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4.5
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There is no secret that I am in love with merino wool and I was really happy when LOOW, a Danish manufacturer, approached us last November and asked if we were interested in field testing a couple of their new merino wool products. It was especially lucky as I was preparing for a 12-day self-supported packrafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, which was scheduled for the middle of December. And as I was told that it could be rather cold in there, I thought that a long sleeve T-shirt and pants would come in handy.

And so, a week before the start of the trip, I received a small package from LOOW, which contained my new T-shirt (T-OLS 220 Longsleeve) and a pair of boxers (B-135).

First Impressions

The T-shirt also came in a “very nice box.” (These are not my words, but the words of my wife who works in printing – I am going to refer to her more often in this article as she is an ‘expert’ on many things). “Can I please have it?” she asked me, once I unpacked it.  

When it comes to the t-shirt, the first thing I have to say is that I immediately liked the fabric it’s made from. It feels thicker than that of my regular Icebreakers (even the 200 ones). And it is also very soft. So soft, in fact, that my wife positively commented on it (fabric softness seems to be another area of her expertise). Though it was size L, my regular size, the cut’s a bit loose, which made it more of a ‘regular’ fit than the ‘slim’ fit I am used to in my Icebreakers.

Inside the box, besides the T-shirt itself, there was a tiny leaflet with extended care instructions in English. “Soak, rinse, squeeze and hang dry” – this is a summary of what you need to do to give your T-shirt a simple wash. (I took a picture of it with my mobile just in case I misplace it late on).

Unlike the T-shirt, the boxers came in a small resealable bag (with some basic product information and care instructions of their own) and were made from 135 gr merino wool fabric, which should be light and breathable. In general, I really like the boxers as they are my preferred type of underwear. And the first impression of the cut and the way these ones were sawn together was very positive. Well, mostly positive, I should say – at the back, where the two sides of the elastic band were joined together, there was a rather ‘unseemly’ seem that drew my attention. I have rather sensitive skin and, usually, if there are seams like that, my skin starts to chafe very quickly. The same sometimes happens if there is a label there. And whereas these boxers did not have any separate labels to speak of (just a tiny one with the name of the company and the care instructions printed on the fabric itself), I felt that the seam might cause problems. “Oh, well, let’s give it a try anyway,” I thought to myself.

picture taken by Tyler Marlow “Giving it a try”

And a try I gave. First, I wore the T-shirt and the boxers on my 30+-hour journey to the Grand Canyon – from Warsaw, through Amsterdam and Los Angeles to Phoenix and on Flagstaff, where I gave them the recommended simple wash (good thing I had the instructions on my mobile). Second, I put them on the fourth day of our 12-day paddling trip after I went for the quick and only whole body wash (the Colorado River in December is not very inviting to bathe in it often, I am afraid, and I only used water wipes to keep myself clean), wore them as the base layer under my dry suit and I took them off at the take-out point on the last day, altogether wearing them for almost 9 days. And during all this time, to my surprise, the seam did not only chafe but I actually completely forgot of its existence.  

As I did not have time to wash and dry the T-shirt and the boxers properly, I put them in a plastic bag and brought them back home.  “Honey,” I asked my wife, who is also an ‘expert’ on all things smelly. “Can you please smell this?” and handed her the bag. (Just to avoid any misunderstandings, I want to stress that I checked it first and it was ok.)  “They don’t smell fresh, but they do not stink either,” she told me after inspecting the items within. And this, in my opinion, is major praise if you consider the conditions in which they were used.

Conclusion

Since coming back from the Grand Canyon trip at the end of December, I have been regularly wearing the T-shirt and the boxers both on my trips and to work. I have also washed them a dozen of times (by hand and in a machine), and so far, the fabric remains soft, and the items have not lost their shape. Nor are there any holes or discolorations. All this makes me believe that these LOOW products, “Made in EU, Knitted in Denmark”, are worth buying.

Merino Wool T-Shirt and Boxers by LOOW
Positives
100% merino wool
Very soft
Order resistant
No extra labels - all information printed on the fabric itself
'Knitted in Denmark'
Negatives
'Regular' fit - I would prefer 'slim' fit instead
Very 'pronounced' seam on the boxers
4.5
Score
Conclusion
High-quality and comfortable merino wool T-shirt and boxers that can be worn on long trips as well as in everyday life.
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4.5
Score

A while ago Ortlieb provided me with a free Gear-Pack for testing. The Gear-Pack is nice for single day trips or as a carry-on bag when flying with the plane.

However, for multiday trips I needed a solution where I have lots of space since I usually carry lots of gear (including photo equipment) with me and after browsing a while on the Ortlieb website I found the Big-Zip 140L.

Features

The Ortlieb Big-Zip comes with a TIZIP which is produced in Germany as well which is waterproof and pressure-resistant. There is also a handle on the end of the zipper to assist in closing the bag.

Within the bag you can find two tightening straps which are very useful when you want to close the bag with the zipper. It probably also protects the zipper a bit from pressure.

The Ortlieb Big-Zip is made of tough welded fabric PD620 which makes the bag quite durable. The bag is also quite light with its 1595 grams for the 140 liters model.

Here you can see a video about the Ortlieb Big-Zip which I tool in Sipoonkorvi National Park in Finland:

Orlieb Big-Zip 4K - First Test - For longer trips with packraft and camera gear. - YouTube

How to carry the Big-Zip

The Ortlieb Big-Zip can be carried in different ways. You can either use the padded carrier handles to carry it, you can carry it over the shoulder or just like a backpack.

Advantages and Disadvantages

I like the color of the Ortlieb Big-Zip. The bright yellow color makes it easy to spot the bag when you have to pick it up after the flight. But it’s also a nice color for taking pictures (at least from my point of view). Moreover, it fits to the color of my packraft and my Ortlibe Gear-Pack.

The main advantage of the Big-Zip 140L from my point of view as a packrafter is that its 140 liters offer plenty of space, is light and can be folded together easily to fit into the cargo fly of my packraft. Moreover, it is waterproof like all the other Ortlieb gear. I would also say that the design of the bag is a bit minimalistic which helps to keep things simple but also to have less attachment points where the bag can get stuck.

If I could think of one disadvantage to use this bag as a backpack then it would be the missing hip belt if I would compare it to a backpack. However, the Big-Zip was probably not designed to be a backpack as such and it also makes the bag more leightweight and keeps the footprint small. A small inner pocket would be nice to store small items such as keys or coins.

The perfect Ortlieb bag setup

However, if I could choose for my perfect Ortlieb set-up then I would probably go for the Big-Zip 140L and the Ortlieb Attrack backpack since it can be opened like the Big-Zip and this makes it much easier just to throw in and search for gear.

For longer trips, where I don’t want to carry the Big-Zip with me on-site I would probably prefer to take the Ortlieb Duffle RS with me which comes with wheels. Especially when you have to carry your Big-Zip over long distances you might feel the difference of having tires over carrying the bag.

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Backcountry.com
Ortlieb Big-Zip 140L review
Positive
Quality materials and durable fabric.
Can be carried in different ways.
Quite light for its volume.
Negative
Inner pocket to store small items.
4.5
Score
Conclusion
Durable waterproof bag which comes with quality materials and different carrying options. Currently, my bag for adventures where I use my packraft.
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The Flight

On April 29th it was again time to fly to Slovenia for the annual European Packrafting Meetup and to visit a view other places in Slovenia.

On that day, I arrived already earlier at the airport to take pictures from the visitor terrace which is located on top of the Scandic Hotel.

I recently bought a Sony 100-400mm lens for my A7III camera to take pictures at the Packrafting Meetup but also on the Nightless Night Photo workshop which I am going to attend in Inari in Finnish Lapland at the end of June.

After taking some good shots from landing planes at the airport it was time to get into the plane. I had to rearrange my bags a bit since I had one kilogram too much in my Ortlieb BigZip which can store 140L.

My Finnair flight AY1201 left Helsinki at 16.40.

On the Finnair plane I always order blueberry juice and black tea as a complimentary drink. However, it took some time to get those drinks as the plane was fully booked.

I have made a reservation for a rental car with Avantcar in advance. I paid around 180 EUR for one week inclusive full insurance and a second person being able to drive the car.

Once I met Konstantin at the airport, we picked up our rental car and drove 2 hours to our destination, Camp Liza in Bovec, where we checked in and pitched our tent at the area which was already reserved for us.

Bovec – Camp Liza

Our tent at Camp Liza in Bovec.

Caj talking with Seon in Camp Liza where we pitched our tents during the European Packrafting Meetup.

In camp Liza we purchased wood for 5 EUR to make a fire and to boil water and grill sausages.

There were also many spots at the camp site where we could dry our gear.

This year we were however not that lucky with the weather during the meetup and after 3 rainy days we decided to take an appartment in Bovec which was located just next to the local grocery store (Mercator).

The rooms were very clean and we were able to dry our camping and packrafting gear during the night in the apartment since we tried to avoid not not exceed the weight limit.

The price of the apartment which we found on booking.com was also reasonable and we paid around 35 EUR per person.

Rescue 3 Europe – Whiteweater Rescue Technician Course

My new safety gear which I bought for the Rescue 3 Europe Whiteweater Rescue Technician Course – Astral Green Jacket, Astral Dyneema Water Rescue Throw rope with bag and Astral web toe, NRS Co-Pilot knife and Fox 40 whistle.

Seon from Packrafting Europe explaining safety gear during the Rescue 3 Europe Whiteweater Rescue Technician Course.

Our instructor teached showed us how to make knots.

European Packrafting Meetup

This year we had plenty of workshops during the meetup ranging from Whitewater Technics, rope throwing, Eddy turns or First Aid basics.

The workshops were held by volunteers and I think they are quite useful to improve or refresh your packrafting skills.

We had a couple of presentations during the meetup. Gabriel from Outventurous was talking about his trip to Greenland and Konstantin Gridnevskiy from HikeVentures was talking about the Grand Canyon Packrafting trip.

I found both presentations really nice as Gabriel had plenty of pictures and videos to show (even some shot with a drone), while Konstantin gave more a lecture style presentation as he is also a lecturer at a University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

Beside the presentations there were also a few other events. There was a raffle where many of us won small prices such as T-Shirts or vouchers. The raffle was part of the BBQ party which took place on the last evening of the meetup.

Moreover, there was a video evening where we watched videos about river conservation.

From Camp Liza in Bovec we hiked up to the upper Soča river where we inflated our packrafts.

Koberid

One of the meetup days was very rainy and the zipper of my dry suit broke so I decided to look for alternative activities which are not water based.

I took the car and drove to Kobarid to visit a museum about the First World War as I am also interested in History.

What I have learned was that the whole Soca Valley was basically a battle field. On one side there were the Italians and on the other side the Austrian-Hungarian Empire allied with the Germans.

The Italians lost the battle at the end since the Germans bombed the whole valley with gas and then moved into the area with their infantry. The battle was won after only 3 days. Below you can see one of the remaining trenches from the First World War.

Piran

After the European Packrafting Meetup we decided to drive to the Adriatic Sea.

Konstantin who has spent already one months during a summer school in Piran was our guide. When I was younger, I always spent my summer holidays at the Mediterranean Sea (mainly Italy and France) since it was only a one day to drive with the car from my home town at the Bodensee.

After hours of driving we were always excited to see the Mediterranean Sea opening up in front of us. And it was the same when we got closer to Piran – suddenly there was the Adriatic Sea.

Once we parked the car we walked into the city center, taking pictures and decided to have lunch in one of the many small restaurants. I ordered Spaghetti with Gorgonzola and a mixed salad while Konstantin had a fish soup and Squids.

After lunch we walked along the coast and and took pictures and videos of the raging sea. Far away we were also able to see the Julian Alps covered with snow and Container Ships traveling to Kopper – which is probably the most important harbor in the area.

Piran reminded me a bit about Venice – the tower with the clock and the lion with the book were probably signs that Piran was influenced by Venice.Konstantin told me that the book of the lion indicates if the building with the lion was built during war (closed book) or during peace time (open book).

We also visited two churches and concluded the day with ice cream before we jumped into the car to drive back to Ljubljana. On the way back we were also able to see the salt plants in the sea which was also quite impressive.

The 46,45 metre-high bell tower with 146 steps.

Ljubljana

Once we reached Ljubljana with our car we dropped off Tom and looked for our own apartment where we left our bags before we explored the city.

The most impressive places to visit was the bridge with the dragon (there is a legend that a dragon lives under the castle) and the castle where we had a great view over the city and the Julian Alps.

Ljubljana Castle

The castle has been greatly renovated after the Second World War and is now a highlight for tourists and locals with a coffee place, restaurant, museum and a souvenir shop. If you are too lazy to walk the hill up to the castle you can also take the cable car which costs around 2.20 EUR one way.

At the castle we found a model which explained different parts and sections of the castle.

From the castle we had a fabolous view over Ljubljana and towards the Julian Alps.

Once we walked down the hill from the castle back to the city we decided to have Falafel in an Arabic Restaurant. The meal was very delicious and not too pricey (around 7.50 EUR).

Ljubljana reminded me a bit of Turku in Finland since it also has a river which flows through the city. There were many old buildings, shops and restaurants too.

Vintgar Gorge

After I dropped Konstantin at the airport in Ljubljana I decided to visit the Vintgar Gorge which was just a 35 min drive by car from the airport.

The entry fee to the Vintgar Gorge was 9 EUR and I also had to pay 5 EUR to park my car. However, I would say that the visit was worth the price.

The Vintgar Gorge was found in 1891 and was opened to the public in 1893 and tourists can walk over a trail which has been constructed. The highlight is the 16m high waterfall Sum which is also one of the highest waterfalls in Slovenia.

The Vintgar Gorge can be entered from two sides. 

Julian Alps

Flight back to Finland

After my trip to the Vintgar Gorge, I returned my rental car, checked in and met a few other Finnish guys who have also been at the European Packrafting Meetup.

Then it was time to get on the plane where I connected my Logitech Keys To Go Keyboard to my iPhone and wrote this article during the flight.

It is now 9 pm in the evening and there is still light when I look out of the window of the plane. Konstantin has probably already arrived in the Netherlands and sits in the train to Leeuwarden – his home town.

In 45 min I will arrive in Helsinki. One more adventure completed and more to come …

If you want to see our trip in a nutshell you can watch our Slovenia video (subscribe to our YouTube channel if you like this video to see more adventures from us in the future).

One week in Slovenia - Packrafting, Piran, Ljubljana and Vintgar Gorge - YouTube

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I am a Sony A7III user and had used two lenses in the past. The Sony 24mm f1.4 and the Sony 70-200mm f4. I really enjoyed shooting with both lenses but realised that I would like to get more out of my camera or to expand my creativity.

Sony 100-400mm

I decided that I had to sell one lens and replace it with a new one. Since I really liked my Sony 24mm f1.4, as I also use this lens for astrophotography and video (here you can check my YouTube channel) I decided to replace my Sony 70-200mm f4 with the Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS to get more reach. Initially, I was playing with the thought to get the 70-200mm f2.8 but realised that I take most of my pictures outside and that there are more creative opportunities for me if I would get the Sony 100-400mm instead.

A new lens like the Sony 100-400mm also required me to buy a new camera bag shich should have a small footprint as well in order to be able to take it to more extended trips or into my packraft. Here are the camera bags which I found most interesting (I got the Lowepro):

Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AW II Camera Case

Moreover, I also bought the Lowepro Lens Case 9x13cm to attach my Sony 24mm f1.8 to the Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AW II.

The second option would have been the Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 30 V2.0. However, I decided to go with the Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AW II Camera Case as I read that some found it difficult to get the lens in and out. Moreover, there was not a dedicated system to attach another lens on it.

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As part of my Master’s Degree Programme in Governance of Digitalization at the Åbo Akademi in Turku (Finland), I am required to write a Master Thesis. Since I have previously studied Tourism Management, I was interested to see how digitalization affects Tourism and decided to write my Master Thesis about the needs or smart tourists towards a smart destination. As a base of this study, I have used an article from the Service Industries Journal: “Towards a conceptualization of smart tourists and their role within the smart destination scenario” by Barbara Neuhofer, Francisco Femenina-Serra and Josep Ivars Baidal. 

By identifying the needs of smart tourists towards smart destinations, new services can be created which are based on these needs.

You can participate in this survey by clicking the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PKVDSVP

If you are interested to read about the survey results you can bookmark this blog post. The results will be published here in May or latest in June.

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Last weekend I went to Vantaankoski where we had favourable water conditions for packrafting due to the melting ice. This was my first proper packrafting day after the winter here in Finland. In the past this area was somewhat industrial with mills but now it’s a perfect spot to go through the rapid with your packraft when spring is near.

Packrafting Vantaankoski - YouTube

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Yeti Fever Zero and Argon Vest - ISPO Review - YouTube
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Review ISPO 2016 - TomTom Bandit 4K Action Camera and Runner 2 GPS watch - YouTube
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Thule Legend GoPro Backpack, Advanced Case and Case - ISPO Review - YouTube
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Review ISPO 2016 - Subtech Sports Pro Drybag 45L - YouTube
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