Gear Review

[REVIEW] L.L. Bean Primaloft Mountain Pro Hoodie

I’ve been gearing up for a cold Minnesota winter, and decided it was time to update my everyday-wear hoodie. I did a couple weeks of research – scouring blogs and online stores for good reviews, good deals, and high quality hoodies. I ended up being overwhelmed by everything out there (and some crazy prices, too). My past experiences led me back to L.L. Bean. The outerwear I have had from them fits well and is consistently made with high quality materials. Here is my review of their new Primaloft Mountain Pro Hoodie:

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Fit: After taking a few measurements, I went with the small (I am usually a small or medium, depending on the cut and style.) Upon receiving it, I am thankful I went with small, it fits my 5’11” frame about as nicely as I could hope. It even has a bit of slack so that I could still wear a baselayer or long sleeve shirt underneath it – but not too much slack that it is baggy.

Warmth: I chose the Primaloft hoodie because I knew it would give extra warmth without being heavy or bulky. It does exactly that – I can confidently wear this hoodie in the mid 40s and still be warm. If there is a sharp or cold wind, however, you’ll want to bundle up a bit more. The prima loft is in the front and back of the jacket, as well as the hood. This leaves the sleeves and the section down the sides of your body. with just a fleece lining. This means it will provide a bit of ventilation, but also lets in wind and cold if you aren’t dressed for the weather.

Style: I am a big fan of the way this hoodie looks. I chose the Gray Heather/Chartreuse because it looks outdoorsy, yet also appropriate to wear at work in a casual setting. It’s “slightly fitted” (according to L.L. Bean), which means it conforms nicely to the body and moves with you, making this great for being outside and being active. A great part of this jacket is the amazingly fitted hood. It hugs the head, and the primaloft inside in it will keep you warm and cozy.

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Quality: I am not totally blown away by the quality of this. I have had far more frayed ends of stitching than I would expect, and have also been having some light pilling on the forearms (easily removable, though). This hoodie is definitely not a “buy it for life” hoodie, but I also realize it’s not priced as such.

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I have no regrets on this purchase, and am sure I will get many years’ use out of this. I give it five out of five stars. It’s currently $129.00 and can be purchased directly from L.L. Bean HERE.

[Review] WoolX Explorer 1/4 Zip Baselayer

Living in Minnesota, there are quite a few months out of the year where having a good base layer is a necessity.  I have always been a big fan of layering to stay warm (and to make it easier to stay comfortable walking in and out of buildings during the winter). Having a quality baselayer like this Merino Wool ¼ zip makes even easier than ever.

Quality: Although I had never heard of WoolX before testing out this baselayer, I can honestly say that it has a build quality that is just as good as the top outdoor brands. One of my favorite things about this shirt is that it is durable and warm enough to wear while hiking, hunting, camping, working outside, etc, yet it also looks professional and I can wear it to work. The logo is hidden near the right cuff, which is refreshingly different from the many outdoor companies that plaster their logo on the front of their clothing. The merino wool is great at staying cool and dry, even if you happen to get a bit sweaty under your jacket. Because of this, it also retains less body odor than other fabrics tend to.

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Fit: Well, it’s a baselayer. This is something I overlooked a bit when I ordered mine.  90% of the time, I am a Men’s small, especially in athletic clothing that often runs large. Occasionally, a medium will fit me perfectly. So this baselayer in a size small is a very athletic fit on me, which is not always a bad thing, as I will be wearing this in very cold temperatures and it will provide a very warm and cozy fit. In a perfect world, I would own this is a size small and medium to have one to wear strictly as a baselayer and one to wear as a shirt.

Other things to note: I learned very quickly that Merino Wool attracts dog fur like a magnet, so if you have a dog in the house, you might want to get a lightly colored baselayer (or just make sure you have lots of lint rollers on hand!).

All in all, this is a very versatile baselayer that I will wear regularly from October – March. Although it’s a bit expensive, it’s a piece of clothing that will make the cold months far more comfortable and, in turn, more enjoyable to spend outside! I give this five out of five stars.

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Price: The WoolX Explorer ¼ Zip baselayer is $89.00 and can be purchased directly from WoolX HERE. Their shipping is quick and their customer service is helpful and friendly!

 

[Review] Hydro Flask 12 ounce coffee and tea flask

 Several years ago, I bought the 18 ounce coffee and tea flask with the flip top lid and said that it was close to perfection. One of my recommendations was for Hydro Flask to shrink it down to 12 ounces for those of us who want a smaller portion of coffee or tea. (or possibly have limited bag/backpack space to fit a bottle on your daily commute). Either way, this bottle completely answered what I wanted!

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So, after a year of use, here we go:

 I bought the white bottle because the powder coat paint job looks awesome. The little ‘hydro flask’ man logo and the hydro flask font are small enough that I think they look decent and don’t’ stick out too much. The white does, however, scuff a lot and show dirt easily (of course). Wash it regularly, though, and it’ll stay looking like new. If anything, the white forces me to keep it cleaner because I see the dirt. As for the inside, I clean it every other couple months or so to erase the coffee or tea stains that build up on the inside. Sometimes I scrub it with baking soda and a wire brush, sometimes I use some CLR (Calcium, Lime, and Rust) cleaner. With a little effort and a few grunts, you’ll have the inside of the bottle shiny and like new.

My biggest (and only) gripe with this bottle is the cap. In our family, we’ve actually had 5 of these 12 ounce bottles, and we’ve had to contact Hydro Flask warranty service because 3 of the caps either arrived faulty or broke within the first few days of use. This has me question whether Hydro Flask’s quality control is lacking. I have owned about 5 different varieties of Hydro Flask bottles and haven’t had problems with the caps until this 12 ounce version.  Another annoyance with this cap is that the small air vent always seems to get ‘clogged’ with a little bubble of liquid. This prevents your coffee or tea from flowing out freely until this clog is poked or blown out.

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All in all, I would absolutely continue to purchase from Hydro Flask. Their bottles are a bit more expensive than other brands, but they also consistently perform better (keeping cold drinks cold and hot drinks HOT) than other brands and are durably built. They also are backed with the great customer service that Hydro Flask gives. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to review 10 or so other brands of double walled, insulated bottles, and Hydro Flask is up at the top.

I give this bottle 4 out of 5 stars. It would be an easy 5 stars if I haven’t had so many problems with the caps on these.

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Buy it directly from Hydro Flask HERE. Expect to pay around $22.

[REVIEW] ‘loop’ ninja loop

Recently, I was able to try out a cool little strap to protect your phone. It’s made by a little company  in Quebec called “Loop”. Essentially, it’s just a piece of fabric (your choice of satin, twill, or grosgrain) that loops under and through your phone case, giving you a handle or something to slip your fingers through to ensure steady one-handed use of your phone.

Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at first. How often will I actually use it? But it’s been said that people check their smartphones about 85 times per day. Whether you are just checking it on a table, taking it out of your pocket, or slipping it out of a backpack, there will always be the chance of the phone tumbling to the ground. And with phones getting thinner with every new release, they can be harder to hold on to. This little loop is adjustable, so it allows you to choose how much slack it gives and how much of your hand or fingers can get through it to get a handle on your phone. You can also put the loop at a diagonal angle, or just straight down the back of the phone.

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The only ‘drawback’ of the loops is that they only work with a case, since they rely on the case to hold them on. The ends of the loop have tape applied that allows you to stick them. Because of this, you probably won’t be switching them out between phones or transferring over to a phone after you upgrade (unless you get crafty with your own way to tape or secure the ends of the loops down under the case.) Either way, they are about $5 each – and loops can make custom loops for gifts or your business.

I rate the Loops Ninja Loops five out of five stars. At only $5 Each, they are a virtually weightless thing to strap onto your phone that will also add some function. And if they only prevent one fall or drop the entire time you own it, it could save you a lot of money in costly repairs!

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[Review] Buddy & Co Denim Leash/Collar Set

Recently, Buddy & Co (read my previous reviews HERE!) sent me one of their newer products to try out. Being a fan of their last leash, I was happy to try it out and share my opinion. Here’s what I thought!

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First, the collar. It’s tough collar. It’s nice to find a collar that looks nice, is tough, and also complements my dog’s fur.

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This collar is unique because the buckle end goes through the ring in order to secure. Because of this, it does feel stronger and like it provides an extra layer of protection in case something were to break, tear, or snap. However, it also makes that section of the collar very bulky, as the fabric is doubled up in that section.

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Besides wanting a metal buckle (some of my favorite dog collars have this), my main suggestion is that it would be nice if there was more than one ring on the collar – a dedicated ID ring would make the collar a bit quieter (less jingling and jangling) and tidier.

Secondly, the leash. It’s a really attractive and comfortable leash. It has a padded handle to allow for a comfort grip if your dog pulls. At first, I was turned off by the red color on one side of the leash. The denim just looks so nice that I wanted both sides to be denim. But then I realized that the flashy red side allows for better visibility while walking – which is a priceless thing when walking around busy city streets.

The leash itself looks great, but it’s not the finest construction I’ve seen. After a couple of walks, the stitching seems kind of shoddy (see photo). The leash is lightweight, which means it’s best for small or medium sized dogs (or large dogs that walk well). Either way, lightweight leashes won’t stand the test of time and use and abuse like a more heavy duty leash would.

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Overall, I was expecting better quality, tougher products from Buddy & Co. When I see “denim” in a product listing, I think of the tough fabric of denim jeans. Unfortunately, the leash and collar are essentially made of red nylon with a layer of denim style fabric sewn onto the top. So it’s not quite what I expected, but of course, it still looks great, and I really think that this leash, along with the matching collar, would make a fantastic gift for a dog owner.

I give this matching leash and collar set by Buddy & Co four out of four stars.

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[Review] Dalstrong Gladiator Series Knives

You don’t realize how crappy your $15 bread knife from Wal-Mart is until you are able to wield a proper bread knife! Dalstrong’s recent releases in their gladiator series remain the same incredible quality as their other knives and will be in my collection for years and years.

I recently tested out their Gladiator series bread knife and their Gladiator series Boning knife. They both seem limited at first – the bread knife strictly to slicing bread, and the boning knife to cutting steaks and fish fillets, but I was surprised at the versatility of both knives.

The bread knife has a nicely weighted, beautiful Pakkawood handle and a 10″ serrated blade that is great for slicing melons, bread, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and more. Keep this blade sharp and clean and it’ll never let you down!

The boning knife has surprised me the most. I don’t eat much meat, but I still find plenty of uses for it. It makes eating, coring, and skinning mangoes, apples, and pears simple. The blade is just flexible enough to bend with the curves of the fruit and is sharp yet delicate. It’ll effortlessly cut your fillets and is still versatile enough to grab while slicing fruits and veggies.

I give both of these knives (as usual, with the amazing quality that Dalstrong consistently puts forth) five stars.

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[REVIEW] Blokpod Lego Sorter

With two young boys in the house, we spend a lot of hours playing Legos – and this also means a lot of hours digging through them to find pieces to go along with old manuals, cleaning up, and trying to find the elusive “specialty pieces” that have been lost for months or even years. I have looked into the Lego branded sorters, but have never been too impressed by the design or useability of them. When Blokpod offered to provide me one of their sorters/organizers for review, I was thrilled to give it a try.

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Blokpod claims that this sorter can handle up to 2400 pieces, which is a pretty large collection. Although some people use this as a container for the Legos, as well, I have found it is easier to pour them in different “sorted” containers, since it’s not so easy to dig around in these bins to look for certain pieces.

So, after a week or so of use, here are my pros and cons of the Blokpod sorter:

PROS:

The plastic is very strong and durable. I don’t foresee it cracking under normal everyday use. Oh, and Blokpod backs this up with a 15 year warranty!

The sorting is amazingly consistent. Of course, you’ll get some larger pieces that fall through the filters the ‘long way’ and make their way down, but for the most part, this sorter does exactly what you’d expect.

It’s really nice that Blokpod also includes clear pieces that can be used instead of the filters in case you’d like to use this purely as a container and not as a sorter.

CONS:

Since each level twists to lock into the other pieces, they move around a lot and unlock quite easily as you shake the Blockpod back and forth to sort. The locking mechanisms are basic, but still tough for kids to manage on their own every time without needing help.

The clear plastic bottoms are tough to remove since there is nothing to hold onto – you’ll need two sets of hands to get them off to put the filter back on.

So, at Blokpod’s selling price of $45, I’d absolutely recommend this for families with large Lego collections. If you can relate with digging through immense amounts of Legos to find that certain piece with your child, you will be absolutely amazed at how easy finding pieces and building creations becomes with the aid of the Blokpod sorter. And when you consider that many Lego sets are more expensive than two Blokpod, the $45 doesn’t seem like too much to ask for how much organization it will bring to your creativity time!

Check it out at http://www.Blokpod.com and follow their links to purchase it from Amazon.

Expect to pay around $45 – and keep an eye out for new parts and extensions for the Blokpod this year!

I give the Blokpod 5 out of 5 stars and wholeheartedly recommend it!

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[REVIEW] humangear GoBites & GoTote

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing some new products from one of my favorite travel/lifestyle brands. Humangear not only makes fantastic products, but also has awesome customer service. You can check out my past humangear reviews and posts HERE.

This time, I was able to check out their new line of “GoBites” and also their “GoTote.” Keep reading to see what I thought!

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Their GoBites are their line of tough and lightweight travel utensils. I was sent the Uno, Duo, and the Trio. The Uno is a double ended utensil that looks like this:

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The Duo is a set that includes a spoon and fork – the same utensils inluded in the Uno, except they are individual utensils instead of being conjoined. Oh, and they click together for convenient travel and storage!

And lastly, the Trio is a set that includes a fork, spoon, and knife (and a plastic toothpick!) in a nice travel case. The knife also has a bottle opener built into it!

So how do you choose between these three sets? Well, the quality and convenience in all of these is top notch. I’d recommend the Uno for an extreme traveller (weight weenie) or someone who just needs to keep a utensil in their desk for occasional use.

The duo would be great for putting in a kid’s lunchbox, or even throwing a couple in a picnic basket.

Out of the three, I would choose the Trio. It’s a quality set of all three utensils, and if you aren’t able to wash them off after you eat – just toss them back in the container and wash them when you are able to.

I was also sent the small version of their new GoTote – a very clever zipper tote that has a piece of sold metal sewn into the top so it can ‘pop’ open and closed. I have loved using this so much that I take it to work with me everyday and keep a light lunch or a couple snacks in it. I am considering buying the large version and using it as a dog food container for my dog while we are traveling and taking road trips. It’s a really high quality bag made with a strong zipper and tough fabric, and will hold up very well to everyday use. I can’t recommend this bag enough!

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I give ALL these products five stars. I’ve been using the GoTote and at least one of the GoBites every day. You can purchase their products on their WEBSITE or on Amazon, of course.

 

 

[REVIEW] True Utility Key Accessories

I was recently sent a selection of five different products to review from a cool little company based in the UK called True Utility. They make innovative and creative keychain accessories that are meant to make your life easier and come in handy on a daily basis.

I was able to try out the BulletStash, the Locklite, the KeyTool, the FireStash, and the Twistick.

I can tell you right now that my favorite out of all of these is the KeyTool.

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The KeyTool is a low profile multi tool that wraps around one of your keys. It has eight different tools on it, and they are labeled so you can find them easily. If I only end up using this as a bottle opener 90% of the time, I will be happy to have it on my keyring. It’s lightweight and incredibly useful.

My least favorite? The Locklite.

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The pieces of metal are very cheap and flimsy, and didn’t click together well. Also, it only works with a round key! (Maybe round keys are the norm in the UK?) Anyways, it is a neat idea, but it just isn’t executed well.

As for the other items – I love the idea of the BulletStash. It allows you to carry some extra cash with you in case you forget your wallet or purse. I don’t, however, like that it’s shaped like a bullet and says “One Last Shot” on it.

The Twistick is incredibly well-designed, in my opinion. I think it would make a great gift for any wine lover or picnic enthusiasts. It’s quite a novel idea to be able to carry around a wine bottle opener in such a small package.

And lastly, the Firestash.

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Yes, this is most likely the tiniest and cutest lighter you’ll ever see. I’ve only been able to use it briefly on a camping trip this spring – enough to confirm that it works and it is easy to operate. I’ve read some reviews that seem to suggest it leaks and doesn’t seal tightly after extended usage (which I can’t comment on yet), so only time will tell.

I won’t be leaving a star rating on True Utility’s products since this post is for 5 different items – but I HIGHLY recommend the KeyTool. I will personally be purchasing more of these as gifts for some of my family and friends!

Also – each of their products comes packaged in a handy little waterproof case that can be repurposed. I use mine to carry matches while I’m camping and hiking!

[REVIEW] Dalstrong High Performance Knives

I recently purchased four knives of Dalstrong’s newly released knives. Now, I was able to get a promotional price for these in order to try them out, but I can assure you that it hasn’t altered my rating. I was prepared, upon ordering these, to be let down. It sounds like a cheap made-in-china brand that I’d use a couple times and then lose in my kitchen drawers. Whoa was I wrong!

It turns out that Dalstrong is an incredibly high quality knife company – and it’s family run. I’m not sure where they are made – I am still thinking it might be in China, since there are no proud labels on their packaging to state “Made in USA” or elsewhere. Even so, I was blown away when I got these. I was going to review these in separate posts, but I think I will just summarize and hit some of the highlights in this one.

#1: Gladiator Series 7″ Santoku Knife

The Santoku knife is a knife that is becoming the go-to knife for a lot of chefs, and I am beginning to see why. It has the length, weight, and balance of most chef knives, yet it’s even more versatile. “Santoku” has Japanese historical significance and means “three virtues”. In terms of cooking, the Santoku knife is great for chopping, dicing, and mincing.

A trademark of the Santoku knife are the dimples (Granton edge) on the side that allow food to slide off easier after cutting.

This knife is full tang, which helps give it a great balance and strength. Once you use knives as great as the ones that Dalstrong makes, you’ll want to cook more. This is a very impressive knife to use and have in the kitchen, and will last you for years (or even decades) if you treat it properly. Make sure to hand wash it, sharpen it with a whetstone when needed, and keep it in a knife block or in the sheath to protect the blade.

#2: Gladiator Series 8″ Chef Knife

If you are anything like me, you are intimidated and a little overwhelmed when venturing into the world of fine knives. Usually when I purchase a chef knife, I will budget about $15 for it, or it will be included in a knife set. While this Gladiator Series Chef knife is technically out of my price range, I was completely sold on it when I received in the mail. I can already tell that it is far nicer than any knife I would find in the store. It will also last me for years and years. This could possibly be a lifetime knife if treated correctly. Dalstrong recommends to sharpen this with a whetstone to preserve the very fine cutting angle of the knife and prolong the life of the knife.

Of course, no chef knife is absolutely perfect for everybody. It all depends on the size of the knife, the weight of the knife, and the size of the user’s hand. I have a small to average size hand, and I couldn’t be happier with this knife. It has perfect weight and balance. It really does make chopping and prepping food effortless (and enjoyable) compared to using an ‘average’ knife. If you do have a larger hand and grandpa, you may want to check out 9 or 10 inch chef knife. It is very refreshing, and nice to know, that Dalstrong stands behind their well-made products and assures you that you’ll be happy with the craftsmanship you receive.

The construction alone of this knife is gorgeous. The pakkawood of the handle is integrated into the handle and blade so well that it’s all one smooth, beautiful piece.

#3: Gladiator Series 3.75″ Pairing Knife

A pairing knife is one of those tools that is absolutely essential for any kitchen. It does all the little tasks such as slicing carrots, peeling fruit, and doing other find chopping that you don’t want to take out your larger knives for. I used to be the type of person who would buy a five dollar pairing knife off the rack at the store and wonder why, after two months, it is such a piece of junk. And then I tried some of my friend’s nice knives and came to a realization that I needed to invest in some quality cutlery.

This Gladiator Series pairing knife is one of the finest knives I have ever tried. Dalstrong says this knife takes 35 days, from start to finish, to make. The handle is made from beautiful black pakkawood. The blade is him the sharpened to 18° per side. The knife is really quite heavy, for how small it actually is (3.5″). Quite a bit of the wait is in the stainless steel end cap of the knife – this helps to give a nice balance to the knife.

The first time I used this, I found myself peeling carrots with it just because I could. It’s extremely sharp, yet it’s the perfect size for an agile little knife. I’m proud to have this in my kitchen cutlery arsenal.

#4: Shogun Series 6″ Utility Knife

I have read mixed things on the practicality of owning a utility knife – but I decided I would get a lot of use out of one, and I am glad I chose the Dalstrong Shogun Series.

Utility knives are basically an in-between knife that falls somewhere between a chef’s knife and a pairing knife. A utility knife is usually between 4 and 6 inches and is meant to be used as a ‘do-it-all’ knife for anything that isn’t large enough (usually vegetables, leftovers, small pieces of meat, etc) to warrant using a chef’s knife.

So why do I love the Dalstrong Utility knife so much? It’s gorgeous, it’s sharp, it’s nicely weighted, and it’s an incredibly well-made tool. You’ll notice the quality upon opening the box – it arrives in a box suitable for display, and includes a 39 page “Care and About” booklet (all the knives do). The booklet points out some helpful tips, such as: don’t keep the knife soaking in soapy water, sharpen it with a whetstone when needed, try to always hand wash and dry it, etc.

The knife comes equipped with a locking sheath (it locks with a small peg). The Shogun Series knife itself, according to Dalstrong, takes 60 days to craft. The blade has an 8-12 degree angle, which is why a whetstone is preferred for sharpening to preserve the angle. The Design on the blade is called the “Tsunami Rose” blade pattern. The handle of the knife is shaped very well for the precision control that a smaller knife like this needs. I don’t think I will use this as much as my chef’s knife, but it’s a welcome addition to my knife set can’t recommend this beautiful knife enough!

All in all – I couldn’t be any happier that I started out my fine knife collection with Dalstrong. I have no reason to rate these any less than 5 stars. They are great for any amateur or professional’s kitchen and can last a lifetime if properly taken care of.

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These knives range in price from $29 – $65. Shop Dalstrong’s selection on Amazon HERE.