hard to convince me to stay because I wanted to see what the Element was all about and we used Starwood Preferred Guest points for a free night’s stay.  My wife was easy to convince because she prefers to stay in a Westin whenever she travels because of the so-called Heavenly Beds.

Currently numbering 13, the Element sub-brand is positioned as the eco-friendly lodging option.  By itself, this is a unique branding attempt because I can think of no other hotel chain that has taken “eco” as a selling point.  Sure, every hotel puts up little signs about reusing towels or sheets and puts CFLs in the light fixtures but there has never been a ground up concept focused around being less harmful to the environment.

The Element in Omaha is a Silver Certified LEED hotel.  I can argue that a LEED certification can be “gamed” and that it only captures a building’s efficiency at construction as opposed to its ongoing efficiency, but constructing or retrofitting buildings to the standards of LEED is a step in the right direction.

In the room there are nice little touches that remind you that this hotel is trying to do something different.  In the shower, the little disposable bottles have been replaced by dispensers of body wash and shampoo.  In the kitchenette, a single use packet of Seventh Generation dish soap is provided for your use:

This seemed a little odd given the focus on reducing packaging waste.  Why not a reusable pump bottle?  Ceramic cups have replaced the foam or paper cups in most hotel rooms:

I could go into all of the components that Starwood says make an Element the eco-friendly choice—dual flush toilets, recycled or green building materials, low VOC finishes, Energy Star appliances in the kitchenettes, etc.  I think those are all well and good, but the central question remains: Regardless of the efforts made to reduce the footprint, isn’t a hotel still a huge black mark on the environment?

In the end, it is still a hotel and there is only so much that the concept can do to become truly green.

But, the keycard did tell me to get out and ride: