Otterbox 3500, is it really waterproof?

It’s been raining here for literally weeks so I took this time to field test the Otterbox 3500. The Otterbox 3500 securely holds a handheld Canon HD video camera, GoPro camera, Garmin handheld GPS, and a handful of other small accessories. At 8x5x4 (approx) it easily fits in my backpack and I’ve used it for a couple of months without any problems.
I really wanted to test the waterproof claims and this rainy weather gave me the perfect opportunity. Enjoy the video below:

Four days, one back pack….can I really do this?

This isn’t going to fit……I said as I looked at the pile of clothes and gear on the bed. I was heading to North Carolina for the weekend and was determined to take just my back pack. I’m not a light traveler, so this was going to be a challenge, but that was part of the reason for the trip.

I could see myself getting on the plane, placing the pack under the seat, and easily disembarking upon arrival. No bag check, no fees, no waiting at the baggage claim, and no worries about trunk space. Just grab and go.

Making it work:
A little clarification is in order; my back pack is not like the large, steel framed one I carried for four days in the Grand Canyon. It’s what I call a commuter back pack that is the perfect size for traveling because it snugly fits (gets close enough), under the seat on commercial flights. In spite of it’s small size, it has been to a lot of cool places and as I write this, it’s packed for another adventure.

I was heading to the mountains, which were cold so I carried layers. First were my clothes: zip off pants, shirts, rain jacket, and socks. Next up was my DLSR with 18-200mm lens, and a water tight container that housed two video cameras and their mounting/cabling accessories. Ok, that took up all of the space. I still had my fleece jacket and a few other small items that just wouldn’t fit.

I reluctantly drug out my gym bag, which seemed to swallow everything up into a dark abyss. This isn’t going to fit under the seat at all. Plus, what am I going to take on the hiking trails? And then it hit me… I loaded everything in the back pack, and used a cloth grocery bag to hold my jacket and camera. Perfect!!

What a feeling to stroll through the airport with just my backpack and a small bag. To comply with the one carryon rule, I wore my jacket, stuffed my camera into the back pack, and rolled up the shopping bag. I made it with one bag after all; thankfully I didn’t have to open it till I arrived!

Freedom:
Wow, what a way to travel!! When it came to get off the plane, I just grabbed my pack and went outside to wait for my friend. No waiting for my luggage at the baggage claim, no lifting or wheeling thirty pounds of luggage around the airport.
At my friend’s house, I left the cameras in the pack, and swapped the clothes for snacks. Within a short time of arriving, I was on the ground exploring.

The rewards:
I’ve never traveled so light and it was fun. I enjoyed refreshing mountain streams nestled in the forests, scenic views from the tops of mountains, long waterfalls, and peaceful hikes through the forest.

Returning home was bittersweet, but now I know that I DON’T HAVE to take it all with me. Life is full of analogies and I couldn’t help but wonder if I could pack a little lighter in life. Hmmmm….that’s a whole different story.

If you get the opportunity to ditch the luggage and just grab your back pack and head out, you should try it. The freedom is addicting.

Coleman Perfect Flow camp stove

I was preparing to attend the Overland Expo in Arizona and needed a simple method to cook that would fit in a suitcase. My normal camp stove was too cumbersome. The primal search for fire was a foot……

Pick up any backpacking, outdoor style magazine and they advertise these lightweight compact cooking units.  Hmmm, if they’re small enough for a backpack, they should be perfect for a suitcase. They looked really nice in the ads and then I went in saw them in person. Wow, these things are tiny!!  About the size of the palm of my hand if not smaller not including the fuel canister. I’m  sure they work well, but that was too small for my tastes. Plus, most were $$$;  that was more than I wanted to part with. The search continued…..

I was in Walmart picking up some last minute items and I noticed a small box labeled Coleman Perfect flow single burner stove. (I’ve also seen them in Target) The stove uses the familiar small, green propane canisters and consists of two parts; the top burner and the base. Screw the propane bottle into the base of the burner. Then slide the base onto the bottom of the propane bottle. A black knob just below the burner controls the flame from barely visible to a bright blue and hot.  Measuring 8 inches in diameter and only $24, I had to try it.

It survived the trip to Arizona easily and turned the trunk of my rental car into a thriving kitchen. Soups, mashed potatoes, canned vegetables, etc. Warm oatmeal on those chilly mornings was perfect.  I barely used one of the green propane cylinders, but they can be purchased just about anywhere, including grocery stores.

Next to a Nalgene bottle for size comparison.

Back home, I’ve used it just for fun. The other day I went to a friend’s house after a run and cooked an omelet and  grits on the porch. Didn’t dirty anything inside the house at all.

Large enough for regular size cooking pans, under $30, commonly available fuel, and compact enough to take in a suitcase.  A great find!