MJ Smoot

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A Practical Camping Guide for the Non-Outdoorsy

Posted by MJ Smoot on Apr 30, 2021 5:07:54 PM

Practical Camping Guide for the Non-Outdoorsy

Over the past year, the great outdoors has become a haven for people looking to escape the confines of the pandemic. Public spaces and lands are thriving as a result, with more people venturing to local trails, waterways, and campgrounds. For many, outdoor adventures are a new thing and a weekend trip to a local campground can be quite an intimidating experience. The good news is that there is plenty of space for everyone on public lands, and with a little research and preparation, a weekend camping trip to your local campground will not feel so daunting.  

As a seasoned outdoorsman, I too find trips to new places to be filled with uncertainty, often presenting more questions than answers. During my research of campgrounds, I’ve noticed that information for the first-time camper is often limited to what is referred to as “the 10 essentials”. What is missing are those practical insights that answer important questions like, “Where am I going to poo? Is there a place to shower? And more importantly, will there be coffee?”

Fear not my city slicker friends–I have put together a more practical list of camping tips for the non-outdoorsy. We’ll start with the basics, and by the end of this post you will have some great resources to help prepare you for your next, or first, camping trip.

 

Guide Tip #1: Don’t Trust Your Outdoorsy Friends

Camping Tips for First-Timers

(Pictured here: your outdoorsy friend MJ)

That’s right, I’m contradicting myself with tip #1. As your outdoorsy friend, I’m REALLY excited that you’re expressing an interest in camping and my brain is racing with images of all of the picturesque places I’ve been and that I’d love for you to experience. However, that enthusiasm could lead you down the wrong path. While I’m foaming at the mouth to tell you about my secret camping spot on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), you may not be ready for that. Camping on public lands can be confusing. There are often no designated campgrounds nor facilities and can be miles down dirt roads far from the nearest cell phone signal.

Rather than take your friend’s word for the perfect camping spot, do your own research of the area. Search for places where you can make reservations ahead of time. This way you’ll be guaranteed a cozy place to camp for the night. Oh, and make your reservations as early as possible. Many campgrounds are fully reserved 3-6 months in advance.

Here are a few camping reservations sites that I have found to be helpful when looking for the perfect place to camp:

  • Recreation.gov – This site has information for campgrounds of all types and is likely where you’ll end up when looking for a campsite at a National Park or with the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
  • The Dyrt – The Dyrt’s user-generated database has lots of campground reviews and images from people just like you with information about all types of campsites, including some that are well off the beaten path.
  • HipCamp – Looking for something untraditional? HipCamp is the Airbnb of camping with sites available from private landowners.

 

Guide Tip #2: Choose Your Own Adventure

Camping for Beginners

Camping doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Whether you are looking to rough it in the woods for the weekend or a blissful glamping experience, choose a shelter that most closely matches the experience you are going for. Some shelter options to consider are as follows.

Tent Camping in UtahTent Camping – You’ll need the appropriate gear for this method. Other than a tent, you’ll need something to sleep in and on. Sleeping bags and sleeping pads come in a variety of styles and perhaps the most important factor for you to consider is what the weather will be like at night. Colder nights call for warmer sleeping bags and insulated pads. As a non-outdoorsy camper, this method can feel intimidating and the cost of all this gear can get expensive. Rather than buying everything you will need, check with your local outdoor store to see if they have a rental program or ask your outdoorsy friends to borrow gear. Chances are that they’ll be happy to outfit you with camping gear if they’re not already planning to use it. 


Popup Trailer CampingTrailer + RV Camping – For those of you that are not interested in sleeping in the dirt, or that like the privacy of your own bathroom, a trailer or RV rental may be what you are looking for. The website Outdoorsy has everything from small teardrop trailers to large Class A RVs for rent, outfitted with everything you will need for a night out of the city or a week on the road. This is also a great option to consider if you have a fear of unwelcome encounters with wildlife or the weather. Trailers and RVs provide a hard-sided shelter to help minimize those fears so that you can get a good night’s rest. 

 


Glamping TipsGlamping + Cabin Rentals – Glamping, or glamorous camping, and cabin rentals are a great way for the non-outdoorsy to have a unique experience. These options often have more of those creature comforts we are all used to like running water, electricity, and even WiFi. They can also be pretty swanky! While you can find many cabins on VRBO and Airbnb, the website Glamping.com is a great source for finding those unique, Instagram-worthy places that you see in your feed.

 

 

Guide Tip #3: Optimize Your Gear

Essential Camping Gear

Remember those ten essentials I mentioned earlier? They are a key part of being prepared for any adventure into the outdoors. You’ll find the standard list of the ten essentials below along with a few practical essentials from my personal packing list.

 

The Ten Essentials

Camping Packing Checklist

  1. Navigation – If you plan to do any hiking or exploring, you’ll want to bring a map along with a compass, GPS device and/or your smartphone with a downloaded trail app like AllTrails or Gaia GPS.
  2. Sun Protection – There is nothing worse than trying to sleep with a sunburn or getting a headache from too much bright light. Be sure to pack your sunglasses, a hat, and some sunscreen. This is especially true at higher elevations where the UV rays are more intense than at lower elevations. Long sleeves and other UV shielding clothing can also be quite helpful while keeping you cool. As a plus, long sleeve shirts are also great for keeping bugs off of you.
  3. Illumination­ – A great headlamp and lantern are enough to keep the party going when the sun goes down. Whether you’re planning a game at the picnic table in your campsite or taking a midnight trip to the bathroom, you’re going to need a light. My favorites are the Radiant 300 Rechargeable Headlamp and Radiant 314 Rechargeable Lantern. If you want to take your campsite from basic to badass, or add a little fun for the kids, then a rope light like the new ShineLine might be the perfect addition to your campsite.
  4. First Aid Kit – You can buy or build your own first aid kit easily with items you may already have around the house. Things like band aids, ointment, and over-the-counter pain relievers are cornerstones of a basic first aid kit, but also be sure to pack any prescription medications you may be taking as well as bug spray. Bugs can be quite unpredictable and very annoying. Most importantly, if you decide to make your own first aid kit, then be sure to put all of the contents in a waterproof bag like the RunOff Travel Pouch to protect these important items from the elements.
  5. Fire – Are you really camping if there’s no campfire or s’mores?! Be sure to bring something to start a campfire, or the grill, as well as a backup way to start a fire in case your primary method doesn’t work (I.E. matches, lighter, fire starter). However, bear in mind that many areas may have fire restrictions, so call your campground ahead of time to make sure, and pack a camp stove or propane fire pit instead if traditional fires are prohibited.
  6. Knife – Bring a sharp knife. You’ll need a knife to help with cooking in particular, but may also need one for unexpected gear repairs, or to whittle yourself the perfect marshmallow roasting stick.
  7. Shelter ­– You are going to want a place to sleep. Be sure you packed your tent before you leave the house and know how to set it up. A little practice setting up the tent at your home can save you loads of time and frustration at camp.
  8. Extra Food – It’s always a good idea to have an extra day’s worth of food in case your plans change, or you need a little snack while you’re on the way to/from camp.
  9. Extra Water – Other than drinking water to stay hydrated, you will likely be using your water to cook and clean. So, bring plenty and drink lots of water especially if you are going to be active during your camping trip.
  10. Extra Clothes – Layer up! One of the wild things about camping is the temperature swings that you might experience throughout the day. It’s not uncommon to be wearing a t-shirt and shorts during the day and a warm jacket and pants at night. Check the weather before you travel to see what to expect, but also be sure to pack for the unexpected. I like to pack clothes that can be easily layered to increase warmth, that dry quickly if wet, and to always have something waterproof like a raincoat. A warm hat, like a beanie, and a baseball cap are also on my packing list. Hats help to keep you warm and shaded, but are also great for hiding your messy hairdo in the morning.

MJ’s Essentials

What to bring camping

  1. Toilet Paper – Seriously though, don’t overlook this. While a campground may have restrooms, I have stayed in quite a few that didn’t have toilet paper when I needed it. Pack your own and you will never be caught with your pants down. 😉
  2. Hand Sanitizer + Soap – Before hand sanitizer was cool, it was an essential part of my packing list. A lot of the places I have camped had minimal facilities with vault toilet (I.E. a big hole in the ground with no sink). You’ll want a way to sanitize your hands after a visit to a place like this, or before making any meals at camp. In addition to the sanitizer, I also bring biodegradable soap with me that I use to wash my hands as well as the dirty dishes.
  3. Games – Have some fun with this one, there are no rules here! While camping I’ve played everything from bocce ball, to dominos, to cards against humanity, to two truths and a lie, and catch with the Flashflight Light-Up Flying Disc (a camp time favorite)! Games that are easy to play for a group of people work best.
  4. Coffee – It’s easy to overlook this morning staple and there are many ways to make coffee while at camp. Pack accordingly. Some brewing options that are also camp-friendly include a percolator, French press, and AeroPress. If all those options sound like too much work, then opt for some instant coffee. Believe it or not, there are some tasty instant coffee options available these days at your local grocery store. You’ll also need a way to boil water for said coffee. The easiest way is to bring a camp stove (or portable burner) and kettle.
  5. Trash Bag – While a campground may have a dumpster, individual campsites do not have trash bins. Bring a few trash bags with you so that you can throw all your trash away at once before you head home.
  6. Wireless Speaker – Not everyone will agree with this but whatever, I want you to have a great time at camp. Adding some music to happy hour while you are prepping dinner can be quite enjoyable at camp. Just be respectful of your neighbors and do not blast the music all night.
  7. Battery Backup – I like to have a way to recharge my headlamp and phone at camp. Like many people, I use my phone for lots of things such as looking up places to hike, for driving directions, and, most importantly, to take pictures.
  8. Crocs – Yup, I said it. Crocs. Slip-on shoes or sandals also work. The point is you are not going to want to wear your shoes or hiking boots all day and night. Having something comfortable and easy to slip on is perfect for lounging around camp, going in and out of the tent, or for a quick trip to the bathroom.

Camping Tips For Non-Outdoorsy People

Thank you for reading this not so tongue-in-cheek practical camping list. I am sure there are some things that I’ve forgotten or that you are still wondering about. Please post your questions or additions to this list in the comments section below to keep the conversation going. If there’s one thing the outdoorsy like to do, it's talking about our gear and sharing our knowledge. Also, be sure to check out the Nite Ize OptimIZE collection for some other fun and practical camping gear.

The adventure  photos in this post were provided by Ali and Garret Photography

Topics: outdoors, Adventure, "travel", camping

How I Tie Down My Gear (And Keep It There)

Posted by MJ Smoot on Jul 23, 2020 10:08:48 AM

How To Tie Down Your Gear And Keep It There

As a rock climber for over 10 years, I never really paid much attention to tie down straps. I was a knot-tier and felt confident that I could secure just about any load with a piece of rope and the right knot. After losing a few items and pulling over to re-tie my loads one too many times, I’ve learned the value of quality tie-downs the hard way. And after years of trial and error, I’ve found the perfect tie-down options for my rig that ended up being a total game changer and time saver. With that said, I’ll jump right into the types of tie down straps that I like carry and some examples of how I’ve used them.

 

Outside the Vehicle

Whenever I am securing something to the outside of my rig – be it the roof rack of a car/SUV or in the bed of a truck – I prefer a tie down option that won’t accidentally come untied. The one that I always have in the storage box of my SUV are the Dual CamJam Tie Down System.

Dual CamJam Tie Down System

The Dual CamJam is great for larger items, and I’ve used mine to secure a lawn mower in a truck bed, mattress and box spring to my roof rack, as well as paddle boards and kayaks. The loop on the end of the webbing makes it easy to attach the strap to one anchor point and the dual cam system on the buckle allows you to rig your system in ways that a traditional cam strap won’t. Such as, wrapping the webbing around your load so that it does not slide around when driving (i.e. a load of 2x4s hanging out of a truck bed). The Dual Camjam also gives you a 3-to-1 mechanical advantage when tightening the webbing, meaning that pound-for-pound, you can put more tension on your load than with a traditional cam strap.

Dual CamJam Tie Down System

Pro Tip: When in doubt, buy a cam strap that comes with a longer webbing length. That way you’ll never come up short, and if you have extra webbing, you can tie up the unused portion so that it doesn’t flap in the wind when you’re driving down the road.

 

Inside the Vehicle

Inside my rig, the CamJam XT Aluminum has been just as handy. I’ve used it to secure a propane tank and cooler to the back of my SUV, not to mention a baby stroller to the side of my cargo area while still allowing enough space for my dog. The CamJam XT has even doubled as a dog leash when I forgot to grab one for a camping trip.

CamJam XT

In other situations, I’ve found the CamJam XT Aluminum to be perfect for securing lightweight items and when there are eyelets to clip onto. To make setup easy, I keep a loop tied in the end of the paracord I use with the XT so that I can loop it over, around, or girth hitched to whatever I’m securing. Then to tighten the line, all I need to do is pull the cord through the CamJam XT and the camming lever on the buckle does the rest. This little tie down has come in handy when securing camping gear on my roof rack, a tarp over dirt in the bed of a truck, and when picking up a Christmas tree during the holidays.

CamJam XT Aluminum

 

The “All-Arounder” Tie Down

There have been more than a few times when the object I want to tie down isn’t quite compatible with a cam strap or paracord, and for these miscellaneous “How am I going to tie this down?” moments, I’ve come to love the versatility of Gear Ties.

Gear Tie Reusable Rubber Twist Tie

These reusable rubber twist ties have a soft, grippy rubber coating that won’t damage whatever they are tied to, nor will they slip or move about when tied to a roof rack or in your car. I’ve used the 32in. and 64in. lengths to bundle and secure pieces of trim molding in my car and have also used the thicker Mega Gear Ties to hold a ladder on my roof rack.

Gear Tie Mega

One of my favorite out-of-the-box uses was when I secured a milk crate to the roof of my SUV to transport firewood during a camping trip to Wyoming and Utah. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts but after driving several hours through Wyoming at 85mph without the milk crate moving, I was sold. With a few twists, those Gear Ties were rock solid!

 

How I Tie Down My Gear (And Keep It There)

Whether you use a cam strap, ratchet, Gear Tie or tie a trucker’s hitch when securing your loads is a matter of personal preference. No matter what method you choose, what is most important is ensuring that your load is secure and won’t come undone on a fast-moving highway, possibly putting other drivers at risk. For this reason alone, I always make sure I have a few tie-downs in my SUV. That way, I never have to worry about being stuck without one and can always lend a hand (or strap) to other drivers stranded on the road after their last-minute tie-down solution failed.

Topics: Gear Ties, Adventure, DIY, Tie Downs

How To Buy The Best Flashlight

Posted by MJ Smoot on Apr 24, 2020 10:12:26 AM

How to buy the best flashlight

Buying a flashlight can be tricky, and often people tend to settle for the least expensive light with the biggest numbers on the packaging only to be disappointed later when the light stops working after a small drop onto the floor. Fear not! I am here to help you sort through all the marketing jargon like “Turbo Mode” and to better understand what really matters; like, what’s a lumen? And, what type of flashlight should I buy for…(insert activity here)?

The first thing to know when shopping for a high-quality flashlight is that all reputable flashlight manufacturers test their flashlights according to the FL1 Standard, and clearly include these specifications on the product packaging. The FL1 Standard, sometimes called ANSI/NEMA FL1 or ANSI/PLATO FL1, specifies the testing criteria that manufacturers must follow when calculating light output (Lumens), beam distance, impact resistance, runtime, and water resistance.

How to buy the best flashlight

How to buy the best flashlightUltimately, the FL1 Standard allows consumers to directly compare flashlights. I won’t go into the details of each specification as there are plenty of good resources online that define each specification (like this one from LED-Resource.com), however, I do want to talk about lumens, as I haven’t found a resource that clearly breaks down what a lumen is in a way that's easy to digest.

 

So, What's a Lumen?

If you look up "lumen," you’ll quickly learn that a lumen is defined as a unit of luminous flux that equates to the perceived power of light. In basic terms, lumens equal brightness. The larger the number of lumens, the brighter the light. It seems simple, but how bright is 300 lumens? Or, how bright is the flashlight on my phone?

To help deconstruct lumens, we have created this handy-dandy chart with things that most people are familiar with and some of our best-selling flashlights and headlamps to help make buying your next flashlight a little easier. Knowing that the full moon on a clear night is 1 lumen, your phone’s flashlight is 50 lumens, or that a low beam car headlight is around 800 lumens makes it much easier to understand how bright a flashlight is.

Other than lumens, there are some other factors that should be considered when finding the high-performance flashlight that is right for you. Here you will find some decision-making criteria to consider along with my personal suggestions for flashlights that fit a variety of uses.

 
Best Flashlight for DIY + Mechanics
INOVA T4R Rechargeable Flashlight

Mechanics can be hard on their tools and a flashlight is no exception. Look for flashlights with impact resistance of at least 1 meter and solid aluminum construction to ensure that the light holds up to rigorous daily use (Pro Tip: make sure the manufacturer has a good warranty policy). Rechargeability is also a preference for many mechanics along with higher lumen outputs, as they are often using a flashlight during the daytime when there is more ambient light to compete with. Flashlights above the 700 lumen mark are great for this type of daily use, and my pick for best DIY + Mechanic flashlight is the INOVA T4R Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight.

 

 

Best Flashlight for Camping or Hunting

INOVA T7R Rechargeable Tactical FlashlightBrighter is not necessarily better when it comes to playing in the outdoors at night when your eyes have adjusted to the darker surroundings. Being able to cast soft lighting around your campsite or to illuminate that noise in the bushes with a spotlight are equally important at times. As is having a light that is more compact and that will not weigh you down if you are backpacking or hunting (Pro Tip: look for weather/water resistance in case you’re caught in a downpour). For campers and hunters, flashlights in the 250-700 lumen range are a great option and I like the INOVA T7R PowerSwitch Focusing Flashlight as my top pick. This compact flashlight offers a focusing beam that allows you to transition between a bright spotlight or broad flood beam. It’s like having two lights in one.

 

Best Flashlight for Emergencies

INOVA T8R Rechargeable Tactical FlashlightWhen it comes to emergencies, any light is better than no light. So rather than thinking about the lumens, I like to consider the power source of the flashlight. Rechargeable lights can be a great option during an emergency, especially when your power is out for an extended period. Then again, if you do not have a way to recharge the flashlight once it has drained the battery then you’ll be back in the dark in no time. My suggestion: seek out a dual power source light that can operate off of a rechargeable battery or disposable battery like the INOVA T8R PowerSwitch Flashlight, which uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery or two CR123 lithium batteries, allowing you to keep extra batteries at the ready in the event that you cannot recharge the flashlight. This brings me to my last point: Lithium batteries are superior to alkaline batteries when it comes to emergency situations. Lithium batteries have a longer shelf life, can stand up to more extreme temperatures, and are lighter than alkaline batteries. Oh, I forgot one important detail. The INOVA T8R also has an SOS mode!

 

Best Flashlight for Everyday Carry (EDC)

Radiant 100 Keychain FlashlightCompact, bright, and durable are the name of the game here. Whether you have a flashlight clipped to your key chain or in your pocket next to your pocket knife, you'll want a flashlight that is conveniently accessible at a moment’s notice that also packs a nice punch. For this, I like flashlights up to 200 lumens and my current favorite is the Radiant 100 Keychain Flashlight. Not much larger than a house key, the Radiant 100 packs 100 lumens – that's twice as bright as your phone's  flashlight, and unlike your phone, can easily be held with your mouth for those times you need hands-free lighting.

 

 

 

 

Best Tactical Flashlight for Search and Rescue

INOVA T11R Rechargeable Tactical FlashlightUnbeatable performance, high impact resistance, far reaching beam distance, a long runtime and water resistance are the hallmarks of the best tactical flashlights for search and rescue teams around the world. To that extent, they come with a higher price tag and in this case, you get what you pay for. At minimum, search and rescue teams require a light that’s brighter than your standard car’s high beams at about 1200 lumens each (2400 lumens for both headlights). At 5800 lumens, with a runtime up to 110 hours and the ability to cast a spotlight over a quarter mile (400m), the INOVA T11R Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight + Power Bank is our top of the line flashlight. To put it lightly, the T11R is a beast! Trusted and tested by some of the hardest working frontline workers around the world.

When it comes to flashlights, there is no “one size fits all” solution and the suggestions above are recommendations based on my personal experiences. As you prepare to purchase your next hand torch, I encourage you to take a few minutes to think about the primary use for your new flashlight and the features that are the most important to you. By doing so, you’ll make a much more informed decision and not be blinded by big numbers or sneaky marketing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, and please let me know what is most important to you when buying a light or why you agree/disagree with any of my points above in the comments below.

Topics: LED Flashlights, Flashflight

Because Size, and Lumens, Matter.

Posted by MJ Smoot on Apr 1, 2017 10:13:12 AM


We all have that friend. That guy in our crew that has every piece of gear he could ever possibly need but that continues to buy the newest, most light weight and high tech gear he can find. You know the type. He's the same guy that's always bragging about the new 50 lumens, 1 gram, 20 setting headlamp that he bought for $200 just before your last camping trip. Well I got news for you, bro. Size matters!

T10 Headband1_SQ.jpgThat's why I stopped playing around with all of those little, kid colored, not bright enough headlamps and stepped my game up to the Mega Headband Flashlight Holder with the Inova T10R Tactical Flashlight + Power BankAt an impressive 3500 lumens with a 6 hour run time, I'm sure to have the brightest, biggest, and most bad ass headlamp on my next camping trip with the guys. 

I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not the lightest or least expensive option out there. But I own a YETI cooler and if I can't keep my beer cold for 30 days or light up the entire campground with my headlamp, then what's the point of camping?

As a wise man once said, "If you're not first, you're last!" So stop playing around with those impractical headlamps that fit in your pack, and be the envy of all your friends by hanging the Mega Headband with T10R off your pack. Because size matters, and you're a big deal!

T10R_BFSQ_0001.jpg

Happy April Fool's Day!

Topics: LED Flashlights, outdoors

Six Tips for First Time Disc Golf Players

Posted by MJ Smoot on Mar 8, 2017 10:00:17 AM

As with any new sport, playing disc golf for the first time can be a little intimidating, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be fun. Whether your friends invited you out for a round, or you decided to try it yourself, I’d like to say, “Congratulations, and welcome to the most laid back intense sport you'll ever play!"

DG-Blog-5.jpg“What is disc golf?” you ask. Disc golf is very similar to traditional golf. However, the game is played with a flying disc rather than a ball and clubs. The object of the game is to complete each hole in as few strokes (throws) as possible. Play begins when a player throws a disc from a tee area towards a hole (disc golf basket). The player then makes each consecutive throw from the spot where their throw landed until they have successfully thrown the disc into the hole. A round of disc golf is typically 9 or 18 holes.

Disc golf is a fun, low cost sport that just about anyone can play. All you need are a few discs and a basket, and you’re in business. With new courses popping across the country, there’s likely to be one near you, and it may even be free to play as many city parks are have courses open to the public. If you’re looking for a place to play, then check out the course directory map on the Professional Disc Golf Association's website by clicking here.

Disclaimer--I’m no pro. I’d hardly even consider myself a “good” amateur player. But I have learned a few things playing disc golf over the past few years that I wish I had known when I got started. If you’re new to the game, or thinking about playing for the first time, then here are six tips to help get you started from an average Joe. For those seasoned players, let this blog post be a reminder of what your first days on the course were like and please share any additional tips you have in the comments below.

  1. Be Patient—Embrace your status as the “new guy/gal”. You’re not going to be the best player on the course, and that’s okay. Relax, and laugh at yourself when the disc goes nowhere near where you intended to throw it. Just have fun and do your best. The best players in the world were beginners once and even they still throw their discs into trees, lakes and other obstructions now and again.

  2. Keep It Simple—One of the first things you’ll notice is other players carrying golf bags with 20+ discs in them. You don’t need all that. If you can’t throw one disc well, then what good is a whole bag of discs going to do? My recommendation is to purchase a driver, a mid-range and a putter when you get started. Then, go to a field and practice throwing them. Yes, practice. It’s important to get a basic feel for how to throw the discs and the different flight characteristics of each. Chances are pretty good that one of those discs will feel, and fly, a lot better for you than the others. That’s the one you should play with the most when you get started. There’s nothing wrong with throwing only one disc during a round. As you develop your skills then consider adding more discs to your game.

    Nite Ize's David Waisblum practices his backhand throw at the GoPro Mountain Games

  3. Learn to Throw Forehand and Backhand—Now that you’ve decided to practice throwing, there are two types of throws you should learn first. The forehand and backhand. Why these? Because their flightpaths are entirely different and you may be better at throwing one way versus the other. By better, I mean more accurate and able to throw a further distance. For the right-handed player, a backhand throw will fade to the left at the end of its flight path where a forehanded throw will fade to the right (this is opposite for lefties). By learning how to throw each of these, you’ll be able to navigate around trees and other obstacles to get your disc closer to the basket.

  4. Hole 4 at the Blue Ribbon Pines Disc Golf CoursePlay the Course—Intuitively we all start out playing by thinking that we should throw directly at the basket, but what if there is a tree in the way? Instead of thinking about getting closer to the basket, try thinking about how you can set yourself up for having a clear shot at the basket on your next throw. Throwing a shorter shot to a clearing that gives you a clear second shot at the basket will be better than a longer throw that’s behind a bush. Seems simple, but it’s one of the easiest things to overlook when you’re playing.

  5. Go with Experienced Players—The disc golf course is a judgement free zone, especially for the “noob”. We were all noobs once too, and we want you to love the game like we do. Playing with people that are better than you will help you to develop your own strategy, skills, and may also give you some inspiration to practice and get better. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I will caution you, however. Disc golfers love to give advice coaching to noobs. Be receptive and open to what they want to teach you, but decide for yourself which techniques work best for you. If you really want to hone in on certain techniques, then do a quick search on YouTube as there are a lot of technique videos online that you can learn from. Or, tune in to the live broadcasts of the Disc Golf Pro Tour and learn from the pros.

    The crew gears up for a night round with the Flashflight LED Disc Golf discs
  6. Have Fun—I can’t emphasize this enough. Have fun! Once you develop your basic skills, then you can think about shooting a low score. Until then, celebrate your good shots, laugh and learn from your bad shots, and play in a variety of places with a variety of people. One of my most memorable rounds of disc golf when I first got started was playing at night with a group of friends. Playing at night helps you to relax and focus on the fundamentals as you’re not able to see the obstacles that may be in your way and you can concentrate solely on throwing the disc. Some of my most memorable shots have come at night when I had no idea what I was throwing at, and instead let the disc fly with purpose towards the glowing basket.

I hope that you’ve learned something from my tips, and that you’ve realized that disc golf is about having a good time. At least, that’s what the game means to me. It’s a low cost sport that just about anyone can play, and that doesn’t take a lot of time to learn. If you’re a disc golfer and think there’s something else beginners should know, then please add your own tip to the comments below.

Now, get out there and play some disc!


If you’re ready to start playing disc golf, or are looking for some new discs to add to your bag, then check out the Flashflight LED Disc Golf discs. Check out the discs here.

Topics: Fun & Games, Disc Golf, Flying Disc, Flashflight

What's Hot at the 2017 Outdoor Retailer Winter Show

Posted by MJ Smoot on Jan 25, 2017 11:00:24 AM
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast then you already know that the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, Utah is the place to be for new releases of the latest and greatest outdoor gear. Taking place twice a year during the winter and summer (January and August in 2017), the OR Show is a gathering place for outdoor equipment and apparel brands, both large and small, to showcase their product lines to retailers and members of the media. It’s also one of the shows where we, Nite Ize, release our newest products.

While this year’s OR Winter Market seemed to be a little quieter than last year’s show, new product releases from manufacturers kept the crowd buzzing with enthusiasm. When I had a chance to wander from the Nite Ize booth, I discovered a wide range of new products, some not so noticeable to the naked eye, that really caught my attention. Here are some of the items that I found most interesting.

  1. CM-EVA-Snowshoe.jpgCrescent Moon EVA—Gone are the days of flat, framed snowshoes. The new EVA foam snowshoe with a rockered platform from Crescent Moon is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and does not require a hinge under the foot thanks to the rockered shape design. For someone like myself who is a “weekend warrior” when it comes to snowshoeing (you won’t catch me doing any winter backpacking), the Crescent Moon EVA provides a great solution to get outside and play in the snow. Look for them in the fall of 2017.

  2. Goal Zero’s Yeti Fuel—When I think of Goal Zero, solar panels and lithium power cells is generally what comes to mind. The new Yeti Fuel, a gas power generator, stands apart from this traditional way of thinking while boasting a claim of being “20 times more efficient” than other similar generators, according to Goal Zero. For anyone who doesn’t drive a Sprinter van with solar panels on the roof, the Yeti Fuel is a great option for keeping devices charged and ready to go at basecamp, or for use during Nite Ize’s events where a battery cell won’t quite provide enough juice.

  3. Goal Zero-Yeti Fuel.jpggoTenna Mesh—For those of us that take our smartphones into the backcountry, the goTenna Mesh will help keep us connected by providing a private off-grid network that allows connection with other goTenna users through the goTenna app. While the device won’t connect you with non-goTenna users, it’s a great way to stay connected with other parties in your group when your paths take you in different directions or to use when traveling to foreign countries where you don’t have cell phone service.

  4. Patagonia’s Hyper Das Insulation—While the new Hyper Das Insulation from Patagonia is not something that you’ll be able to see, you’ll surely feel the warmth when wearing it. Boasted as Patagonia’s warmest synthetic insulation, the accordion like construction is very puffy and compressible making it great as an alternative to the classic down insulation. As someone who loves down jackets, the new synthetic insulations coming to the market are catching my attention by providing as much warmth as down, compressing into small packable sizes, and having the ability to quickly dry or keep you warm when wet. Keep an eye out for the new Hyper Das insulation that will be available in jackets from Patagonia this fall.

  5. Nite Ize’s Dual CamJam Tie Down System—I couldn’t write this post without talking about the new Dual CamJam as it received quite a bit of attention during the show. The new Dual CamJam Tie Down System has people rethinking how they get their gear from point A to point B. Unlike traditional tie down straps, the Dual CamJam Webbing Tensioner (ie. the buckle) is not attached to the webbing allowing it to create an anchor point anywhere along the length of the strap. This results in a more versatile tie down system that is easy to setup, allows you to use the full length of the webbing in your rigging, and is compatible with most 1” wide flat or tubular webbing. But my favorite feature, you can use it to rig a hammock!

Even after three full days on the show floor, I couldn’t quite cover everything that was new or exciting at the show and I’d love to hear from you if there was something that caught your eye. If there was something that jumped out at you, then please let me know by posting a comment below.

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. I was not compensated in any additional way for this review, and have used images provided by the retailers to help compile this review. I’ll also note that my personal interests skew towards backpacking, snowboarding, climbing, hiking, trail running, traveling, photography, and mountain biking.

Topics: Tradeshows, Outdoor Retailer Show, OR Winter Market, outdoors

Through the Lion’s Lair with Leo Lesperance – Interview by Matt Smoot

Posted by MJ Smoot on Jan 12, 2017 4:39:43 PM
Green-Mt-From-Sanitas.jpg

-Looking south towards Green Mountain near the summit of Mt. Sanitas (Boulder, CO)

For most trail runners, a lap around the Lion’s Lair Loop that summits Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, CO is quite an accomplishment. At 5.3 miles in length with over 1,300’ in elevation gain, the Lion’s Lair Loop is the type of run (or hike for that matter), that your average weekend warrior may feel like running once or twice a year. While Nite Ize’s Leo Lesperance may consider himself a “runner”, his epic total of 109 summits of Mt. Sanitas during 2016 is anything but average, it’s extraordinary.

I had a chance to speak with Leo about his 2016 goal of completing 100 laps on Mt. Sanitas, and to learn what he had in store for 2017. As you’ll discover, Leo is just getting started. (What follows are excerpts from an interview with Leo Lesperance in November of 2016 where we discussed how he got started running, what motivates him, and some run safety tips that Leo uses to stay safe while on the run).

  • Leo-Running.jpgHow long have you been running, and how did you get started? I’ve been running for a bit more than 4 years, and I started running because the company I was working for gave us pedometers and paid us to get steps. It kind of made sense, eventually I figured out that if I run I get those steps faster and I could be done doing it sooner. That’s how I got started. Started walking, turned into running.

  • Would you consider yourself to be a “runner” or identify yourself in some other way?  Maybe, maybe I’m a runner. You might be a runner if you’re running more than 30 miles a week on a regular basis.  I love running! It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do.

  • When I first heard that you set a goal of running 100 laps on Mt. Sanitas, I was blown away. That’s not an easy feat! When did you decide to run 100 laps on Mt. Sanitas?  I had run it on January 1st as a New Year’s run with a bunch of my friends, and maybe the next week when my friend said, “Oh hey, I know you had a really good Strava segment but sorry, I beat your time!” That kind of got me started, and I ended up saying, “Well, I can do this at least every Friday,” and by the end of January it turned into, “I can get 100 of these (laps on Mt. Sanitas) done by the end of the year.”

    View-Lions-Lair-Snow.jpg
                                                                                                                                                 -A view from the Lion's Lair Loop on Mt Sanitas

  • What do you like about running?  Have you seen any of the pictures that I post!?  Sunrises, mountain tops, the connection with nature when you’re outside which might lead to your next question. I’m a trail runner more than a road runner. It’s where I find peace; it’s where I find time to unravel my brain.

  • Do you still run on the road?  I don’t run on the road if I can avoid it. It makes me nervous. I don’t really like running alongside cars.  Especially, you know, with everybody on their phones and Facebook and Instagram. It’s definitely a concern.

  • What can you do as a runner to feel safer, and to be more visible while you’re running? Wear bright clothes, reflective gear, put lights on, headlamp or armbands. Anything that helps to attract other people’s attention. I get a lot of attention when I run with ShoeLits. People always tell me that those (ShoeLits) are the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. I usually wear the green or blue.

    My favorite time to run is when I can time my run to be somewhere when the sun rises which means I’m starting in the dark. And, my favorite Nite Ize product is the Radiant 250 Rechargeable Headlamp. I don’t use (run with) the spot light. I use the flood light, usually on low. On the trail it’s pretty perfect because there’s no other light, you don’t need a whole lot of light, and it radiates the right amount of light for what I need to see without being too harsh or have sharp edges. The spot light on that is pretty good too, but it’s brighter than I need for most trail runs.

    Leo-Sanitas-Summit.jpg
                                                                                                  -Leo on the summit of Mt Sanitas with the Indian Peaks in the background

  • Are there any other pieces of gear that you love to run with?  My phone. My phone has a kick ass camera and the reason I love running in nature is so that I can see it, and that I can look at it again.

  • Has there been a time that you’ve felt scared while on a trail run?  There are a number of times that I should have felt scared, but for some reason didn’t.  I think I’ve seen seven bears in the four years that I’ve been running, and one of them I almost ran into because I didn’t see it until the last second.  And, there have been two occasions that I tripped. The last time my friends were like, “I don’t know how you did what you did but one second your flying with your face and knee headed for a big rock, and the next second you did something to miss them both.”

    Bear.jpg
    -The bear that Leo almost ran into


  • Other than running, what activities do you participate in?  Y’know, the usual things.  Backcountry skiing, mountain biking, track cycling, climbing and ice hockey.

  • What are your goals for 2017? Hmmm. I think one of your other questions was, “What inspires you to run?” So, I’m going to start with that because I got into trail running by a colleague that I worked with who led a group run.

    He said, “Come on this Wednesday for a 5:30am run,” and I did it. It was my first time running a trail, Mt. Sanitas, during a downpour in late October. And, I didn’t miss that group (run) for another three years after that. Through that group I’ve met a number of friends, and they are all ultra-runners. Four of them are “Lead Men”. So, there’s some peer pressure to join that club. I also signed up for my first 50 mile ultra-race in February (2017).

    Sanitas-Summit.jpg

    -The summit of Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, CO



Topics: Run Safety

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