Outdoors 778

Published on December 15th, 2009 | by Greg


Winter Camping Roundup: Twin Oaks, Columbia, Eureka!

Through the winter months it’s easy to want to hibernate. Bears do it, why not people too, right? Certainly over the next few months we’ll be looking at ideas for food and entertainment to help pass the time when it feels too cold to go out. We would be remiss if we didn’t also offer up some suggestions and encouragement on ways to get out and explore and enjoy the world, despite the cold. So, how about a little of both for today?

We’ll start out on the mild side, but by the end of this you’ll want to go out for a trek across the frozen tundra! Before we go out to conquer the frozen world let’s conquer the relaxed world. Twin Oaks Hammocks is here to help with the natural and sustainable hemp hammock. We tested out the pinwheel weave, which is made of 50% hemp and 50% flax. The rope has beeswax on it, and grommets are made of solid brass. We elected to hang our hammock between two trees, as a few of us are near enough to a lovely hillside that trees were the logical choice. You can buy hanging hardware and a stand for the hammock separately. We found that this hammock can really hold its own. At 5 feet wide and 7 feet long there’s plenty of room for one, and really this hammock begs to have two people. (Plus, being in a hammock with someone you like is always more fun than alone.) We actually had four people in the hammock at once, and it wasn’t the hammock that protested it was the trees. The capacity is listed at 450lbs and it seemed to handle that weight just fine. If you’re going to do that make sure you’ve got your hammock anchored to a something very stable. It’s suitable to use indoors and outdoors, we do both here. The Twin Oaks Hemp Hammock is available directly from Twin Oaks for $229.

Now we’ve got your solid indoor/outdoor option covered, let’s move on to the mostly outdoor option, the CenterFire” by Eureka! Some of us here at Truly Obscure (cough Zoe cough) don’t really like to sleep on anything other than flannel sheets. So, when the opportunity to try out this flannel lined sleeping bag that’s rated to 15 degrees there was much rejoicing among some of the staff. One of the more unique features of this bag is the “Sip ‘n Zip” which allows the user to unzip just enough of the bag to get a hand out without taking both arms and shoulders out from under the warm bag. Perfect for morning coffee in bed. Let’s face it, when it’s 15 degrees outside we want as much of ourselves covered up as possible, especially when trying to wake up in the morning. There’s also a downwind vent, which allows the bag to be opened by a separate zipper (there’s three zippers total on this bag) to vent the area around your feet- ideal for warmer nights when all that flannel is maybe a bit too warm. Some of the other nifty features on this bag are things like the duffel bag that it’s carried in can be stuffed and used for a pillow if you so desire. The bag itself has quality construction to it, including full length draft tubes, anti-snag webbing and hang loops. This bag is really a car-camping or recreational camping bag, if you’re looking for something very warm and very lightweight to take with you into the backcountry take a look through some of Eurekas! other bag options or some of the lightweight, warm bags we’ve looked at earlier this year.
The CenterFire 15 Degree bag has free shipping right now, making it an ideal time to grab one, so you’ll be ready to head out camping just as soon as the snow thaws and the flowers start to bloom. (Or you can head out now and practice your snow angels and your tundra trekking, like we promised!) The CenterFire is available online for around $105 (though 0 degree and -10 degree versions are also available for a bit more).

Alright, we promised you gear that would make you want to head out across the frozen tundra, and we deliver on our promises. Very recently Columbia introduced the Bugathermo heated boot system. These boots, which are available in men’s sizes 9-15 utilize an internal rechargeable battery system with three different temperature settings designed to keep your feet nice and warm regardless of the outside temperature. They’re rated to – 25F/-32C, and even though it may feel like it’s that cold for you, the reality is very few people ever really have to deal with that kind of cold. Columbia went and did these boots up right- not only are they heated, but there’s an LED on the outside to let you know how much battery you have remaining. (Your battery life of course depends on how long you’re using the heating element and at what setting.) The boots are also made out of waterproof nubuck and PU-coated split suede leather, and have Omni-Tech waterproof membrane as well. The internal lining is coated with AgION anti-microbial which naturally inhibits bacterial growth and helps to keep your boots from smelling bad. 200g Thinsulate is used to insulate the boot, which not only prevents cold from getting in, but helps to keep the warmth from the heating element where it’s supposed to be- keeping your piggies toasty.

We got about 8 hours of heat out of the battery, and never really needed to push it past medium. In fact, for most of our use the high setting was actually uncomfortably warm, and the reality is that you’d probably need to be pretty close to the -25F temperature before you even needed to consider going that high with the heat. We don’t have a frozen tundra to traverse, so we had to make do with sledding and snowman construction, but even after a full day out in the snow our feet were toasty warm and quite dry by the end. Color us satisfied! The boots themselves are pretty interesting to look at, they lace up quite tall, over the ankle to about low-calf, and have a nice combination of high-tech and traditional hiking boot. Price-wise they come in around $120, which is really only slightly higher than any good pair of hiking boots, making these a pretty reasonable choice if you are outside a lot in cold weather. Several color options are available (ours were called Black Cedar), and they can be found online at Amazon among other sites.

So, whether you go out or stay in this winter stay warm and dry and have fun!

About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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