Archive for the ‘Gear Reviews’ Category

A New Kind of Knife

My younger brother, Loren, is a big outdoorsman: hunting , fishing, and general outside adventure. He is always checking out the latest gadgets and tools. I often hear about new innovations from him. This wonderful new knife is no different.

Loren gave a  Havalon Piranta Edge  knife to me as a gift last Christmas. He bought one for himself and liked the knife so much he wanted to share one with me. Have I mentioned that he is a great guy?  You probably are figuring that out.

Knives usually are pretty heavy if they are any good.  Weighing in at a miniscule 1.6 ounces, the Edge is not a “heavy weight” knife but it is a full sized 2.5 inch blade.  Add to that a strong, ergonomic composite handle in day-glow orange you couldn’t lose in a snow storm and you have a nice knife, but not an exceptional one.  To earn that badge Havalon knives use surgical steel!!!

If you look close you will see that the blade resembles a scalpel.  Well, for all practical purposes, it is.  The blades are replaceable.  They come in sterile foil packs and are surgical scalpel sharp. Yes, my doctor could use this.

Forget sharpening, just clip on a new, razor sharp blade.  Blades take a realistic two seconds to remove and replace.  It takes longer to get the foil package open on the new blade than it does to install it.  I did some checking and blades are not expensive.

Despite the ease of replacement, the blade mount is very durable.  All the metal parts seem to be stainless, including the belt clip.  There are four members of my family now putting the Edge through the paces and so far no one can give the knife a bad review, and we are tough on gear.

Havalon has produced 4 or 5 variations of this style knife with replaceable blades, each designed for different uses with different looks and different handle colors.

The one thing I will not use this blade for is prying on something.  Like most thin, high tinsel blades, they will snap off easily with moderate sideways pressure.  A flying razor blade is not a happy thing.  It is worth noting that I will not use a regular heavy bladed knife to do these actions either.  A good blade is not to be used in such a disrespectful manner.


Sharp blades with no sharpening.

Easy change blades.

Light weight.

Durable, comfortable handle in a hard to lose color.


You have to buy replacement blades.

Blades can break under pressure.


I can tell you I found it cheapest at Cabela’s:

Havalon Piranta Edge Knife       $39.95 at Cabela’s

Havalon Replacement Blades    $10.95 per 12 pack


The Stick Pic Review


The Stick Pic!  Cute name, small package, but big product!!! 


One of my favorite things in my pack is my little Stick Pic.  This ingenious camera holder lets me take pictures of…well, me, but in a great way. 

I have a friend, Jason Klass, in Colorado who is great gear reviewer.  I highly recommend his site  for gear reviews and insights in backpacking.  We Skype occasionally about packing, etc. A long while back we talked about several products that we both liked, including the Stick Pic.  He liked it so much he made one of his review videos to show it…so why should I reinvent the wheel?  Here it is…  

As I am sure you can see in Jason’s video this is an awesome little item.  I have used it for almost 2 years now with only a single complaint. I sometimes do not fit it snuggly on the pole end which lets the camera flip over to the underside of the pole at inopportune moments.  Humorous, but not funny at the time.  Chalk this one up to operator error (that would mean me).  On the bright side my friends all want to know who my photographer is that shows up at all the pretty overlooks just to take great pictures of me.  Cha-ching!  “Yes, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up now.”

One note:  you need to have the type of hiking pole you will use to properly fit your Stick Pic.  Since the diameter of poles differs with the manufacturer, the Stick Pic is made in several sizes.  Mine just happens to be a #2 that fits Leki poles.  Yours may be different.  Check before you order. 


  • Simple to use with great results
  • Ultra-light weight
  • Solves an old problem


  • None

The cost of a Stick Pic is only $13.99 plus $1.61 shipping anywhere in the U.S.  What a bargain! 

To get yours go to:


Gear Review: The Inertia X-lite Sleeping Pad


Last year at Trail Days in Damascus, VA, I had the opportunity to lie down on the then brand new Klymit Inertia X-frame sleeping pad.  A vendor at the festival had one out on the ground inviting skeptics to give it a try.  With it’s small tube construction and obvious cut outs, I fell into the skeptics line, but man, did it look cool.

The long and short of the story is that when I lay back on the seemingly wispy mat I became a believer.  While it was not my 2.5 inch thick  Neo-Air, it wasn’t far off.  The next guy in line had to pull me off so he could have his turn.  Thus, I began dreaming….

Enter this year’s offering from Klymit..the Inertia X-Lite, a 3/4 length and thus lighter version of it’s predecessor.  Klymit claims that it is the “lightest, most compact camping pad in existence.”  That is strong medicine if it’s true.

Being an ultra-light pack kind of guy, I got excited, I ogled, I researched, and I liked the look of it so much I bought two.  Ok, truth be told, I ordered the second one by accident, but I am now glad I did.  How’s that for a testimonial?

How small is it?  Here is a picture I shot to show you.  Try not to drool please.  It will only mess up your keyboard…


As you can see, I inserted a standard soda can in the picture for reference (why it it always a soda can?  Hmm)   Yes, the grey bag on the right is the entire pad in it’s cute little stuff bag.  In the middle is the optional pressure pump used to top off your pad’s air after you blow it up if you want a firmer pad.  All in all, this is a sweet size to slip into your pack.

Here are the numbers…

  • Weight of pad alone as advertised              6.1 oz.
  • Weight with pump, stuff sack, & patch kit   7.9 oz.
  • My test – pad with sack alone                    6.5 oz.  Cha-Ching!  Not Bad!!!

Klymit uses what they call “body mapping” to lay out where the holes should be to keep you supported and yet keep the weight down.  When lying down most people only have their weight supported by their shoulders, hips, and head, thus these areas are where we actually feel the “softness” of a pad.  Klymit reasoned that you don’t need padding anywhere else.

Also, there is the ongoing debate about insulation and loft compression in your sleeping bag.  Klymit’s idea is “Loft Pocket Technology” or the space where the holes are in the mattress that let your bag fluff up and provide insulating air space where none would exist in a traditional sleeping pad.  I am not sure how much additional R value this will produce, but it sounds good.

One more added benefit of a smaller air pad is how easy it inflates.  I have found that mine inflates in about 3 breaths..yes you read correctly.  Don’t go check your eye prescription.  I have seen people do it in 2.5 breaths.  This is one area where the X-Lite beats my Neo-Air like an old rug.  No huffing and puffing and seeing stars after  a few minutes.  I guess I will have to learn to live without that oxygen deprivation buzz….

Now, disclaimer…I have not used my X-Lite on a trip yet.  Never fear, I will be going to Arkansas for a few days on the Ouachita Trail in just about 2 weeks.  I will fill you in on what longer term use does to my opinion.


  • Ultra-light weight!!!
  • Good comfort
  • Easy inflation
  • Small packing size


  • Not full length
  • Not a lot of insulation value
  • Cost. At around $100, it can be pricey

So there you have it.  Do you want one?  I will be the first to affirm you if this is not your cup of tea.  I cannot imagine a couple of my camping buddies using a pad this small and I am sure they are not alone; however, I know WAY MORE people who love the idea of a lighter pack while still getting a good night’s shut eye.

As soon as I have used the X-Lite more extensively I will give you more of the low down.  Until then…

Hike Your Own Hike!