It’s Wendy again. I am here to write and publish this year’s inaugural Christmas Gift Guide on jordoncooper.com. As is custom around here, this is for all of the men on your holiday check list. So whether you are shopping for a husband, boyfriend (hopefully you aren’t shopping for both), father, kids, or friends, I’ve got gift ideas for all of the men in your life.
Does anyone use CD’s anymore? We don’t. If we do get them, they are immediately ripped and then imported into iTunes to be played on our iPods. From there they are played via Bluetooth. So here is a selection of portable Bluetooth devices that will sound amazing anywhere that you bring them, even if the guy you are shopping for loves to play Bon Jovi.
Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s hands-free and always on. With seven microphones and beam-forming technology, Echo can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.
Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo begins working as soon as it detects the wake word. You can pick Alexa or Amazon as your wake word.
Think of it at Siri for your home… or for you Iron Man fans out there, it’s getting close to what Jarvis is.
The SoundLink Bluetooth speakers are among the most popular — if not, the most popular — portable wireless speakers in terms of sales. I have listened to it a couple of times while out and about this year and they sounds amazing while filling a room beautifully. Not only that but if you bring them on the road with your or even just into the backyard, they have a 14 hour battery life.
- Purchase at AmazonHouse of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System
Jordon has wanted one of these for a while. This spring he went out and bought one. It is battery powered (charges via a USB cable) and is a constant companion. It is small enough to toss in a bag on a road trip which makes travelling a little more pleasant. If you are buying for a road warrior or just someone who likes to chill outside while listening to music, this is a great gift idea.
- Purchase at AmazonLogitech UE Mini Boom
This is what The Wirecutter says about the Mini Boom
This is the second year in a row that we’ve picked the Mini Boom as our top pick, but it’s the first time I’ve personally heard it. As an audio reviewer with a quarter century of experience, people often ask me what portable speaker they should get. It’s a difficult question to answer because they come in so many styles and sizes, and widely range in price, but the Mini Boom makes it easy.
There’s so much to like about it and so little to dislike. In fact, if all my stuff disappeared tomorrow, the Mini Boom and our home Bluetooth pick would be the first audio products I’d buy. It plays about as loud as a large flat-panel TV set, and because it’s only about the size of half an orange, it’s easy to take almost anywhere. It sounds good enough that you can hear almost every element of a music track, from the cymbals all the way down to the lowest notes on a guitar (although maybe not the lowest notes on a bass).
I have always thought of Logitech in terms of mice and trackballs. Then Jordon went out and got a set of Logitech surround sound speakers for our television and I was surprised at how good they sound. They had a way better sound than our soundbar and in 5.1 Dolby surround sound. This little speaker has won a lot of awards and a lot of acclaim. Logitech may not have the name that Bose does but it is a third the price and the sound quality is worth it.
- Purchase at Amazon
Backed by over 100 years of manufacturing high-quality audio products, Electrohome is pleased to introduce the Archer Turntable Stereo System: a fully automatic turntable with built-in speakers housed in a 60s-style suitcase that blends vintage charm with twenty-first century convenience.
Enjoying the classic style of a retro 60s turntable doesn’t mean you have to miss out on 21st century convenience; play songs from your smartphones, tablets, or USB flash drive using the system’s AUX and USB input. For private listening, simply connect your headphones and drift away into the world of vinyl without disturbing a soul.
It’s also the gift that keeps giving you gift ideas. From speakers to vintage records, there will always something you can keep adding to this gift.
Now on to headphones for those times when you don’t want to listen to what they are listening to.
These amazing headphones are the #1 best selling over the ear headphones from Amazon and for good reason. They are consistently rated as excellent. The Sennheiser HD 202 II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance. Jordon bought me a pair to replace my other Sennheisers that Marley chewed up. What you notice about them is the sound but also how comfortable they are. You can listen to them for hours.
- Purchase at AmazonIn Ear HeadphonesDon’t let them keep using the Apple earphones that came with their phone. Upgrade their in-ear headphones with Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic.
Never heard of them? Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about them.
If I wanted to buy a cheap pair of earbuds to replace the ones included with my mobile device, I’d get the Brainwavz Delta with Mic. After spending 32 hours researching literally hundreds of in-ear headphones under $40, then seriously considering 179 and testing 68 with our panel of audio experts (40 last time, 28 this round), we came to a decision: The Brainwavz Deltas are the best for the money. Our panel unanimously voted them the best sounding of the entire bunch, plus they fit comfortably in most ears and are a total steal.
- Purchase at AmazonPanasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear HeadphonesMy next suggestion is ones that we are big fans of around here and that is the Panasonic RPTCM125A Headphones Blue. They were the winner last year on The Wirecutter and are runners up this year. Here is why we love them. The sound is excellent, the price is fantastic but they are so comfortable. We have bought them for Mark and the advantage of getting these over more expensive headphones is that when the dog chews them, they get lost or stolen, it’s not the end of the world. Great quality, comfortable, affordable price.
- Purchase at AmazonComputersWe spend all of these hours in front of our computers and for many people. they are still using the same keyboard and mouse that came out of the box with their desktop or laptop. Upgrade their computer with a new keyboard, mouse, or trackball. It’s a great gift and his hands will thank you for it.
If the guy you are buying for spends a lot of time in front of computer as a writer, photo editor, or coder, get him a keyboard that is better that what came with her computer. Perhaps one of the best ones out there is the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard. It is split in the middle, has a nice touch and feel, and has a built in pad for your wrists. Studies are inconclusive on whether or not they prevent carpal tunnel but they are a lot more comfortable to type on than a desktop or laptop computer keyboard.
- Purchase from AmazonLogitech M570 Wireless Trackball
A trackball is something that so many people I know have loved as soon as they have gone to it yet it isn’t something that many of us are going to go out and get for ourselves. One of these or a Microsoft Sculpt or Arc Touch mouse and the sculpt keyboard would be a great gift for any one who spends some time in front of a screen every day.
- Purchase at AmazonLogitech HD Pro Webcam
Being seperated from family is tough. So whether you are shopping for your husband, boyfriend, or father, treat them with a high definition webcam. You can get one for them so you can benefit or get one and place it on your own computer so they can see you better. Ideally you will both have one so you can have conversations in 1080p High Definition video.
Breathtaking full HD 1080p calls on Skype, with the sharpest video-call picture available. 16:9 widescreen keeps you all in the picture. Easy HD 720p video calls on Yahoo! Messenger, Gmail Voice and Video Chat and most other favorite IM services.
If he is still getting by on a 640×480 screen, upgrading to a Full HD webcam will make a world of difference.
- Purchase at AmazonTabletsSo many of us have tablets now that we have even started to upgrade our older ones. If the person you are shopping for has a tablet that is more than a few years old, it is time to upgrade it. New processor, better battery life, and overall performance makes this upgrade a great gift.
$49.99 for a tablet! Are you kidding me Amazon? Despite the really low price, it has a Quad-core 1.3 GHz, 8 gb of storage (expandable of course), a VGA Front-facing camera + 2 MP rear-facing camera with 720p HD video recording. As for battery life, it offers up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music
- Purchase at Amazon (where else?)Google Nexus 9” Tablet
If the Kindle Fire is the best Android budget tablet out there, then here is the flagship, the Google Nexus 9.
- 8.9” IPS LCD display with 4:3 aspect ratio constructed from Gorilla Glass 3
- Dual front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound
- 8MP rear camera – 1.6MP front camera
- 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver @ 2.3GHz CPU
- Micro-USB 2.0For the accept no compromises Android user out there, this is the tablet they want.
- Purchase at AmazoniPad Mini 4
- Purchase from Apple
Give the gift of a great book this year.
Upgrade his shoulder bag or backpack with a leather 4 inch double gusset flapover portfolio/ 15.4 inch computer case with pull through handle. Stylish enough to take to work everyday and rugged enough to take with him on the weekends.
If he already has a great looking bag or maybe you are looking for something less expensive, check out the Fossil card wallet. Jordon went to one of these a couple of years ago and he has loved it. Low profile, fits in any pocket and carries enough cards and I.D. to keep you going while forcing you to ditch the other stuff that clutters up a wallet and weighs you down.
The Timex Expedition field watch were inspired by the field watches issued to soldiers during the first half of the 20th century and look great with a wide variety of get-ups. While there are more expensive name-brand versions out there, if you’re looking for a simple, yet handsome-looking watch, this is perfect. You can spend hundreds on a field watch but it’s hard to beat the quality you get from a Timex Expedition for the cost you are paying.
Spend your hard earned money on other things with the money you save on this watch.
A rubber armored carbon fiber body offers lightweight and impact-resistant performance, and the contoured body with textured gripping surfaces provide slip-resistant handling, making the Travelite VI well-suited for sightseeing on vacation and glassing the ball field from the stands. Reviewers in multiple publications have said that these are the perfect balance between power and weight with no compromises either way.
- Purchase from Amazon (another good option is the Pentax 8×21 binoculars which also offer good quality at a lower price)
Jordon started to carry this in his pocket because he wanted something small and functional for work. This fit the bill perfectly. He has one for every day use and then he keeps packed and ready to go in his day bag. He likes this knife because it is big enough to do what he needs it to do most days but small enough to fold up and fit comfortably in his front pocket. It’s also small enough that when he pulls it out at work, no one goes, “HE’S GOT A KNIFE!”. Instead they often go, “cool” and want to take a look at it.
Get back to basics — the very cool basics — with Leatherman’s Skeletool CX. It keeps weight and volume to a minimum while still having the tools he will need.
The thing that stops so many people from camping…the perception that they have to "suffer" out there and can’t enjoy the comforts of home. Instead, Stanley said, "Oh no, nobody goes without good coffee while camping…not on our watch!"
The entire system might look a little bit like overkill, but when you keep in mind the fact that the components are all useful for other purposes this system does far more than just make coffee.
First of all, they thought of everything with this kit. The bottom (outside) layer is the pot to heat your water, complete with latching pre-installed handle. Just give the small button a squeeze to lift it up or put it down. This layer is obviously a great pot for heating up your meals too, especially if you pre-pouched it and just need to reheat with a hot water bath. The next layer is the French press plunger, and yes, if you pour really, really carefully, you can strain other foods with it (like pasta) when you’re not making coffee. The next nested layer is the famous Stanley vacuum bottle, so basically you use your kit to make a whole pot of coffee and then pour it into the bottle to keep it hot. The lid that closes the bottle actually has a small twist off lid the store your coffee grounds, and the exterior lid twists apart to form two cups.
Gourmet coffee. In the woods. He’ll love it.
If he likes to cook and grill, check out these fun books for aspiring chef.
While you are at it, consider upgrading his grill. The Weber Original Kettle Barbecue is the best selling grill on Amazon and is less then $100.
Light and compact enough for backpacking, yet robust enough for backyard luxury, the popular ENO DoubleNest Hammock sets up in seconds and has plenty of room for 2.
- Purchase at AmazonJA Henckels International 15 Piece Knife Set with Knife Block
Set includes a 3 inch paring knife, a 5 inch santoku knife, a 7 inch santoku knife, an 8 inch chef’s knife, an 8 inch bread knife, six 4.5 inch steak knives, a 5 inch serrated utility knife, a sharpening steel, shears, and a hardwood block. This is the perfect gift for someone who likes to cook and doesn’t have decent knives. Even though they are the affordable line of knives from J.A. Henckels, they are still excellent knives and will be a significant upgrade over his current set. Taken care of, they will last a lifetime.
- Purchase at AmazonKenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit
Don’t just get him a Dopp Kitt, inside it place some essential shaving products that he will love.
- Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle Technology
- Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood: This will last for decades and he’ll think of you every time he uses it.
- Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Coconut Oil: He may not admit how good this feels on his skin but he will appreciate it.
- Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush
- Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Eau de Toilette Spray: For when he goes out and wants to smell nice but still let the world know he is still tough enough to conquer it. Moleskine Classic Notebook
Every man needs to keep a journal and this basic, yet classic Large Plain notebook is one that he will want to keep this thoughts and projects in. This reliable travel companion, perfect for sketches, thoughts and passing notes, has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners, acid free paper, a bookmark, an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history.
This gift hits two big things in your guys life
- It from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie which if he is like most guys, is dying to see.
- It’s a programmable robot which he wanted since Tomy released the Omnibot.
This is THE toy of the holiday season and is one that the entire family will get a kick out of. If the guy you are shopping for still enjoys a remote controlled car, a drone, or just having fun, make sure you check out this gift and pick up one early, they won’t be around as we get towards Christmas.
- Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
- Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
- Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
- Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
- Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact
If he is a creative type and a photographer, get him some software that will fuel that creativity. While the Adobe Creative Cloud is excellent, you have to pay for it monthly. As an alternative Adobe has Photoshop Element and Corel has Paint Shop Pro 18. Both will help him (and you) create your best photographs ever whether you are using a Nikon D810 or a iPhone 4.
If he is a podcaster or musician, check out the Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone. It allows you to record just yourself, a conversation with two people or an entire room of people. Great sound, solid design, and a lot of fun as he takes his first steps towards being an internet sensation.
Another option for the aspiring radio star is this Shure microphone for any iOS device with a Lightning connector. Compact enough to fit in a pocket and be with you anywhere at anytime.
- Apple MFi certified compatible with all iOS devices equipped with a Lightning connector
- Matched cardioid and bi-directional 1 cm cartridges for best-in-class audio
- Mid-side architecture for a phase-perfect, clear stereo image
- 5 DSP preset modes (Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud)
- Automatically adjusts EQ, compression and limiting for optimal results
- Innovative hinge/rotation design supports multiple recording angles, including video applications
- Free ShurePlus MOTIV recording app featuring 24-bit/48 khz .wav (uncompressed) recording,control over DSP mode selection, microphone gain, stereo width, raw mid-side adjustments, wind reduction, capsule selection, Left-Right Swap, 5-band EQ and compression/limiting
- All-metal construction engineered to withstand the most demanding recording conditions
Since 1932, Zippo has been making the finest and hardiest fire-making machine around. The Zippo is refillable, and nearly every part is replaceable, meaning the engraved metal casing given to your guy that will last just about forever. Even if he doesn’t smoke, he’ll love having one.
This is the knife that MacGuyver (and the Swiss military) made famous –
- 2 Blades, 2 Screwdrivers, Wood Saw and other handy tools
- Corkscrew, Reamer and Key Ring
- Toothpick and Tweezers
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I wanted to one up (park)ing Day this year. Our house is on a corner lot. We have two parking spots. One is kind of gravelled while the other one is more dirt than gravel. Since moving in, I have planted seed along the side of the dirt one to keep the mud down and to make it look nicer. Since we only have one car, the one spot is rarely used so this year, I decided to seed in the second spot and do something with it.
I know some of you hate grass with a passion but I like lawn. Over the years with dogs that tend to tear up grass when they run on it, we have planted a more and more hearty grass. Instead of going to Wal-Mart of Canadian Tire, we go to Early’s and get both a tougher kind of grass but it also requires less watering. If you need grass seed, this is where you need to go. Since much of Mayfair was built with no topsoil, we mulch our grass, aerate it yearly, and put down compost. It’s not ideal but it does require less water than ever before.
I really wanted to do something with that spot. It is sheltered and will be really nice next summer but… it’s Mayfair and right beside my car and house. I really don’t want more stuff stolen or broken into. It’s also on the side street and not a lot of traffic. While the City has planted an oak and a maple tree on the side boulevard over the years, the oak hasn’t taken off year and the maple is at the back part of our lot.
So I am thinking of doing something along the front of the house. About a decade ago the City of Saskatoon planted (replanted?) a maple tree there and it is at a size where it is starting to give some shade. We have a lot of seniors in our neighbourhood that struggle to walk down to Safeway every day and for many of them, a bench might be nice there. I will either anchor it to the ground or use a coated chain to the tree and see how long it will be until it gets stolen.
We are also thinking of a planter there as well. It will be a pain in the neck to mow around it but it’s Mark and I that will be doing it and I will know who to complain to.
If it is an issue with the City, I can also put it on my property which is only more difficult in that I don’t have a tree to toss a chain around to secure it. I’d have to get to get two cement blocks and secure it to that. It’s not that hard but it’s more permanent than I want. That being said, I imagine I’ll do the same with the boulevard.
Small front yards, bike lanes integrated into suburban areas.
I love this. I wish Saskatoon and other cities would have a sense of humour like this like Bellvue, Washington. It’s also okay for cities to be fun.
Of course then there is this. It is amazing
For some reason I think that doing it in City Park under the rail tracks would look great. In case you are wondering, it is in Wuppertal, Germany.
Think of what little things like this all over Saskatoon would do for us. Surprising things to make us laugh, smile or just smirk a bit as we make our way through the city. I think it would be great.
On Sept. 2, four correction officers pulled Jose Guadalupe, an inmate classified in medical records as seriously mentally ill, into his solitary-confinement cell at Rikers Island and beat him unconscious.
A little over two months later, three guards wrestled another inmate, Tracy Johnson, to the floor, pepper-sprayed him in the face and broke a bone in his eye socket. Then, on Dec. 9, yet another group of officers beat Ambiorix Celedonio, an inmate with an I.Q. of 65, so badly that, as surveillance footage later showed, he had bruises and scratches on his face and blood coming from his mouth.
The brutal confrontations were among 62 cases identified by The New York Times in which inmates were seriously injured by correction officers between last August and January, a period when city and federal officials had become increasingly focused on reining in violence at Rikers.
It was in August that the United States attorneyâ€™s office in Manhattan issued a damning report about brutality at the jail complex and threatened to sue the city unless conditions there improved. And in November, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that ending pervasive violence at Rikers had become a top priority for his administration.
But The Timesâ€™s examination makes clear that the violence has continued largely unabated, despite extraordinary levels of outside scrutiny, a substantial commitment of resources by Mr. de Blasio and a new team of high-ranking managers installed by the correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who took over the job in April.
This reminds me of the many conversations I had about jail with former inmates. Â The stories are not all that dissimilar. Â
Today, prison design is a civic cause for some architects who specialize in criminal justice and care about humane design. There is a lot of research documenting how the right kinds of design reduce violence inside prisons and even recidivism. Architects can help ensure that prisons donâ€™t succumb to our worst instincts â€” that they are not about spending the least amount of money to create the most horrendous places possible, in the name of vengeance â€” but promote rehabilitation and peace.
There has been less longing, in recent years, to be part of our own countryâ€™s version of a rust belt â€“ the one that comprises such Southwestern Ontario cities as Windsor, London and St. Catharines, and patches of Eastern Ontario. Young people have fled in droves as the regionâ€™s employment numbers have tanked, seeing the loss of more than a quarter of manufacturing jobs in the last decade.
The plight of the region has been a driving force behind a provincial deficit that remains at over $10-billion, as well as a net loss for Ontario in the migration of people within Canada, and an alarmingly aging population.
Even with Alberta driving the national economy, the country could ill afford Ontarioâ€™s struggles; itâ€™s hardly healthy for the largest provinceâ€™s per-capita GDP to be lower than the rest of Canadaâ€™s, and it helps explain why the federal government has remained in the red.
With oilâ€™s current slide, Canada really canâ€™t afford for it to remain a drag â€“ and in fact there is some expectation that Ontario will instead reclaim its old role as the leader of Canadaâ€™s economic growth. Its premier, Kathleen Wynne, recently expressed optimism that plummeting oil prices and a sinking dollar will prove a boon to manufacturing. â€œI donâ€™t wish for low oil prices and a low dollar for Alberta,â€ she said earlier this month. â€œBut at the same time, we want our manufacturing sector to rebound. So if that [low oil price] helps, then thatâ€™s a good thing.â€
While they could indeed help in the short term, itâ€™s difficult to imagine those volatile factors leading to the lasting revival of traditional sectors competing with consistently low-cost jurisdictions such as Mexico, China and even the American South.
For sustainable renewal, Ontarioâ€™s old industrial towns will have to work harder at reinvention â€“ and they should be looking to some of their counterparts in the U.S. A two-week road trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan revealed in often surprising ways how our neighbours are much further along in reinventing their most hard-hit cities, and how much we have to learn.
â€œThe wind is at the back of these cities in a way that it wasnâ€™t before,â€ says Jennifer Vey, a fellow at the Brookings Institute who studies the revitalization of old industrial centres. And although many of them will remain smaller than in their industrial heyday, the numbers bear that sentiment out. When the Manhattan Institute ranked Americaâ€™s 100 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas for their economic performance in the wake of the Great Recession, mid-size Northeastern and Midwestern cities accounted for nine of the top 20.
As Mr. Piiparinen and others are quick to stress, jobs will always be the cornerstone of any regeneration. But employers themselves can be drawn to a city by affordability and infrastructure, and like to set up shop where highly skilled people want to put down roots. The renaissance of former industrial powerhouses is fuelled by attracting and keeping well-educated, entrepreneurial citizens committed to community-building and capable of creating wealth and quality of life around them.
Of course, direct comparisons between the U.S. and Canadian experience is never exact: The places I visited tended to be larger than their Canadian counterparts; and although they may have such superior amenities as major-league sports teams and world-class museums, they also suffer from some entrenched disadvantages â€“ notably an appalling history of race relations that has left a legacy of poverty, crime and troubled public schools.
So why is it that a younger generation is finding opportunity in these Rust Belt cities (or some of them, at least; nobody sees Flint, Mich., or Gary, Ind., as models) more than in places like London or Windsor, which have some decent bones themselves? As Ontario attempts to take back Canadaâ€™s economic reins, it would do well to learn from whatâ€™s worked, and know what itâ€™s up against.
Almost every respondent wrote that the fact of his being the first black president will loom large in the historical narrative â€” though they disagreed in interesting ways. Many predict that what will last is the symbolism of a nonwhite First Family; others, the antagonism Obamaâ€™s blackness provoked; still others, the way his racial self-consciousness constrained him. A few suggested that we will care a great deal less about his race generations from now â€” just as John F. Kennedyâ€™s Catholicism hardly matters to current students of history. Across the board, Obamacare was recognized as a historic triumph (though one historian predicted that, with its market exchanges, it may in retrospect be seen as illiberal and mark the beginning of the privatization of public health care). A surprising number of respondents argued that his rescue of the economy will be judged more significant than is presently acknowledged, however lackluster the recovery has felt. There was more attention paid to China than isis (Obamaâ€™s foreign policy received the most divergent assessments), and considerable credit was given to the absence of a major war or terrorist attack, along with a more negative assessment of its price â€” the expansion of the security state, drones and all.Â
Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owlâ€™s Cabin in June, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.Â A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.
Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.Â You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.
I am carrying a 65 litre pack.Â It is lots big enough for an overnight trip and this way Mark and Wendy donâ€™t have to carry as much stuff.Â It will hold Wendyâ€™s and my tent, the cook set, and sleeping back with a lot of space left over.Â I wonâ€™t use all of that space but it is there.
If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.Â Mark and Wendy have some smaller bags that I bought there bags on clearance for a combined $30.Â They are 40 litres and have the external straps they need.Â They should do the job.
Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.Â They had a loss leader going last winter and we got it then.Â It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.Â Â The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.Â If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.
If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.Â Â Weight and size are a factor.Â Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).Â If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.Â It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.Â If it was just me, I would got with a two person tent but this way there is just enough room for us and some of our gear.
Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.Â It is small but it will be only him and his bag. Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.Â We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.Â It’s small but it is light.
We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.Â If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.
Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.Â We will have foil covered sleeping foams as well and inflatable camping pillows at well which are small, light, and are more comfortable than our bags.Â Â We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.
For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.Â Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.Â I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in June, we should be okay.Â Â It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.
As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.Â We picked up three sporks and we are set to go.
As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.Â There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.Â It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.Â Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.
Food: Basically MRE’s.Â We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.Â We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.Â Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.
Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.Â As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.Â We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.Â While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.Â They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.
Technology: We wonâ€™t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, compact binoculars, and some rugged cameras.Â We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.Â In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.Â It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.Â What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.
Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.
Hey, itâ€™s Christmas Day this morning.
Like we normally do, we spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Brittany, and Camdyn. Â We often spend Christmas Day with the Reimers but with them in Hawaii and having celebrated with them already, we woke up and opened gifts today at home.Â
Here is what everyone got.
He wasnâ€™t really expecting anything like that so he was pretty blown away. Â Mark had amazing parent teacher interviews and then stopped working so his first report card was brutal. Â He then has worked really hard since then but deep down I think he was expecting a lump of coal. Â Since he is grounded from all television and media until his marks improve, he will appreciate this reprieve. Â I am hoping this helps him the new year. Â If not, at least he can use it to play Angry Birds Transformers. Â
Wendy gave him aÂ VIA RailÂ shoulder bag with a drafting book inside. Â Itâ€™s a murse!
TheÂ dogs got him the same kind ofÂ photography glovesÂ that Wendy also got.
Maggi and Hutch gave him and OliverÂ PlayStation All-Stars Battle RoyaleÂ so you can imagine them beating each other up playing that. Â
I also gave him aÂ andÂ a brand newÂ Pentax 35mm f2.4 lensÂ which shocked him all over again because that is how I roll. Â He had been saving up for the lens for a bit and was pretty shocked that we got it for him.
As for Oliver, Wendy gave himÂ a giant X-Wing fighter. Â It is huge and he was thrilled. Â Attack runs on the Death Star have already commenced.Â
I gave him a toyÂ AH-64 Apache attack helicopterÂ Â
Mark got him aÂ Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder. Â I just realized I now how to help him assemble this thing. Â It comes with two lego characters. Â Luke Skywalker and that guy that was crushed by the AT-AT. Â So yeah, thatâ€™s great. Â
Wendy and I also gave him a Nikon S31 waterproof digital camera. Â It was an old one of mine that I didnâ€™t use once in 2014. Â Maggi and Hutch got him a Calgary Flames camera case that is styled like a mini backpack to carry his camera in.
Wendy also gave him a giant 200 piece art set. Â Heâ€™ll love it.
He asked Santa Claus for some grown up binoculars and old St. Nick came through for him and got him a pairÂ and a tactical flashlight. Santa also surprised him with a remote controlled Ford F-250 truck.
You can imagine how excited he is about all of that. Â You can also imagine how many times all of us have been blinded by his flashlight this morning.
It is her first real prime lens (her other ones are toy lenses) and she is pretty excited about it.
Oliver gave herÂ a new knife setÂ which she has wanted for a while. Â He also gave her a J.A. Henckelsâ€™ Chef Knife that she has been wanting all winter. Â So yeah, we have turned Wendy from a mild mannered person into a well armed killing machine.
Mark gave her a pair of Sennheisser HD 201 headphones.
Mark also gave her a bamboo cutting board and four piece cheese knife set (I had no idea cheese knives were a thing until now). Â Both of these will be used for a large charcuterie board tomorrow afternoon for lunch.
Mark also gave her a pair of Thinsulate photography gloves so she can get outside and use her camera more this winter.
Santa Claus gave WendyÂ a new LED tactical flashlight. Â She wasnâ€™t thrilled that it was bright pink or that it was called the â€œMaidenâ€ but she does love that it is powerful enough to blind Oliver and Mark if shown in their eyes. Â I just told her that Santa was trolling her. Â Santa also got her theÂ same pair of binoculars that he gave Oliver.
I was spoiled for Christmas.Â
Thanks to everyone, I really appreciate the gifts.
Today we will take some cameras out for a walk and then I will be home debating with Oliver whether or not an AH-64 attack helicopter has a chance against a X-Wing fighter.
I hope your Christmas has been as enjoyable as ours wherever you are reading this from.
Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade 1, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys.Â You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below.Â If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.
Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin).Â You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.
All-new Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tabletâ€”with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee
- A real tablet, not a toyâ€”A quad-core processor for great performance, a vivid HD display, front and rear-facing cameras, and Dolby Audio
- Built for even the toughest kidsâ€”Enjoy the peace of mind with an unprecedented 2-year worry-free guaranteeâ€”if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked
- Don’t worry about the billâ€”The Kids Edition includes a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited so kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and gamesâ€”at no additional cost. Learn more
- Starts in Amazon FreeTimeâ€”Built from the ground up for kids, the background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design. Kids can navigate visually to content based on characters or topics. Parents can exit Amazon FreeTime mode with a passcode
- Best-in-class parental controlsâ€”Personalize screen time limits, set educational goals, and choose which titles kids can access from your own personal content collection
- Take and edit photos in Amazon FreeTimeâ€”Snap photos within Amazon FreeTime mode using front and rear cameras. Fun editing tools lets kids explore their creative side by adding stickers, drawing on their pictures, and more
- Kid-Proof Caseâ€”Durable, lightweight case to protect against drops and bumps caused by kids at play.
We gave OliverÂ Wendyâ€™s old Kobo Vox tablet last year.Â We tossed on some educational games, some apps, and he loves it.Â We did the same with an old 2nd Gen iPod Touch that we loaded up with music.Â He is careful and responsible with it.Â With the Amazon Fire HD case and apps, it makes introducing your child to a computer even easier.
This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom.Â The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.
Nerf guns are all over our house.Â There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids.Â If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster.Â Five bullets and lots of fun.
If you want to survive those ambushes, you may want to pick up one of these for yourself.
There are a great gift.Â Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades.Â So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants.Â Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.
The old classic is still around.Â It includes 86 all wood pieces.
If you donâ€™t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.
How cool is this.Â An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls.Â â€œHelp me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on timeâ€¦â€
A great option for the kid who struggles to wake up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock.Â Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.
- $24 from Amazon.Â If your child is superhero fan more than Star Wars, there are Batman and Superman Lego alarm clocks for $30
We passed down an iPod Shuffle to Oliver a couple of years ago.Â It is small and easy for him to use.Â Even the 2gb version is enough to load him up with music for the longest of roadtrips.Â Combine it with these kid-friendly Batman Headphones and you have a gift that they will love as much as you love the silence.
Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage.Â Over the ear design also means that they wonâ€™t get headaches either.Â Â Itâ€™s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the iPod Shuffle.
Sometimes kids want to listen to their music out loud!Â For those times, a portable, small, and rechargeable speaker that provides great sound is the way to go.Â Â Â It provides great sound but wonâ€™t overpower your house.Â Â The also have a modular “Buddy-Plug” Design: Integrated stowaway 3.5mm stereo audio jack plug and socket connects multiple XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule speakers together for maximum sound.Â So if one isnâ€™t getting the job done, you can keep adding speakers.Â They are compatible with any device that has a headphone jack, so phones, iPods, or any MP3 player.
Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years.Â Â Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?
Remember your first H0 model train set?Â How about a set that is modelled afterÂ Colorado’s oldest scenic line?Â It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.
How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?
The Hohner HAG250P is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.
Spy Gear for His Latest Adventure
Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission
The coolest utility belt that doesnâ€™t belong to Batman.
Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.
Looking at what to get the photographer in your life for Christmas? Â Here are some ideas that are sure to make every photographers Christmas season.
Well a camera is a pretty big gift but there are some spectacular options from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax in 2014. Â Take a look below.
It was the announcement that everyone was waiting for this fall and it is now here. Â The Canon 7D Mark II features:
- 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
- High spped continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
- 65-point all cross-type AF system
- Stunning Full HD video with Custom Movie Servo AF (speed and sensitivity)
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF enables you to shoot video like a camcorder
- Body Only is $1799 & Canon 7D II with 18-135 lens is $2149 at Amazon where it is their best selling DSLR
While Canon has their hit camera with the Canon 7D Mark II, Nikon has their own hit with the Nikon D750 which is the successor to the famous D700.Â
Here are the Nikon D750â€™s highlights.
I have long been a long time Pentax user and for me, this camera personifies everything that is right with Pentax right now. Â
- 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, selectable on/off of anti-aliasing filter
- 8.3 frames per second continuous shooting
- 27-point AF system with 25 cross sensors and 3 low-light AF sensors
- ISO 80-51,200
- 1080 60p/50p/30p/24p HD video (H.264)
If you are considering making the switch to a mirrorless camera, then you really need to look at the Olympus OM-D lineup, especially the E-M1 and the lower priced E-M10. Â Both using the Micro Four/Thirds mount and have in body stabilization. Â The combination means there are countless lens from Olympus, Panasonic, and most recently Sigma that can all be used.
- The body only version will set you back $699 while the kit with the included 14-42 lens will cost you $799
Sony has three current Sony RX-100 cameras, all at different price points. Â All of them are 20 megapixels, compact, and great in low light. Â The reason you want one is that they are a remarkable camera to have you at all time and are being used by photographers like Bryan Scott (publishes Winnipeg Love Hate) and CTVâ€™s Tom Podolec who have captured amazing images with the RX-100â€™s over the last year or so. Â The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have raved about the camera. Â Basically if you donâ€™t Sonyâ€™s RX-100, you didnâ€™t want a compact camera in the first place.
So you get the perfect lens or camera on Christmas morning and then realize that it is -22 degrees Celsius out where you want to try it out. Â Wonderful. Â Now you have to wait till March. Â
There is another solution and that is the Thinsulate Freehands photography gloves. Â Keeps your hands warm while giving them the freedom to take the photos you want.
The Theta from Ricoh is a compact and lightweight (3.3 oz.) camera that has a lens on both the front and back, allowing you to take full 360 Degree spherical panoramic images in with one shot and 3 minute videos. The device is synchronized with smartphones, where images can be immediately transmitted via Wi-Fi and viewed with a dedicated free app. The app also allows images to be pinched, swiped or rotated to edit size, shape and composition. Images uploaded to theta360.com can be shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as Microsoft Corporationâ€™s Photosynth. IOS and Android free apps for viewing and capturing images.
There is a better way to carry your camera and it is a Black Rapid strap
A great stocking stuffer for the photographer on your list. Â It features an old school colourful design which is a lot more exciting then the strap that came with your camera.
Tripods that can do this are surprisingly useful.
I Shoot People
Perfect gift for the portrait photographer on your list.
Best photo editing software on the planet and you can get it for PC or Mac. Â Amazing gift if they are still using Picasa or iPhoto.
This kit provides 375 Watts of continuous lighting and it is a very good start for beginners. Entire kit sets up in minutes, and very easy to operate. Â An incredible gift to someone who is thinking of setting up an in home or portable studio, a documentary project or just wants some good lights at their disposal.
Sometimes itâ€™s best you not take your DSLR with you (like into the pool or ocean). Â I personally love this camera. Â Small form factor, ruggedized and it takes great photos.
You can pay a lot for a camera bag from ThinkTank, Kata, or LowePro or you can get this bag from Amazon for $30. Â Your choice.
You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here. Â There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life. Â Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season! Â Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.