Published on May 10th, 2011 | by Greg0
Mountainsmith, GSI, and Detours: Bike, Camp, Tour
We’re excited about going out this summer. And we don’t just mean ambling down the street or walking to work- some of our staff are serious bikers, who know what a pannier is and can discuss saddles without even thinking about horses. Others do regular overnight hikes, lightweight camping, where size and weight matter. Our best season may be looking to be over- summer here isn’t nearly as nice as spring- but we’ll be outdoors nonetheless, and likely carrying around three new pieces of gear with us.
Let’s start with the cheapest, and perhaps most general. Most anyone could use a good camera bag- think fannypack, but a bit higher and bigger and probably more stylish. They also call it a “waistpack”, and the Mountainsmith Tour FX Recycled caught our eye with the name alone. Perfect for a smaller DSLR camera and some assorted gear, it can also hold a 22 ounce water bottle and can fit an extra lens (or two, if they are small or a Lensbaby). It’s hard to complain about the color or the small touches- bright yellow cinch strapping for visibility along with slightly reflective zippers, a removable and included shoulder strap should your waist not quite work. We hear, but did not have on hand, full backpack “strapettes” that apparently work with the bag as well.
And we loved the durability- Mountainsmith makes solid gear that is fairly weather resistant. The 100% recycled materials are an eco-bonus, but you better like your bag in black. They suggest use for a Nikon D40 or D60, or a Canon Rebel XSi, and lenses up to 70-300mm- plenty of room for most cameras and with a fairly adjustable divider system. A rain cover is included as well, and the walls are well-padded for protection against bumps and even light drops. But we do have to say that the camera isn’t that much difference from other camera cases- it offers more options for carrying, but if you prefer an over-the-shoulder bag you might want to focus on one of the many available. Serious pros also should look elsewhere, as larger cameras simply won’t fit. But for the enthusiast or amateur, especially one looking for something good for a day on the trail, the Tour FX might be just the ticket. $80 or so, available online.
If you’re looking to carry stuff, but would rather be on two wheels, consider the Detours Toocan bike pannier bag, an urban utility multi-carry that can handle groceries and hardware and a laptop with equal aplomb. This is a fairly heavy bag at three pounds, and not really built for shopping about on foot- but the super-heavy-duty rubber bottom can handle scrapes and falls without a nick. The included rain cover was nicer than we expected- packed nicely with a cute pocket, and pretty easy to put on, it came in handy during one sudden storm. Plastic clips attach easily to most any rack, but weren’t quite as solid as the rest of the bag. The padding was excellent, and we liked the multiple colors and styles available- but most of all, the reasonable price. At $40, this is the best pannier bicycle bag we’ve seen, and an excellent buy. It holds up well, offers some small but OK reflectors, and is just the right size.
Last but not least is the GSI Crossover Kitchen Kit. We’ve tried out quite a few camping and hiking kitchen kits, and GSI makes some of the best. They often include some pieces you won’t need or use, and this one is meant more for car camping than backcountry ultralight backpacking. It includes a scraper, scrubbing pad, small cutting board, tongs, spoon, spatula, spice holders, small towel, and bottles for soap and oil. All in all, an odd mixture to be sure.
The neatest parts are probably the tongs, spoon, and spatula, all of which fold via a nifty pivot system and felt well-made enough for regular use. The tote is also quite cool, fitting everything in nicely and tightly, and with a total weight of under 10 ounces. The spice shakers screw together and close tightly, but can’t replace a good grinder. And the scrubbing pad is also easily replaceable with a better one. At $35 and available widely, it feels a bit overpriced, though it is well put-together and well-made. It’s perfect, though, for the camp-side chef who aims higher than freeze-dried meals.