This is my other writing companion: the Duluth Pack leather journal! I keep it at the camp and use it daily to write down my observations. I took my first spontaneous record of our travels in 2009 and made it a regular practice since we have been living on the road full-time. Besides feeling an urgent need to record our adventures (so much happens I couldn’t rely on my mind alone to remember), I enjoy my reflective time at the end of each day. Also, it’s a lot of fun to look back on our adventures and misadventures!
I used to buy a journal for each season, until I came across this beautiful Duluth Pack leather journal last year. All I need now are inexpensive refills. The journal’s superior craftsmanship enhances my whole writing experience! The leather feels soft to the touch. A smooth, sliding tab closure adds to the journal's simple and practical design. The stitching is done very meticulously and I love the Duluth Pack logo handsomely embossed on the cover’s corner. The journal is rugged yet refined. Duluth Pack offers gold edged refills on their website but a quick search lead me to more affordable options at Barnes and Noble.
Kurt shared with me that a pencil is the best tool to use if I aim for long-term preservation (he used to be an autograph hunter in the early 90s). So, I have been using my treasured Graphgear 1000 0.9mm mechanical pencil to chronicle our travels! For me, a Duluth Pack leather journal and a Graphgear 1000 0.9mm is journaling at its best!
Kurt and I spent 4 1/2 months (summer/fall) working, cooking and sleeping out of our Little BigHorn tent while volunteering at a State Park on the shore of Lake Superior. The tent comes in two large duffels and a box of connectors for the poles. The whole thing weighs about 150 lbs (68 kg). Kurt and I set up the tent in less than 45 minutes, taking our time.
The tent is very sturdy with poles made out of stainless steel and skin made out of durable nylon blend, the floor liner and roof have an additional waterproof coating. At one time, half a dozen cotton pants were hanged to dry off the tent’s frame in addition to heavy coats, lamps and art and the structure did not budge. This past summer, there were a few strong storms with 50 mph wind gusts (80 km/h) yet the frame of the tent did not even move.
The straight walls makes the place feel more like a small cabin than a tent. Similar to a cabin, there are large windows on the sides and the front door as well as a couple roof vents so there is great air flow: on our coldest night (36°F/2°C) we felt confident using a small portable propane heater without fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. On one of the hottest days the temperature reached 92°F with a heat index of 100°F (respectively 32°C and 37°C). We used a small portable fan to help circulate the air and open both top vent windows to let the hot air escape. One of the advantages of the tent’s small square footage (98 sq ft/30 m2) is that it doesn't require much energy to heat up and cool off the space.
We have finally found a way to live comfortably for months on end while maintaining a small foot print. We would consider upgrading to an Outfitter tent which includes a porthole so we can use a wood burning stove and turn our 3-season camping tent into a 4-season one, that would be neat!
I am a long time user of the Rite in the Rain notebooks. When Kurt and I started to travel for our project, I needed something small and durable to write down notes in the field.
As much as Kurt appreciates good quality writing tools, I do appreciate good quality notebooks, it makes writing even more pleasurable! The notebook's small size allows me to carry it in my cargo pocket along with a pen (more about the pen in another post). I appreciate having spirals at the top so the pages lay flat when I write. Although the brand has a reputation for performing in bad weather, I never had to put the notebook through anything more than a light rain.
The notebook comes in different colors, sizes and for different activities. So far, the model I have been using works great for me but it's not to say I won't try other Rite in the Rain styles in the future!
Now that we've figured out our transportation (van) and living quarters (wall tent) we were left with the problem of hauling our gear around. We researched different utility trailers but never really found what we needed until we discovered the SPACE Trailer. Since getting hooked up with one of these beauties we're now carefree and unintimidated by cross country travel! In contrast, a couple years ago we traveled from Minnesota to Florida in our vintage 27ft Travco motorhome. That was a neat experience and all but the benefit of having a cargo trailer instead of a 10,000 lb motorhome is convenience! We make more stops along the way, can find parking easily and if necessary leave the trailer at our camp when we make runs for supplies/food. Having one of these has also allowed us to convert our van into a small (clutter free) command center/bedroom.
We tow the SPACE around with our 2WD Astro van and barely notice it. There are also some neat add-ons that make life just a bit easier. For example: we have the adjustable Space Bars installed which works perfectly for our 90 watt solar panel (the photo above was shot a few days prior to mounting the panel).
The SPACE was conceived of by a couple of mad geniuses (Todd and Brennan Olson), two brothers from Waconia Minnesota. Visit their farm and you'll understand what I'm talking about. It's part theme park mixed with free range chickens and the coolest bachelor pad (barn) you'll ever see!
I really appreciate good quality writing tools and I currently have a small collection of them that I enjoy using to write field notes. I wasn’t looking for a new pen but the Monteverde One Touch Tool caught my attention. I placed it on our Gear To Get list about 6 months ago but just couldn’t justify it as a top priority item. Well, I finally purchased one and it has replaced my TOMBOW AirPress Pen as my favorite writing tool!
The Monteverde One Touch Tool Pen has nine tools: Soft-Roll ballpoint at one end and an ultra sensitive touch screen stylus at the other. Unscrew the stylus to reveal a small phillips and flat head screwdriver. The heavy weight, 6-sided barrel has a built-in level, ruler and 3 different scale functions.
Even with all of these functions, the One Touch Tool does not come across as pretentious (like some cheap swiss army knife). All of the components are of high quality and actually very useful. For example, I frequently use the flat head screwdriver for tightening the screws on my eye glasses. The stylus is helpful when I text and email from my iPhone. I can write emails faster and more accurately without my thumbs getting in the way. Some people may find it a little heavy when writing for long periods of time but I use it for taking notes and never experience hand fatigue.
Sadly, smart phones and tablets seem to be replacing the pencil and paper. If writing tools are becoming a bit antiquated, this pen just might inspire a person to write more often!
This page is all about the gear and clothing that we use while in the field. To be honest, any product that gets posted here is pretty darn good!