While I managed to snag a pair of Red Wing Irish Setter branded boots through work for no cost, I did not have the same luck with the Altama Maritime OTB Assault shoes. I’ve had my eye on these for a while now mostly because Altama has them branded as an outdoor capable shoe.
I purchased two pairs of Maritime boots, the khaki-colored ones, and the elusive, special release greys, which I had to wait almost two months to get. I’ve had the khaki-colored pair for about a month now, and my initial impression of them is good.
These are probably the most comfortable shoes I think I’ve purchased. Most shoes, which contain any arch, cause problems for me because of having flat feet. The Altamas have a very small or next to no arch support.
Altama does not offer half sizes in these, so you have to jump up a size. I’m a 10.5 normally but went with the 11 after reading some initial reviews. The jump up in half size does not make the shoes feel like they are too big or loose.
Much like the Red Wing Irish Setters, these shoes will get worn throughout the next year, so I can report back on how they held up.
Every few years where I work, we have the option to get safety boots. The first time this happened, I made the mistake of getting some brand I wasn’t sure of. I never ended up wearing them because they were uncomfortable and rubbed against my feet in places. I also apparently didn’t get them seized correctly as I later found out. This led me to the Red Wing Irish Setters.
Fast forward a few years and the opportunity comes up again. This time though, my work decided to go exclusively through a local Red Wing dealer. I have had my eyes on some Red Wing brand boots for years but never went through with getting any. Mainly because the prices always scared me off, which was a mistake.
I knew what I was after this time. A comfortable boot that I could wear at work and out of work. Something that did not look like safety toed work boots. It had to hold up year-round in all conditions. It had to be comfortable to drive in. And it had to withstand the abuse of being outdoors on overland trips.
The Red Wing Boot Company has an offshoot brand called Irish Setter. Originally made with the same color leather as their namesake, these boots were designed for people who enjoyed being outdoors.
As their popularity grew, they became one of the go tos for work boots. The model I got, Ashby, has an aluminum safety toe, which makes the boots very lightweight in comparison to regular steel-toed safety boots. While I was at the Red Wing store, I picked up a Heritage version of the same boots and found that it was considerably heavier than what I was getting.
I’ve worn these boots for a full year now. No other shoe than the occasional dress shoe for work reasons. I’ve driven in them, walked distances in them, done yard work in them, and of course had them out on weekend overland trips. I love these boots. They have to be some of the best boots I’ve owned.
They’ve held up exceptionally well to the abuse they’ve gotten. There are some noticeable marks on the leather on the toes, but that’s to be expected. These boots are comfortable to wear all day without your feet and legs getting tired. The lightweight safety toe helps that out also. You probably wouldn’t even know there is a safety toe unless you knock on the shoe and find that it’s hard.
In terms of size, they are not overly large. The pair I have is a 6-inch, and Red Wing does offer an 8-inch if that’s what you want. The sole is large and provides a good amount of grip in dry conditions and snow. Mud, on the other hand, not so much, but it is mud, and not many shoes would provide a good grip on it anyway. I’m talking some pretty deep stuff though and not what you might find in your yard after a rainstorm.
These are also very easy to drive in. I’ve owned some other boots that ended up being difficult because they would jam against the pedals. Granted, I’m driving in a full-size SUV versus let’s say a hatchback so that pedal spacing could be different. But, I have had the chance to drive in our minivan as well as a mid-size SUV with no issues whatsoever. The boots are not overly rigid, especially once broken in and move and bend in the right places to make pedal management easy.
All in all, I like these boots. I haven’t been wearing them through the summer as much because of trying out some Altama OTB Maritimes. And for the price at $155 you can’t beat them for comfort and safety. When I’ve run the course on these, I will be getting another pair.
In 2015, sometime before we kicked off Michigan Overland as more than just an idea I surveyed the gear I had. One thing that was missing was a good table to cook off of. I did my research and looked at several different variations of tables at varying prices. What I ended up with was the GCI Slim-Fold Cook Station that I managed to snag on sale and with a discount at REI.
Eventually I concluded that, while cool, I did not want a table that required a lot of assembly. Something that folded up. Had a low profile. And would pack easily into the back of my Suburban.
The cook station itself unfolds with ease and has four fold-out plastic side tables. The main middle section is made of aluminum, unfolds up, and locks into place. I can say that I have not had any issues with the main section or the side sections folding back down once they are up and locked. There is also a lower section that folds out by itself and can be used for storage.
Folded up it only takes up about 4 inches of space. It’s till pretty tall folded up at just under 35 inches. It fits in the back of my Suburban behind the third row with no problem, but something smaller might have issues. I will say that despite its weight at 20 pounds it does not feel overly cumbersome. The counter section will hold up to 48 pounds and each side shelf will hold up to 30lbs.
There is really only a few small drawbacks I’ve had with this table. Adding a stove makes cooking easy at a manageable and comfortable height.
However, cutting on the side shelves is a different story. You end up hunched over in an uncomfortable position whatever you are cutting up. Along with that, the shelves feel flimsy when cutting on them. To the point where it almost feels like you are going to slip or the shelf itself is going to collapse.
Overall this has been a solid table and cook station. It packs up easily and is small enough to be out of the way in and out of the vehicle. For the price, either bought on Amazon or directly from GCI, I would recommend this to anyone in the market for a folding cook-station.
Fire is important. You’re going to use it to cook or gather everyone around for some beverages. While digging out a fire pit is an option, some companies are offering transportable and versatile fire pits. In this installment of Gear You Deserve we are going to look at some fire pits that are easily transportable and can move with you.
Gear You Deserve is a rundown of gear you might be interested in relating to a specific topic. The series highlights equipment that runs from small to large, cheap to expensive, basic to advanced, and leaves it up to you to decide what a good fit for you is.
Solo Stove as the name implies makes stoves. However, they also offer different sizes of fire pits. TheRanger ($269), theBonfire ($349), and the upcomingYukon ($649) all offer varying sizes for building a well burning and low smoke fire. These portable fire pits weight no more than 45 lbs on the high end and can be easily transported in a rig or trailer.
If you are short on space for the round Solo Stove, the Pop Up Pit ($99) might be what you need. This portable fire pit folds up into a nice package no larger than a camp chair for easy storage. When it’s opened it up, it offers a 24” x 24” area to build a fire. The lightweight design keeps your fires off the ground by 15” and directs the heat outwards as opposed to on the ground.
The Little Red Campfire ($160) is the first gas option we have on this list. It uses a regular LP gas cylinder to provide heat from its 11” tray and can be adjusted. Once you’re done, you can pop the lid back on, secure the latches, and stow it away until you hit camp again. It can also be used for cooking if the cooktop is also purchased.
The Stahl Camper ($499), like the Solo Stove, is on the higher end of the cost spectrum. It’s ability to pack down flat, and its light weight will probably appeal to some people. The four-piece construction offers a 20” x 20” V-shaped area to get your fire going in.
You probably recognize the Camp Chef name. They make a good number of cooking-related pieces of equipment. They also have the second gas option fire pit on this list. The Sequoia Fire Pit ($119) has a 14” diameter bowl and pumps out 55,000 BTUs per hour. It also comes with lava rocks, a carrying case, and two roasting sticks for whatever you might want to roast.
The UCO Flatpack ($49) serves both as a fire pit and a grill. The lightest of all the options here, the Flatpack comes in a 3 lbs and packs down no larger than 1.5”. It’s not going to keep a lot of people warm, but if you are short on space and want dual functionality, this is a good option.
The Snow Peak Pack & Carry ($149) is the second lightest fire pit at just under 8 lbs and packs down to under 3”. The downside is the price for such a small option. However, the Pack & Carry offers some additional add ons that quickly turn the fire pit into a grill.
Sometime in the last couple of years, I ordered a new coffee press and mug from Stanley off of Amazon. Full disclosure here, I’ve never used any Stanley products before, but I needed a new travel coffee mug. A quick search brought me to the Stanley Classic One Hand 20oz Vacuum Mug.
I also enjoy pressed style coffee, so I wanted something other than a glass French press to add to my adventure gear. I initially included a glass French press in my adventure box but thought better of it. Cleaning up broken glass after bumping down the trails at the end of the day didn’t seem like any fun. Stanley released a slew of camping related items, and their Mountain Vacuum Coffee System covers me in terms of having a press.
The Coffee Mug
I’ll start with this. Never have I had a coffee mug that has kept my coffee hot (I mean hot, not lukewarm) throughout the entire day. I’ve tried other sealed mugs where the temperature of the beverage changes throughout the day. And while your hot beverage of choice might be warm-ish by the end of the day in other mugs, the Stanley Vacuum mug won’t let you down.
Stanley states that the mug will keep hot beverages hot for 9 hours, cold beverages cold for 8 hours, and iced beverages iced for 35 hours. I haven’t tried cold or iced beverages yet, but I can attest to the 9 hours for hot drinks. I would even go so far as to say that I’ve had beverages stay hot longer than the 9 hours.
The tall and slender design of this mug allows you to quickly wrap your hand around the mug for a secure hold. I purchased the 20 oz mug, which is the larger of three options, so it’s slightly more awkward to hold than the smaller sizes. The 16 oz or even the 12 oz options might be better for full hand engagement or if you have smaller hands.
This is a spill-proof mug, and that is partly due to the top automatically resealing. To drink from this mug, you have to depress and hold the button on the head. It does not lock open and closed. Most of my past coffee mugs either had this option or a lid to flip open. I prefer the locking top so getting used to pressing the button each time was a bit of a hassle, but it did prevent accidental spillage. In the end, I would highly recommend this coffee mug to anyone.
The Press and Thermos
Keeping a glass French press in your camp kit might not be a good idea. While mine hasn’t broken yet, I can see it getting smashed in the future. As I enjoy pressed coffee over traditionally made coffee, I decided to get a more camp friendly option. The Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System fits the bill, with one caveat. It’s big. I decided to go with the larger 1.1-quart size as opposed to the 17 oz size. With the larger sized system, it does not fit snuggly in my adventure box like my current French press does. The Mountain Vacuum Coffee System comes with six pieces: two cups that screw together, a storage top to hold grinds, the thermos, a pot, and press screen for the pot. They all fit together nicely for storage when you’re not making coffee.
The process of making coffee with this system isn’t hard. If you’ve made coffee in a French press before you should know how to do this, heat water, add coffee, and let steep for 5-10 minutes. The nice thing about this system is the thermos top allows for coffee grinds to be stored inside it. The top holds just less than a measuring cups worth of grinds. If you’re just getting out overnight, you can load up the top and not have to carry more than what you need.
I used my stove at home to heat the water in the pot. After about 10 minutes the water was not quite boiling and was ready for the grinds. I poured in half a tops worth of grinds, stirred them up (pack something to stir with), and let the coffee sit for 10 minutes. Once the steeping has completed, you drop the press basket into the pot and carefully press down the grinds.
The one thing to be careful with is how much water to add to the pot. During my initial test, I filled the pot above where the handle resides. Once I added in my coffee and pressed it down, I ended up with a nice coffee pool on my counter. I would recommend not having water above where the handle attaches to the pot.
Pouring the coffee out into a mug was pretty easy, but I do wish the press basket locked into place. I understand it won’t work with the grinds in the bottom, but I was concerned it was going to fall out while pouring. If you’ve got a full pot of water, you should get about 6 cups of coffee out of it using the included mugs. The thermos holds an entire pot of coffee with some possibly left over depending how much water you’ve added (again, I don’t recommend filling past the grab handle).
I poured the contents of my recently made coffee into the thermos and left it on my kitchen counter for about 4 hours. This was an unusually warm day so the air conditioning was running and it was cold in my kitchen. I checked the coffee temperature every hour or so and never experienced a change in temperature. Much like the coffee mug, the thermos will keep hot drinks hot for 24 hours, cold drinks cold for 20 hours, and iced drinks iced for 100 hours. This is an absurd amount of time, but it’s good to know you could have a hot or cold beverage ready to go at the end of a long run of trails.
Conclusions and Field Test
I got the chance to test it out “in the field” several times over a few weekends using my camp stove. I haven’t tried it out on my backpacking stove yet, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever carry it in that sort of setup. As I mentioned, it unpacks and packs up quickly enough, and the stainless steel and plastic cleans up nicely when I’m done with it. The water pot didn’t take long at all to get the water to just below boiling. I didn’t notice the handle getting excessively hot either as I did with my stove test. I used a full cap full of a Tim Horton’s roast and let it steep for about 10 minutes. The screw together integrated mugs came in handy while sitting around the morning fire.
Overall I am very impressed with this system and would recommend it to anyone who wants a French press system in their camping gear. It’s easy to use, packs up nicely, and makes a good cup of coffee. The only downside is it’s not small or light, something I can get over. If you’re a coffee drinker and you keep an adventure box in your car ready to go, you may have to rethink your storage solution, but overall this is a great product.
When it comes to gathering wood for a fire, what’s the first thing you grab? An axe? A hand saw? Maybe it’s a high-powered 2 stroke chainsaw fit for a logger. What if I told you there was an option that can process wood as fast as that 2 stroke, but that is no louder than an idling rig. In this review we are going over the Lynxx 40 v Chainsaw ($179.99) from Harbor Freight.
40 v lithium-ion battery
60 min charge time
Weight 13.35 lbs
Chain break that cuts power to motor
Tool-less chain tentioner
14 inch Oregon bar and chain
Lets get right into it. This saw is great, but like everything it has its down falls. When it comes to cutting soft and dry wood, this thing is a dream. But if you happen to cut through hard or wet wood, the battery is going to drain faster. This isn’t a problem if you have a power inverter, or a spare battery.
Something that I was a disappointed about is the lack of a proper case. A bar sheath is included, but with out a case that covers the entire saw, space inside the vehicle will be taken up to keep it safe.
I enjoy knowing that anytime I come across a downed tree on the trail, I can hop out of the truck, pop a battery in and take care of it. No tapping into my fuel reserves or fussing with mixing oils. Just pull the trigger and its instant power, that is if you haven’t hit the chain break. And the fact that it uses a Oregon chain and bar, a brand that is found in almost any hardware store, is great for that unexpected break down when you’re far from home.
Despite everything I don’t like about, this saw has become the number one tool I use when overlanding. No matter what I’m doing, where I go, however long I’m gone for, it comes with me. Because you never know what you’ll encounter when out on the trail.