Gear Review: BeFree Water Filtration System 0.6L

A long time ago, when I was first hiking, I picked up a water bottle that was a filter, out of the Campmor catalog (boy, am I dating myself….). It rode with me for years, over thousands of miles of trails. I loved it: you scooped water, or stuck it under an overspill on a creek, put the lid on and squeezed to get water. The only downside was it was relatively hard plastic. You got a heck of a work out using it. Eventually it wore out and I never replaced it, moving onto MicroPur tablets, Aquamira, and other water filters. But I won’t lie, all chemical treatments taste like city water, and make me think of chugging swimming pool water. And waiting for water on a hot day sucks.

When I had the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System in 0.6L show up for review, I was happy to try it out.

At 2.3 ounces, this is a lightweight water filter. And it’s flexible, so rolls up, and tucks into a backpack – even the smallest daypacks. No excuses to not bring it along.

I had Ford test it without instructions, and had him filter up water for lunch. Zero questions from him, and he had the water in a short time. The flow is very, very fast, and with it being flexible your hands don’t get tired. Clean up is easy at home. As a suggestion, dry the bag upside down, on a plastic or metal spatula handle.

Ford in action:

FTC Disclaimer: We received product for potential review. All thoughts are ours.

Gear Review: Optimus Vega Stove

I’ve been reviewing the Optimus Vega Stove, a remote canister stove recently. I have had a soft spot for remote canister stoves for years, as I find them to be stable with larger pots (2 and 3 Liter for example), where they hug the ground and you are not worried about tipping. The other is the versatility in colder temperatures and at altitude. Canister stoves are not superior in cold weather, liquid fuel stoves shine, but with remote canister setups, you can flip the canister over, and it acts very similar. Colder than 0°C (32°F)? Invert the canister using the stand so it gets liquid fuel. You can go down to minus 20°C (-4° F) even. For where we live in the PNW, that covers nearly any situation I am in. I don’t much like being outside below 20°F anyways!

A very quick setup has one ready to cook. The stove doesn’t have a built in igniter, however, I don’t like those – it’s one less thing to break on a stove! Any lighter or match will work. The control for lowering and raising the flame is easy enough to do with liner gloves on. This is a chef’s stove, you can easily dial in the flame to an actual simmer. Not just “HOT” as many canister stoves are well known for. The stove comes with a storage pouch that allows one to tuck it into most 1.2 to 2 Liter pots. As for fuel, it’ll fit any standard canister: but always use brand name fuel, don’t be cheap – cheap fuel fouls up good stoves!

The Vega in action:

And a happy hiking partner, tucking into lunch, while Mom cleans up. He turned 20 today. Hard to believe not long ago he was behind me…..

FTC Disclaimer: We received product for potential review. All thoughts are ours.

Finding Balance Between Family And The Outdoors

Awhile back I read a blog post titled “Why You Should Get Out of Bed and Hike, Even if You’re an Exhausted Parent”, which was I realized only too quickly, was a click-bait title. It left a sour feeling I couldn’t shake, and I had to ask myself why – and it was a lot of thinking, days of it. And maybe I was a bit judgy, but I can live with that.

The premise of the post was that one should seize the day no matter how tired one is as a parent. The reality is the writer was talking about having been up half the night with a sick child, then going out on a hike/climb early in the morning by themselves (it was a father). Which two things I suppose set me off internally: The child was sick, and even if your partner/wife/husband says to go…can you not stay for the child? To comfort them? No hike or adventure is more important than them. The other was: if you have barely slept, you are not ready for an adventure. Being tired and sleepy is an actual issue, and one that shouldn’t be brushed off. Hitting the snooze is a good idea. Turning off the alarm clock, even better. Balance isn’t just about getting out and living what is deemed as an authentic life – it is also knowing when things must give. Instagram, can and will wait.

Being a parent isn’t easy work. When my oldest was young, it was simpler I suppose. One child is a lot different from three. As our family grew, and especially as they became school age, I found my time in the outdoors shrunk considerably, versus as it was in my 20’s through my mid 30’s. I found that the “balance” that had come easily to me in my 20’s wasn’t there anymore.

When a family is “young” and the child is a baby/toddler, the balance is easy. You don’t have a lot to work around. I myself often touted this one loudly when my oldest was young. Did not everyone have an SUV full of gear? Did not one choose to spend every weekend, every day free, in the outdoors? Did one not haul a small child behind them, as your personal mini-me? That kid went everywhere with us. Slap on the snowshoes, and keep on going. He had crampons at 4 years old. He was the Unicorn of Hikers.He was doing 10 mile days the summer he was 4.

Why did others complain of how they had little free time? I figured they just didn’t want it that badly. Yeah, I got served pretty hard on that truth. First came getting a wee bit older. But with the oldest 12 years old, the middle boy and I hiked everywhere that first year of his life and change. I kept telling myself it wasn’t going to change. I had great balance. Slap the boy on my back, and off we went. The older boy was in school, we had time to spare – and the trails called.

Then I had the third boy.

This little guy changed it for me. And suddenly I had two kids, very close in age. It was like herding cats to get out of the house. I’d wake up bright-eyed and ready to go, and then….reality snuck in. After wrestling them to eat, get dressed and get in the car, it was suddenly 11 am. Drive to the mountains and it was 2 pm. I was tired even before we got there. So we did a lot less “big hikes” and opted instead for local outings. I was suddenly OK with just doing the local rail to trail…to the hardware store in town, just to get outside. It’s amazing how fast one loses any caring for “balance in the outdoors” if it means one has to think deeply.

At 5 and 7, they have active lives. The `7-year-old is a social butterfly with a full dance card. That brings in another thing that trips up life: each kid is different personality wise. The middle kid is happy to hike, but he loooooves having a friend along – and being in a truck with that many kids makes one wish to beat your head into the steering wheel after an hour, and a stop for ice cream, and 4 potty breaks, and a million questions/fart jokes.

Notice though….I don’t much hike without them anymore. It’s rare I take a solo hike (no kids) because I choose to value the time I have with my kids. It goes fast (my oldest turns 20 next week). Too fast. And I do want them to experience adventures. That is my balance. And honestly, I don’t miss the “big adventures” like I used to. Sometimes it crawls up, but the desire to go and do 6 day trip on the PCT is a fond memory to me.

Sometimes we find adventures staying in hotels, cabins and old historical homes. OK, let’s not lie…that has become way more often. It’s just simpler, and we have a ton of fun. Alistaire has health issues, so backpacking isn’t something he can do without a ton of planning.

And that was my balance. It took me a few years to find it. And what works for me, might not be your thing. But I do know that for me, sneaking out in the dark while my children sleep doesn’t happen much anymore. I am just too tired. Snooze button? Nope. How about no alarm and once we wake up we go find an adventure we can all do.