Category Archives: Active & Outdoor

New Balance Country Walkers: Soleful Strut

New Balance Men’s Country Walkers



Pros: Attractive, earthy look is non-trendy classic.  Size-appropriate – my size thirteen, triple-E feet are pleased.  NB’s overall stability, Abzorb cushioning and otherwise comfy fit suited to uneven terrain, gravel, grass or concrete.  Non-marking soles grip without tracking-in excessive muck.

Cons: Longer than expected break-in.  Stiff cushioning in Achilles area takes some getting used to.  A bit over-insulated for mid-summer wear.

I harbor no shoe fetish.  The footwear shelf in my walk-in closet features steel-toed Timberlands, Merrill winter boots and hikers – and dress shoes in brown and black.

Country Walkers decked-out at Home.
Country Walkers decked-out at Home.

One fateful day, the local LL Bean outlet had a lone pair of New Balance Men’s Country Walkers on the triple-discount rack – in a wide size thirteen, to boot! Suddenly, I was channeling former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos – while I could never match her historic footwear collection, the Country Walkers that enabled my comfortable stroll around the store would soon join my otherwise conservative collection.


Country Walkers stylin at Micky Dees.
Country Walkers underemployed at Mickey Dees.

My first set of Merrill footwear was so totally comfortable, they appeared to be custom made. Previous treks through the city in a variety of brands would result in pain due to lack of support for my high arches. My long-term concern with the New Balance Country Walkers in this regard was unfounded – the support is similar to the Merrill hikers. NB‘s Abzorb technology and the Merrill‘s cushioned Vibram soles both make long walks pleasantly pain-free.

The best footwear acts as an extension of the foot itself.  Both brands offer a snug, stable stance.  Early on, my biggest beef with the New Balance Country Walkers was a stiffness in the cushioning above the heel.  If they weren’t tied tightly, my Achilles tendon would experience a slight chafing from the foot’s vertical movement.  Fortunately, mileage logged during the initial break-in period has resolved this issue.


Country Walkers smokin at the Cigar Emporium, North Conway, NH.
Country Walkers smokin at Village Cigar, North Conway, NH.

Not one to appreciate flash, my attraction to these tan-on-brown triple-E tugboats is steadfast.  Conservative is cool – when you have size thirteen feet, there’s no need to draw attention to same with flashing lights and fluorescent grape trim.  The NB‘s Ndurance rubber outsole and  midsole C-Cap support is the bling within.  Their style tops the Merrill‘s muted orange-and-brown motif by a country mile.


Weighing-in at just under a pound each, my New Balance Country Walkers have endured a couple of year’s wear with no sign of failure.  While trekking through the Maine woods has given them character, the suede uppers and associated stitching all remain intact.  The soles are sufficiently aggressive to insure stability while tracking-in a minimum of nature’s outdoor debris.

Country Walkers Chillin at the Met, North Conway, NH.
Country Walkers Chillin at the Met, North Conway, NH.

Though it appears the triple-mesh in the upper design would provide adequate cooling, these are not the best mid-summer shoe – here the lighter, more flexible uppers installed in the Merrill win outright.  And northern New England has a mild summer compared to most of the New Balance market territory.

Reshod Redux?

Successful products continue to evolve – I see that the latest update includes a common-sense pair of sturdy loops at the rear.  When my New Balance Men’s Country Walkers finally wear-out, I will likely buy another pair.  They’re attractive, comfortable and, while stylishly shod, I can work all three pedals in my 6-speed Jeep JK unencumbered – which is no small feat while sporting such a pair.

Country Walkers pass the Tugboat Test on All Three Pedals!

New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.
Brighton Landing
Boston, MA  01235

Vintage and works great

Alladin Stanley® Vacuum Bottle



Pros: made to last, and it does

Cons: heavy for arthritic hands

My vintage, American made, Alladin Stanley® vacuum bottle is a well-made, dandy of a vaccum bottle. My dad carried a glass lined thermos bottle in his lunch box for years so my experience with the Alladin Stanley vacuum bottle was limited, I did see a few during childhood but had no idea what they were, or how handy.

Dad’s thermos suffered a broken liner now and again, the liner was replaceable.

My children are Lads, Boy Scouting became a major experience in our lives for many years, kids were cubbies and continued in the program through Webelo and Scouts. I became an adult Scouter and noticed many fellow scouters, generally older men carrying the Alladin Stanley vacuum bottles during troop campouts, Camporees and the like. It was during those scouting events that I came to recognize the utility of these sturdy, well built containers.

First appearing in 1913; the all-steel vacuum bottle invented by William Stanley Jr. revolutionized the container industry by corroborating that steel can be used in lieu of glass to insulate.

Stanley using public has long realized that Stanley products are fabricated to last the lifespan of the owner and beyond. Of course the better care we show these useful containers the nicer they will remain, the longer they can be expected to last and the better they are likely to accomplish.

Today I use both my sturdy Alladin Stanley bottle and containers made by thermos. I have foregone using most thermos having glass liners for the reason my dad needed to replace the liner on occasion; they break.

Newer Thermos bottles are all metal, keep hot coffee hot and are lighter weight, skinnier and easier for me to carry to school in my rolling case than is my more bulky Stanley.

On the other hand, my handy Stanley bottle is often found in the car during winter trips. I have never been snowed in, off the road or whatever, however, the BSA motto, Be Prepared, is well engrained, with the Stanley bottle I know the water I put into it will not freeze whatever the temp and water as liquid will be available for drinking  in case it is needed during the snowy trips north to see son and family during winter.

As I age and arthritis in my hands continues to progress I find my Stanley bottle is becoming heavy and difficult for me to maneuver. I have no intention to set it aside, we will continue to use my handleless bottle for water especially during winter. However, I do intend to avail myself of one of the bottles having a handle on the side. The bottle, intended to hold coffee during trips or campouts, will still be heavy, however, I will be able to lift it using the handle, and will not need help with the bottle for many more trips or excursions to come.

I like that suggestions and recommendations for making optimum usage of Stanley products, including suggestion regarding making oatmeal in the bottle, are available on the Pacific Market International, PMI Stanley® website. I even found a downloadable pdf regarding care presented on the website.

 Care & Use of Stanley Stainless Steel products data regarding how to best use Stanley products per the website includes several cautions including;

– Do NOT use in microwave, oven or dishwasher!

-Don’t overfill with hot drinks; overfilling may lead to spillage and searing. The fill capacity is planned to be complete just below the lid base.

-When filled with hot liquid Stainless Steel Mugs should be used with caution when children are in proximity.

-Stainless Steel Water bottles are not intended for usage with hot beverages.

-Bottle lid should be attached firmly to prevent spills, and possible harm from spillage against bare skin.

-In order to minimize bacterial growth, Stanley bottles are not recommended for storage of warm milk products or baby foods.

The Stanley website includes recommendations for CARE & USE OF STAINLESS STEEL PRODUCTS includes:

-Wash products before use. To clean, wash with warm water and mild detergent. Let product stand for five minutes. Pour out washing water and rinse with warm water.

-Should inner area become discolored, a concoction of baking soda and water can be used. Add solution, let product stand uncapped, open for 60 minutes then rinse meticulously.

-Caution: bleach or cleansers containing chlorine to clean should not be used with Stanley vacuum bottles.

-Pre-heating or pre-chilling the Stanley bottle by adding steaming hot or ice-cold water, as mother’s of my generation always suggested, does aide in keeping coffee or other beverages hot or cold for a longer period. Fill bottle with hot or cold liquid; let stand for five minutes, empty the contents, add coffee or other beverage to be stored in the bottle.

-Stanley, a brand of PMI offers replacement parts on their website including cups, stoppers or gaskets, as well as food, drink and spirit container, mugs and cups.

-I like that Stanley products are warranted to be free from any defect in workmanship or materials and to be Thermally efficient provided used according to the instructions.

Note: This warranty does not cover component parts or malfunction due to alteration, misuse, or accident. If you have any questions regarding this or any other Stanley product, please call our customer service department

-Please note do not return product to retailer.

 Happy to recommend my vintage bottle: Standing about 14.5 inches in height and about 4 inches outer diameter; my bottle is one of the green, hammered outer shell types.

 While New bottles and other Stanley products are available on Amazon and Stanley websites; I will likely check jumble shop before purchase.


2401 Elliott Ave. 4th Fl

Seattle, WA USA 98121


Timeline per the Stanley website:


1913 William Stanley Jr. invents the all-steel vacuum bottle and revolutionizes the industry by proving steel can be used in place of glass to insulate.

 1915 The Stanley insulating company begins mass production of the Stanley vacuum bottle, insulating jugs and beverage servers.

 1942 Stanley bottles are first carried on WWII B-17’s, beginning a long history of use on military aircraft.

 1953 The iconic hammertone green is introduced for the first time on a Stanley bottle.

 1960’s A majority of airlines, ocean liners, railroads, and hospitals around the country now use Stanley commercial products.

 1970’s Modernized Stanley vacuum bottles gain popularity with the American workforce, making it the most popular vacuum bottle in history.

 1995 William Stanley Jr., who had obtained 129 patents related to both electricity and insulation during his career, is inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 2002 Seattle, WA based PMI purchases the Stanley brand streamlining the design and manufacturing process while staying true to the brand’s legacy of durability and relevance.

 2006 The Outdoor Industry welcomes the Stanley brand. Within a few short years, Stanley Outdoor products will have made explorations all over the world including Mt Everest, North and South poles.

 2008 eCycle®, our proprietary blend of recycled material is first introduced in the Stanley Recycled & Recyclable 16oz Tumbler, first to offer reusable, BPA-free recycled and recyclable coffee mugs.

 2012 Outside Magazine names the Stanley Vacuum Bottle as one of “The Most Influential Gear of All Time.”

2013 We turn 100.


Tifosi Women’s Lust Wrap Sunglasses



Pros: Super stylish – super fit ( which is, of course, completely subjective when it comes to something as individual as eyewear).

Cons: One-size doesn’t always fit all

Webster Handy College Dictionary – definition of  a “slut”: “1, a slovenly woman. 2, a promiscuous woman. 3, a female dog. ”  I gave myself the safety net that if I DID NOT find the inclusion of that disrespectful term in a respectable dictionary, I would not use it in my review – but there it was/is.

Well, I guess I passed the ‘slut’ test, being none of the above. So why for the last three decades have I referred to myself as ‘a sunglass slut’?  Because ( laughingly), I have no morals or boundaries when it comes to sunglasses. I’ve had abased and abounding affairs with sunglasses since I was a teenager. I think right now I have somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty pair. There’s a large bowl of them on the deck (for those lake-watching visitors who forget theirs), a basketful in the truck, and others scattered willy-nilly about the place.

Insofar as style – again, I have no standards. They can be large Jackie O type,  small Yoko Ono style, square, round, oval with brown, black, green, blue lenses. The stems can be decorated with either color, or metallic name plate, or no decoration at all. Why, just last week I saw a pair of sunglasses someone had dropped on the highway. I turned around, retrieved them – and have worn them every day since.  So, have I titled myself a “sunglass slut” accurately, or what? Further, if there is any shame involved, I don’t feel it.

So, why would a person who’ll happily wear Dollar Store sunglasses, spend $40.00 (and up) for a pair of sunglasses? Because all the other glasses I wear are to satisfy mypossessive penchant  for sunglasses, Tifosi Sunglasses, on the other hand, are the real thing. When it comes to driving, hiking, spectator events, anytime I’m out in the sun for extended periods of time, I wear my Tifosi’s. 

Originating in Georgia in 2003, Tifosi Optics were originally created for the more active, sports-minded groups – golfers, tennis players, cyclists, with three qualifiers in mind: Quality of optics; fit/comfort, and durability.




Specifically, what makes Tifosi Sunglasses superior to just about any other on the medium-priced market sunglass market?

  •  Grilamid TR-90  nylon frames with a memory-feature that allows the frames to return to the ‘usual-wearers’ size and shape
  • Polycarbonite, shatterproof, *gradient lens
  • Non-Polarized
  • 100% UV optical clarity and sun protection
  • Hydrophilic nose and temple pads that increase grip with perspiration
  • Many selections with wide stems for side-view protection & distraction
  • Very lightweight
  • Come in many different styles, colors & features
  • Protective bag and case come with each pair

 * “Gradient lenses have a refraction that changes throughout the length of the lens. It usually goes from less powerful to more powerful, flowing along the length of the lens”  Thank you, eHow.

The glasses above are the style I wear, primarily for the broad stems, but check out their website to see a wide array of different styles. They run $40.00 and up  – which for a pair of non-prescription sunglasses are just a little higher than your standard big box store, but not, in my opinion, unreasonably priced.





Rothco Nordic Gear Lectra Sox




Pros: Definitely keep your feet warm

Cons: Remembering fresh batteries

My Norwegian grandfather would probably laugh me out of hunting camp – ‘ Oh ufda! ‘lectric socks?  Ha-ha-ha!’ Well, Oregon winters may not get near as cold as Norway, but I’m not wearing caribou or sealblubber-lined boots either!

Consider: It’s 5:30 A.M., dark still, quiet and cold. I’d love to walk into the house and crawl back in bed – except home is one-hundred-fifty miles away – and hunting camp is anywhere between five and ten miles back down the road. I’m here to tell you, from years of experience: as the sun rises, the temperature plummets. Doesn’t that sound weird? I can’t explain it -but it’s true. Besides, I may grumble and shiver, but I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want – hunting.

There’s no point getting into the highly charged argument of hunting vs. anti-hunting, except to say: I’ve killed deer in the field – I’ve also been in a cattle/horse slaughter-house. If I were either species, I’d rather drop dead in the field in 2 seconds, than be imprisoned in a stress-filled corral for several days.  Wouldn’t you?

Anyway, it’s cold, dark and you’re on your post. The slightest movement can be your worst enemy.  Did you know you can train your eyes to see nothing but movement? It’s true.  Animals are experts at that.  There are times I’ve made the slightest movement in the field, and my intended target zeroed in on me like a laser, subsequently bolting. So prancing around like a ballerina trying to get my feet warm, would be pretty counter-productive.  That’s why I love, and count on, Rothco Lectra Sox to keep my feet warm, no matter how cold the rest of me may get.

Rothco Lectra Sox were originally developed for fishermen aboard commercial fishing ships in the frigid North Atlantic. If you watch any of the reality programs offered on the History Channel it’s easy to see how these people can become absolutely drenched and chilled to the bone inminutes.  Rothco’s Lectra Sox extremely low amperage ” eliminates all possibility of shock or burns, even when wet”.


Mt. Hood , Oregon
Rothco Lectra Sox are perfect for all sorts of outdoor activity:
  • Hunting
  • Hiking
  • Cold-weather/water fishing
  • Wood cutting
  • Winter-time play days – like Christmas tree cutting
  • Spectator sports
  • Seniors, and others, who have chronic cold feet

Rothco Lectra Sox are made of 36% virgin wool, 33% Winter Acrylic, 22% Polyester, and 9% nylon. Those fibers, combined with the benefit of battery-producing heat, can make all the difference between comfort and having a good time, and going home early.

Other benefits?

  • Padded, reinforced heel and toe
  • Extra-wide reinforced cuff for added comfort
  • Snap-on battery control using a D-size battery ( not included).
  •  Provides six to seven hours of warmth
  • Battery fits in a pouch so you don’t need to have it strapped to your leg continuously.
  • Wires do not heat – just the fabric
  • Feet become warm, not hot
  • Come in two sizes – medium and large

A minor complaint that may be just my experience: The socks can get a little heavy.  Depending on your seasons and weather, Fall can either be balmy and a welcome respite from a long, hot summer, or, it can be the onset of early snow and cold weather.  In my neck of the woods, Fall usually brings cool, crisp mornings, but often warming into the 70’s in the afternoon – way too warm for wool socks. It would be a pain in the patoot to change socks midday, so by the end of day, my feet are pretty warm – naturally.

Because of their construction, these socks need a little TLC when laundering. They should be hand-washed, using a mild detergent. DO NOT WRING  or use a commercial dryer – hang to dry.

Available at Sears in the $30.00 range.


Holy Vesuvius! That’s a Lotta Lava!

Hwy 242 – McKenzie Pass Byway


From my own album. Two of the Three Sisters Mountains, Faith, Hope & Charity
From my own album. Two of the Three Sisters Mountains, Faith, Hope & Charity



Pros: Scenery you’ll see no other place on Earth

Cons: Hairpin turns,  vehicle-length limits

It would be unlikely you would find yourself in this environment much after nightfall, for there are no hotels encouraging you to ‘stay and play’, no restaurants advertizing their dinner specials, or even a gas station with a soda machine.  In fact, if you didn’t know better – you might think you’re on the moon! But of course, you do know better, you’re not on the moon – your on Hwy 242 in Oregon – otherwise known as the McKenzie Scenic Byway.  Well, big deal you may be thinking – highways are everywhere. They sure are – but not like this one – I guarantee it.

The McKenzie Scenic Byway is a thirty-seven mile historic route that winds (and that’s an understatement)) between McKenzie Bridge, a small hamlet on the eastern edge of the Willamette Valley, and ends just west of Sisters,  a somewhat bigger hamlet, in Central Oregon.

In a word, what makes this relatively short drive so unusual and tourist-worthy? Lava.  Not a little lava,  a lot of lava. That, and a backdrop of scenic mountains and extinct volcanos that are just jaw-dropping.  

In each of the pictures there are dark areas covering vast tracts of land – all of it lava. But then, that’s what happens when a volcano blows and nothing stops the flow of the magma. Can you imagine the force, the sound, the fright and devastation of  wildlife? Terrifying! And there certainly would have been wildlife in the area since this cataclysmic geologic event occurred in the Pleistocene-era – which came after the Jurassic Period of T-Rex’s and Brontosaurus’.  

Fast-forward about 100,000 years. . .So now we have a two-lane, paved highway that meanders, curves and twists its way through densely-wooded mountains, pristine, high-alpine meadows and a lava forest, dissecting Mt. Washington Wilderness Area and Three Sisters Wilderness. Both Wilderness’ are magnets for mountain climbers and hikers.  

Originally built in the 1870’s as a wagon toll road, the highway was updated and reconstruction completed in 1962.  At an elevation of 5,325 ft. with an annual snow pack of fourteen feet ( yes, feet), the road is closed from November to July. 

One feature that is impossible to bypass (pun intended) is the Dee Wright Observatory, named for a  highly respected construction crew foreman who worked for the Forest Service for twenty-four years.

Built in 1935, the observatory, located at the summit, is an open shelter structure constructed completely of lava rock. Its main attractions are ‘lava tubes’, windows if you will, that look out onto the lava fields and frame several of the individual mountains and extinct volcanoes ( see below).



 This sundial-style compass is another interesting feature at the Observatory.  It points toward, and identifies each mountain peak or volcano – making your visit enjoyable and educational.   

While you’re there, take a moment to remember John Templeton Craig, a postman who’s unfortunate route took him through this savage land in the dead of winter. In 1877, while attempting to deliver Christmas mail to the Willamette Valley,  Craig froze to death in a cabin, during a blizzard, not far from the summit.

About the moon-like environment. . .in 1960 four astronauts trained for the first moonwalk at the Dee Wright Observatory. NASA too, must have felt this lunar-like environment too similarly advantageous to pass up.

I don’t have a ‘Bucket List’,  but if I did – it would be to be at the summit, under a full moon and watch Madame Luna embrace the lava fields and snow-covered peaks under her pale-blue blanket.

There are no services of any kind from McKenzie Bridge to Sisters. Be sure you have plenty of fuel, drinks, snacks, and emergency items.

Directions:  Approx. 55 mi. east of Eugene/Springfield on Hwy 126 E.  Turn-off is on the right. Plentiful signs to direct you.  The road is barricaded from November to June/July, depending on the weather.  It is opened to bikers and hikers earlier, again, depending on the weather. No vehicle, or combination of vehicle/RV over 35′ allowed.


















Pendleton Plaid Blanket with Leather Carrier

Pendleton Camping Blankets


Pros: Extremely well-made, lasts for years

Cons: Pricey, and not easy to find the blanket dimensions on their website

I’ve written reviews lately on camping gear, such as my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Stove, and Coleman Chest Cooler. I’ve even mentioned sleeping bags I own, but ironically, never use.

First let me say, I am not claustrophobic – elevators, vehicles, small rooms, etc. don’t bother me a bit – however, being encased in a sleeping bag inside a tent, RV, or vehicle, unable to bolt or react immediately to an emergency, definitely gives me the weemies.

After several years of aggravating  wrestling- matches with uncooperative sleeping- bag zippers, bulky, uneven roll-ups, and the feeling of being overly restricted, I determined there had to be a better option – and of course, there was/is – blankets. But not any old blanket – 100% Virgin Wool Pendleton Blankets.

I confess to a little bias as Pendleton Woolen Mills are located, and their superb woolen blankets and garments are  manufactured, right here in Oregon – coincidentally in the city of Pendleton.

Pendleton Woolen Mills have been a family owned business for over one-hundred-fifty years. Founded by Thomas Kay in 1863, Pendleton Woolen Mills is what is known as a “Vertically Integrated Company”, meaning they begin with the very basics – A thru Z, to create their end  product.

The process starts with the purchase of  raw wool from sheep ranchers. Next, processing the wool, including cleaning, carding and weaving the fibers to create an absolutely mind-boggling array of brilliant colors and designs. On to manufacturing the many different woolen fabrics, fourteen of them, in fact. Finally, worldwide sales and distribution to the hundreds of shops and outlets where their products are sold.

So, what makes Pendleton blankets and garments so special and (almost) immediately recognizable?

  • Made exclusively from 100% Virgin wool
  • The items are easy to care for. Because they’re low-static and have a “hairy’ surface, they repel dirt better than most fabrics.
  • Comfort. Wool is a natural insulator that lets skin breathe. It keeps the wearer cool(er) in summer, and warm in the winter.
  • Beauty. Pendleton Blankets and garments are known for their intricate colors, interesting, authentic designs, and quality construction.
  • Durability. I can personally attest to this feature having one Pendleton blanket in particular that has lasted more than forty years.

The blanket on the bottom row (right) is very close to mine in design and colors. I just looked at it and after all this time there are still no snags, pulled threads, nor flaws of any kind.  I call that durable!

As previously mentioned, Pendleton uses fourteen different types of wool to create their blankets and garments – Boiled, Doubleface, Jacquard, Tricotone, Tropical Weight Wool, Virgin and Umatilla to mention a few. Some are even machine washable.

I was unable to find the exact dimensions and prices for the blankets pictured at the top of the review, but one very similar measures 54×66″ – $149.00

So, getting back to my original point – I love crawling into (camp) bed – whether I’m tent, or ‘tramp-camping’, as I call sleeping in my rig.  I’m comfortable and feel less anxious using blankets instead of a bag. And best of all, since camping is usually done in the warmer months, it’s much easier kicking off a blanket, then a few hours later, when the temperature has dropped, covering up. That just doesn’t work with a bag, Which brings about one final universal dilemma:  The 2:00 A.M. ‘Why did I drink that last soda?’  issue?  Anyone, but I’m thinking especially of us ladies who are familiar with camping, know all about that time-sensitive  issue – ‘nuf said?

Pendleton Woolen Mills

P.O. Box 3030

Portland, Oregon 97208


Mills operating in Pendleton, Ore – open for tours


Coleman Perfect-Flow 1-Burner

Model # 2000004124




Pros: Ridiculously easy to assemble, instant flame

Cons: Wish the base were just a bit deeper for greater stability

 Ramen Noodles, camping and my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner were simply meant for each another – like Timmy and Lassie, or Donald Trump and hairspray. 

I recently posted a review on Coleman Chest  Coolers, including a picture of an impromptu campout from my personal album. Also in that photo, setting atop the cooler, is my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Stove. Well, here’s slightly different picture, but the same stove. I have absolutely no idea why I snapped these rather mundane photos – the Camping Gods must have known I would need them someday. And what better testimony could I offer of my personal preference for, and confidence in, this product?   



The box with the open flaps holds the burner until it’s ready to be used. I try to keep things in their original container primarily to protect them from getting damaged and to keep things orderly – (also known as OCD – ha!) 


Mt. Washinton, Oregon
Mt. Washinton, Oregon

 So, envision this: It’s just breaking daylight.  Although it’s dang chilly at 5500 ft. elevation, you manage to crawl out of your sleeping bag.  It takes just a minute or so ( really!) for the Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner to heat enough water (about a quart) to wet a face  cloth for a quick morning facial. Oh heaven!

 Next, pour a substantial amount of hot water into a metal cup, add your favorite flavor instant coffee or tea, sit back and enjoy the view.  These are the moments campers daydream of all through the long, cold winter. And speaking of winter – and cutting Christmas trees – and playing in the snow – and hot chocolate – and Ramen Noodle Soup, what’s  more fun and family oriented than spending a day playing in the snowy woods? And what makes it even better? Hot food, drinks – and toasted marshmallows!   



 Of course, fire in any form always has its serious side. . .

  • Never! use this burner, or any other propane-operated piece of equipment to light or heat the inside of a tent, vehicle or RV – with the exception of a propane heater that is designed for that purpose.
  • Never! let young children operate the burner.  Personally, I would choose teen age as an appropriate age to allow usage. Then again, it depends on the child.
  • Never! attempt to dismantle the burner while it’s operating – in other words, while lit.
  • Never! throw a used (even empty) propane bottle in a campfire or fire pit.  Take it home.
  • Never! leave the burner unattended while lit.  If a single match can cause a forest fire – think what an eight-inch-diameter match can do.  

Some features of the Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Model # 2000004124 are:

  • It has an 8″ burner which distributes quick, even heat.
  • The flame is fully adjustable with a twist-type knob – up to 10,000 BTU’s.
  • It has a pressure-control system that keeps the heat steady.
  • Built-in pot/pan support to provide wind protection
  • Uses a 16.4 oz. propane cylinder (Coleman brand preferably)
  • Burns 2.2 hrs. on High setting and 9 hrs. on Low,
  • Dimensions – 7.75″ x 7.81″ x 6.62
  • Made in China.

To Use:

The Burner comes completely assembled.

  •   Just screw the burner clockwise onto a 16.4 oz. cylinder of propane.
  • Place the cylinder into the base and set on a level surface.
  •   Turn the propane/flame valve until you hear a slight hissing noise.
  • With a match, or better yet, a long-handled BBQ lighter, place the match or lighter close to the propane jets. It will immediately ignite.
  • Adjust the valve to the flame height desired.

Look for other Coleman stoves of varying sizes and number of burners.  This model sells for around $30.00 at most discount and outdoor stores.

The Coleman Company

Golden, Colorado








Coleman 70-Qt. Xtreme Cooler ( Blue)



PROS:  Does exactly what it’s designed to do – plus

CONS: None 




Okay, so it’s not a beautiful picture – but it’s authentic, representing my 56-Qt. Coleman Chest Cooler (among other Coleman camping items, like the one-burner stove and propane cylinder).  What’s not showing is my Coleman tent, lantern and folding chair. I’m a walking advertisement for Coleman camping gear!

The pictures above and below were taken last year in an area referred to as The Oxbow – an isolated, mountainous region in the Oregon Coast Range. I know it like the back of my hand – and should after fifty-years of bouncing around it.



This particular excursion I decided (at the last minute) to check out my favorite bear-watching hillside. Usually when I go for a one-nighter I ‘tramp-camp’, sleeping in the back of my SUV. Obviously, when I do that, I need to off-load the camping gear inside so Wally and I have a place to sleep – hence the jumble of ‘stuff’ on the ground.  ( I’m explaining so as not to look like a camping slob!  🙂

It’s never difficult or time-consuming packing for these impromptu sojourns as I carry much of my  equipment in the back of my rig all the time – especially a Coleman cooler. I say ” a  Coleman cooler” because I have several. Further, where is it written that coolers are for food and drink only? I use the 70-Qt. Xtreme Cooler pictured above for my sleeping bag, pillow, blowup air mattress and air pump, along with a jumble of incidentals – a small first-aid kit, and extra food for Wally. Coleman Coolers are great for things I want to keep dry, bug-free, and all in one place. I never have to go searching for my pillow for example, I know exactly where to find it. I normally bring another cooler of clean clothes, but when camping just for one night, I don’t take a change of clothes.

Some of the features of the 70-Qt. Xtreme Cooler:

  • 100-can capacity – that’s sixteen six-packs of your favorite beverage!
  • Keeps ice five days in temps up to 90°
  • ThermOZONE™ insulation – no CFC’s, HFC’s, or HCFC’s which deplete the ozone
  • Hinged lid with four drink holders
  • Rustproof, leak-resistant channel for no-tilt draining

Setting off to the side in the picture is my Coleman folding chair – although I admit, it’s really not mandatory equipment since sitting on a Coleman Cooler is the best seat in camp. Except for color, the blue cooler pictured below is identical to the green one in the camping picture above.  


Both coolers have four drink-holders molded into the top which make them perfect for cups, cans or bottles – but once again, I find a variety of uses for them other than their original purpose – like holding a small  flashlight, clock, cellphone, safety pins, rubberbands,  anything I might wake up in the middle of the night and want or need – within reason, of course. ( Sorry, no pizza delivery after midnight).
I very honestly would miss my Coleman coolers if for whatever reason they came up missing.  I’m an obnoxiously-organized person. The  idea of just tossing my camping gear in the back of the SUV and hitting the road. . .would be tantamount to throwing my clothes in the closet without hanging them up – I just don’t see that happening.


 The Coleman Company, Inc.

Golden, Colorado






Topeak’s “Explorer Tubular Rack with Spring”: It’s two bicycle racks in one (“trunk-bag” and “spring-clip”)

Topeak Explorer Tubular Rack (with Spring)

Topeak bike rack


Pros: Currently costing about $40, this Topeak “Explorer” rear rack is exceedingly rugged, versatile and handy.

Cons: None for me. [But certain consumers might require a somewhat lengthier (alternatively available) Topeak model.]

In my prior review I discussed Topeak’s MTX trunk bag DXP. In this present review I’ll focus on Topeak’s compatible “Explorer” rack, whose “QuickTrack” design makes for quick and easy attachment/detachment of the trunk bag to the rear rack.

Via a nearby bike dealer, I bought this rack some years ago – at the same time that I purchased the aforementioned trunk bag. Since I’d taken in my Trek 7100 bike to that dealer, he courteously agreed to mount this rack to my bike at no extra charge (beyond the roughly $30 that I paid for the rack). Not that it would’ve been highly difficult to attach this straightforwardly configured rack myself, but I do advise the shrewd reader to consider availing herself of any and all such “freebies” from local shops. [In like manner, this “lazy” cyclist’s busy dealer freely installed his bike’s silvery fenders; its mirror; its extra-comfy saddle; and some inner-tire nylon rings (which help avert flats). Sure, I “could’ve” done it myself, but why bother when expert installation’s free for the asking?]

This rear rack has two features that particularly distinguish it from many competing products:

1. Its large, spring-tensioned “clip” is handy whenever you wish to carry a rather small load (e.g., a book or few) and thus won’t need to take the trunk bag along.

2. Its black, upright, tubular-aluminum “side frames” reliably prevent an attached trunk bag’s opened, dangling “pannier” compartments from interfering with the rear wheel during travel. [Those normally hidden, expandable panniers greatly increase the cargo capacity of the trunk bag. In fact, those capacious panniers can hold just enough groceries (or whatever) as to make it quite unnecessary for me to wear a backpack.]

This “MTX-QuickTrack-system-compatible” rack is fashioned of strong, lightweight, hollow “6061 T-6” aluminum. And its standard size and configuration mean that it should fit essentially any “hybrid” style – or, I assume, “mountain” style – bike frame. In any case, it fits my Trek model 7100 hybrid model perfectly. It measures approximately 13.6 by 9.3 by 16.1 inches (L x W x H). And its weight capacity is said to be 55 pounds; now, I’ve not scientifically verified this, but I suspect that it could hold considerably more weight than that without incurring any damage.

At the rear of this rack, there’s a bracket incorporating several holes that make it possible for you to connect almost any typical reflector. [Doing so might seem a bit like overkill, insofar as the rear of any compatible Topeak trunk bag already incorporates a strip of highly reflective 3M “tape.”]

And so, if you simply want to tote several books or other smallish items, this rack’s built-in, spring-tension clip should nicely suffice. But if you instead want to carry a rather sizable load of groceries, hardware, or library-media items, you can immediately and easily “slide-and-snap” any of Topeak’s compatible, highly expandable “trunk bags” onto this rack’s ingeniously designed “QuickTrack.” After several years of use (including countless trips to the supermarket or library), my specimen of this product remains in essentially pristine shape. Thus I’d confidently recommend this reasonably affordable Topeak Explorer rack to virtually anybody. Just be sure to select the particular version that does incorporate the occasionally handy “spring” clip! [One or more (confusingly similar) alternatively available “Explorer” models don’t.]

Arguably the most empowering accessory for the “frugal” bicyclist

Topeak MTX Trunk Bag DXP

trunk bag


Pros: This amazingly compact-yet-expandable bag has continually proved itself eminently versatile and durable.

Cons: Not cheap!

Some years ago, wanting to augment the load-carrying utility of my Trek 7100 “hybrid” bicycle but wanting to avoid the hassles of straps, bungee cords, duffle bags or backpacks, I purchased Topeak’s MTX Trunk Bag DXP via a local bike shop. At that time my cost was somewhat over $60, not including a roughly $30 Topeak “Explorer” rack – whose compatible “QuickTrack” design makes attaching/detaching this bag the proverbial snap. And I’m pleased to report that my specimen of this bag (not to mention the rugged, reliable rack to which it attaches) has remained in great shape to this day.

Beneath this bag’s solid base lies a contiguous, durable-plastic extension having beveled edges extending from front to rear. That modest extension firmly slides into a correspondingly shaped “track” on the compatible Topeak rack. Simply slide the trunk bag all the way onto the rack till the bag snaps securely into position. [A conspicuous yellow, durable-plastic clasp at the front end of the trunk bag reliably locks the bag into position during travel. To release the bag, press the clasp downward, then slide the bag backward with one quick-and-easy motion.]

Note that Topeak also markets an alternative “MTS” trunk-bag model whose construction features Velcro straps (instead of the above-mentioned durable-plastic extension beneath the bag’s base) such that connection is possible with almost any luggage rack. However, while it does appear that that alternative “MTS” version would be at least adequately serviceable, for anyone intending to use this bag with a specific bicycle (and who doesn’t mind paying extra for the requisite rack), I would definitely suggest opting for this “QuickTrack-attachment” version instead. For, not only is attaching/detaching it maximally quick-and-easy, but also I can personally attest to its long-term ruggedness and reliability.

This bag’s overall dimensions (in “unexpanded” mode) are only about 14.2 x 9.8 x 11.4 inches; and it weighs just 2.6 pounds. Its various separately zippered compartments provide up to 1,380 cubic inches of storage.

On the one hand, this bag can be remarkably conveniently compact when you need it to be. You can simply grasp it by its upper handle and carry it – like a purse or valise – into virtually any retail store. I’ve done that on many occasions at Walmart or the supermarket and have never been scrutinized – much less approached – by any suspicious “door guard” or employee. It’s likewise compact enough to easily fit into the bottom or upper portion of the typical shopping cart.

On the other hand, when you absolutely need it to be, this multifaceted trunk bag can be expanded to amazing proportions for carrying a rather substantial load of groceries, hardware or library items!

For starters, its main compartment is more than large enough (especially when in “vertically expanded” mode) to contain not only my heavy-duty antitheft chain and padlock but also such grocery items as a gallon of milk or perhaps even some eggs (in which case I’ve successfully used some layers of “bubble-wrap” as protective padding). Not that I myself have ever had any significant liquid leakage occur, but if necessary you could easily wipe up any spills from that compartment’s moisture-resistant lining.

trunk bag.jpg panniers
Behold those capacious panniers!

But even more impressively expansive are the (normally concealed) twin, zippered “panniers” that you can dangle on either side of your bike’s rear wheel. [Topeak’s compatible rear rack has side frames that reliably prevent the panniers from touching the wheel.] Each pannier is fashioned of surprisingly strong (seemingly rip-proof) synthetic fabric that, in my experience, is fully able to withstand the weight of many cans of food filling it virtually to capacity.

Additionally, this trunk bag’s various littler sections/compartments can collectively carry all sorts of relatively small stuff – including lists, books, caps, sunglasses and (at the rear exterior) a water bottle.

Moreover, all exterior sides of this bag (plus the aforementioned panniers) that are visible during transit feature 3M Reflective Strips for enhancing the rider’s safety.

Though the price of this Topeak trunk bag is currently about $80, it could prove to be money well spent when you factor how much “car expense” you could eliminate by (at least sometimes) pedaling – not driving – to and from an accessible store, park or library.