Category Archives: exploration

Holiday and Christmas Gift Guide for the Adventurer and Explorer | 2016 Edition

After spending several weekends in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan and Prince Albert National Park and then quality time in Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains, we have gotten to know what works and what does not as a family.

If you are shopping for an adventurer or explorer, here are some great ideas for anyone who loves the outdoors.

Jetboil Flash Lite Personal Cooking System

Jetboil Flash Lite Personal Cooking System

Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove.  The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.

Solo Stove Titan

Solo Stove Titan

If lugging along a fuel source isn’t your thing, check out the Solo Stove Titan.  This stove cooks your meals with nothing but the twigs you collect on your journey.

It is a unique wood burning stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more efficient and cleaner burn. The bottom vents allow air to enter and flow up the bottom of the grate to feed the primary combustion, a top down smolder. In addition, air entering in from the bottom vents heats up within the inner wall and rises up and out the top firebox vents causing a secondary combustion at the top of the stove. The Solo Stove Titan actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice! This technique makes for a cleaner burn which means less smoke and higher efficiency.

Double Nest Hammock

Double Nest Hammock

The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.  If you have never had one with you when camping you are missing out.  There is nothing like an afternoon nap under a light blanket on a nice summer afternoon.  We have two of them and I couldn’t keep the boys out of them this summer while in the mountains.

GSI Outdoors Javapress Coffee Mug

GSI Outdoors Javapress Coffee Mug

Good coffee on the trail or the campsite in the morning can make the difference between a long day or a great day.  The best way to make a great cup of coffee is with a French Press.  The GSI Outdoors Javapress provides that French Press taste your own commuter mug.  It makes it easy to get great coffee without having to lug along extra gear.

Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x Handheld GPS

The new eTrex 30x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 30, with enhanced screen resolution and expandedinternal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the easeof-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boatsand cars. The new eTrex 30x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. Add to that a3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass and barometric altimeter, and you’re ready to confidently go anywhere.

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike. Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing. They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and Amazon.com and are loved by all that use them. Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.

Nite Ize LED Spotlight

Nite Ize LED Spotlight

We have several of these lights.  I toss them on all of our backpacks in case we are out hiking after dark in case we need a mini-beacon to light your way through the dark.  Marley is almost all black and when out at night, we attach one to her collar.  While in Banff this summer, we found that at night, people went from feeling nervous to seeing a dog out for a walk to being fascinated by her blinking light.  It made her seem far more approachable which was great for us and our temporary neighbors.

Camping Cookware Kit

Camping Cookware KitCamping Cookware Kit

 

We bought one of these for Mark.  It’s a 10 Piece Camping Campfire Cookware Mess Kit includes Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Pot (1 Liter Capacity) + Pot Cover + Nonstick Pan + 2 BPA Free Bowls + Folding Stainless Steel Spork + BPA Free Soup Spoon + Wooden Spoon Spatula + Cleaning Sponge + Nylon Travel Bag Drawstring Pouch.  It’s perfect for hikes and trips and small enough to easily pack with him.

Sriracha2Go

Sriracha2Go

You know it, I know it.  We all know that Sriracha makes food taste better.  The problem is, what do you carry it in while hiking or camping?  The answer is a mini bottle that comes with a carabineer so you always have it with you.

Wealers 7 Piece Camp Cooking Utensils Set

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It is an all-in-one 7pc kitchen set includes all utensils needed for any outdoor or camping chef.  Features: Cutting Board, Rice Paddle, Tongs, Scissors, Knife, all tools to meet your food prep needs in one portable package.

Zippo Lighter

Chrome Zippo Lighter

You need a lighter for backcountry adventures.  It’s the easiest way to make a fire or light a stove.  We keep one in our weekend bags, our backpacks, and in the car.  If you lose one, you just grab another.  For that reason you should have a few disposable lighters in your pack.  At the same time there is something about reaching into your bag and having a Zippo lighter there.

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood Swiss Army Knife

This fantastic Swiss Army knife has a handle made out of natural walnut.  Includes 2.5″ Blade, Nail File, Serrated-edge Scissors, Can Opener, Large and Small Screwdriver, Cap Lifter, 2.75″ wood saw, Corkscrew, Punch, Reamer.  It’s the Swiss Army knife your grandfather would have carried in his pocket every day of his life.

Coleman 2-For-1 All Day 4-Person Shelter & Tent

Coleman 2-For-1 All Day 4-Person Shelter & Tent

There are some excellent reasons for a tent like this.  If you are planning to do some car camping or just want a base camp to adventure from, this is small enough to travel with but large enough to be a comfortable home at the end of a long day on the trail.  Inside, the 10 ft. x 10 ft. (3 m x 3 m) floor is large enough to fit two queen-sized airbeds.  Like all new tents, treat with Nikwax Tent and Gear Solar Proof before you take it out for the first time.

Sanuk Men’s Vagabond Slip On

Sanuk Men's Vagabond Slip On

For years at the end of a long day on the trail, people used to slip on a pair of Crocs for around the campfire.  They work great and until this summer, I totally recommend it until I tried a pair of Sanuks.  Not only are they as comfortable as Crocs, they look good enough that if you need to run into town or wants to go out for an evening, they look good enough to do so.  You can get them for men and women.

Under Armour Storm Undeniable II LG Duffle

Under Armour Storm Undeniable II LG Duffle

They are going to need something to store all of that gear in.  Why not get them a great looking duffle bag from Under ArmourWendy gave me a great duffle bag a few years ago and it is a great gift.  It’s been with us on every trip and adventure since then and read to be packed at a moment’s notice.  If red isn’t your colour, Under Armour has a variety of colours chose from.

Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys

Micro Adventures by Alistair Humphreys

For those of you struggling with the idea of getting out of the city, here is a great book by Alastair Humphreys on taking Micro Adventures.

The point of microadventures is that you do not need lots of time and money to meet a new challenge. Go on a night hike; follow a nature trail; take the plunge with wild swimming. This practical guide is filled with great activities and days out, and over 150 stunning photographs, plus tips and advice on safety and kit.

Whether it is sleeping on a hilltop, cycling a lap of the Isle of Wight or walking home for Christmas, it’s time you discovered something new about yourself and the world outside your window. Adventure is everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to find it.  It’s a great book for getting you started or if you are a seasoned explorer, some ideas to get you outside more often.

Pentax UP 8×21 Binoculars

Pentax UP 8x21 BinocularsThe gift of a great set of compact binoculars is huge.  Pentax has long made a great pair of binoculars and these are no different.  These compact porro-prism models feature a dual-axis, single body design with synchronized eyepiece adjustment. Aspherical lens elements give you edge-to-edge sharpness. Clear images, affordable price, and compact form factor.

Hario Skerton Coffee Mill

Hario Skerton Coffee Mill

Even if you’re not living life on the road, we recommend grinding your coffee by hand. It’s meditative and the end result tastes better. This Hario mill doesn’t require any plug-ins or batteries, and the lack of blades means you can take it on airplanes without getting stopped.

Parrot Bebop 2 Drone

Parrot Bebop 2 Drone

Stacked with beginner-friendly features, including seven stability sensors, the Parrot Bebop 2 drone uses the accelerometer in your phone to change speed based on how fast you move your hands.

Parrot Disco

Parrot Disco Drone

Discover Disco, the first fixed-wing drone that reaches speeds up to 50 mph. Immerse yourself in flight and see the world from a whole new angle with Parrot Cockpitglasses, the new FPV headset designed to put you in the cockpit of your drone. Lastly, to complete the piloting experience, take control with the lightweight, compact and ultra-precise Parrot Skycontroller 2.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas and Holiday Gift IdeasChristmas Gifts for the Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | In-Laws| Teens | Elementary School Aged | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies

Christmas Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life | 2016 Edition

It’s Wendy.  I’m back to do my annual Christmas Gift Guide for the men in your life, whether that be your husband/boyfriend/father or even some grown children.

Keeping Track of Time

Let’s start with watches.  Nothing quite turns a boy into a man like a good watch.  Here are some great ideas any guys, whether that are always connected or love to get away from it all.

Pebble Smart Watch

Pebble Smart Watch

It does almost everything an Apple Watch does at a fraction of the cost.  It also works with Apple iOS and Android devices.

  • Notifications at a glance: calendar events, text and emails, incoming calls, and more.
  • Includes Pebble Health, a built-in activity and sleep tracker with daily reports and weekly insights.
  • Built-in microphone for voice notes and quick replies (sending voice replies works with AT&T iPhone accounts and most Android apps including SMS, Hangouts, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and hundreds more. iOS voice features for other carriers will be available in a future software update)
  • 9.5mm thin chassis with curved, ergonomic profile.
  • Marine Grade Stainless Steel bezel with PVD coating, matte and polished finishes.
  • Tough, 2.5D glass display
  • Tactile buttons for easy, eyes-free control.
  • Magnetic charging with cable that works in any USB port.
  • Vibrating motor for discreet alerts and alarms (wake yourself, not your loved ones).
  • Includes 22mm Silicone Strap and USB Charging Cable.
  • Battery life up to 7 days
  • Water resistant to 30 meters
  • Always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight

Another popular option is the Fitbit Blaze Smartwatch.

Invicta Men’s ‘Pro Diver’ Quartz Stainless Steel Casual Watch

Invicta Men's 'Pro Diver' Quartz Stainless Steel Casual WatchLuxury and quality don’t always have to cost a fortune. The Invicta Pro Diver men’s dive watch features a 43mm wide and 12mm thick solid stainless steel case with a unidirectional rotating blue accented silver tone bezel and textured screw down crown. Invicta is powered by Japanese TMI PC32A quartz movement. This stylish watch also features a sharp looking blue dial with white accents silver tone luminous hands and dot hour markers along with the date display function, scratch resistant flame fusion crystal and water resistant to 200 meters. The Invicta Pro-Diver watch comes in an original Invicta gift box and is backed by a 5 years limited warranty.

I bought one for Jordon for his 40th Birthday and it’s looks amazing and draws all sorts of attention whenever he goes out with it.

Timex Men’s Atlantis 100 Watch

Timex Men's Atlantis 100 WatchDiscover the sleek, streamlined design of the Timex Men’s Atlantis 100 Watch. Features include a 100-hour chronograph with lap or split in large digits, an easy-to-use 100-hour countdown timer, a 99-lap counter, a daily alarm, day and month calendar, and a two time zone setting ideal for traveling. Thanks to the Indiglo night-light system, the digital face is easy to read, even in low-light situations. A strong black resin case and stationary black resin bezel hold a durable acrylic window to protect the dial, while a black resin strap with a buckle clasp make this watch ideal for exercising. This versatile timepiece uses precise quartz movement and is water-resistant up to 165 feet (50 meters).

Both Jordon and Mark have (different versions of this) watch and it is their everyday watch which is great for work, looks good if they are going out and tough enough when they are hiking the trail or we are camping.

For even less money, check out the attractive, tough and affordable Casio Illuminator watch.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Jordon has the 2016-2017 version and loves it.  What makes this dayplanner better than all of the other ones out there, it has your weekly calendar on one side of the page with a full page of notes on the other side.  It is a good enough planner to make Jordon give up Google Calendar and go back to pen and paper.

Mokeskine Weekly Planner

Parker Urban Rollerball Pen

Parker Urban IM Rollerball Pen

A great daytimer is nothing without a great pen.  This pen is nice and durable enough that he will always want it with him but affordable enough that he won’t be afraid to leave home with it.


Getting Personal

From there, let’s look at some personal gifts like an amazing shaving kit or as the British call them, a dopp kit.  You can spend a lot of money on a dopp kit of use an old pencil case.  Personally I find the Kenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit to be the perfect balance between the two and you get a bag he will use for the rest of his life while being a good value.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit

 Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle TechnologyDon’t just get him a Dopp Kitt, inside it place some essential shaving products that he will love.  The market leader is the Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle Technology.  It’s a razor any man would love and if he doesn’t have one, it’s a great upgrade.

Jordon has preferred the Schick Hydro 5 Power since it came out.  The blades are quite a bit less expensive then Gillette’s yet they last a long time and the shave is a great.  Schick Hydro 5 Power Razor for Men

If you are looking to save some money up front and down the road, I recommend the Magnum M5 razor.  We got one for Mark and he loves it.  5 blades, good shave and a package of blades lasts a long time.

Magnum M5 razor

 Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood: This will last for decades and he’ll think of you every time he uses it.

Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood

Henry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Coconut OilHenry Cavendish Himalaya 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: The bristles on this brush are made from genuine pure badger hair, for a soft and luxurious feeling every time he shaves.

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.

Slim Leather Wallet with ID Window

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Jordon switched to one of these a few years ago and we later gave one to Mark for his birthday.  It easily holds a bank card, a couple of credit cards, drivers license, health card, and a few others without causing your pain if you sit on it or irritate you if it is in your front pocket.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Briefcase

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Briefcase

A great looking and affordable high quality leather briefcase.  He will take it with him everywhere.


Out for an Adventure

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood 14 Swiss Army Knife

Jordon’s grandfather had a wooden pocket knife that he carried with him every day for his entire life.  This is the knife that your guy will carry will carry in his pocket each and every day of his life.

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood 14 Swiss Army Knife

Not only that but if the fate of the world does happen to depend on him, he will be prepared with the same knife that MacGuyver had with him.  If you are looking for a classic red Swiss Army Knife, check out this version.

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout Knife

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout KnifeJordon and Mark aren’t big fans of Bear Grylls (they one time watched him bite the head off a large frog for no real reason) but they love this knife.  It is small enough to carry in a pocket or toss in a bag that is ready and packed for adventure.  Jordon’s knife has  been used to make kindling for a fire, cutting some branches to cook with and is what he grabbed when we a wolf came into our campsite.   He also uses it for work and carries it pretty much everywhere.  If the guy you are shopping for takes pride in being self-reliant and the one that fix any problem, he needs a good knife.  It’s one of those gifts that not only will he appreciate but when he bails everyone out because he has it, you will too.

Solo Stove & Pot Combo

Solo Stove & Pot Combo

Jordon has a Primus Classic Stove and Mark has a MSR Pocket Rocket stove but they fuel canisters.  This does not.  It burns twigs which are always around if you are camping and boils water in under 10 minutes..  It is a Gear of the Year winner from Backpacker Magazine and is ideal if the guy you are shopping for loves the outdoors.

Pentax UP 10×21 Binoculars

Pentax UP 10x21 Binoculars

Jordon gave me a pair of these for Mother’s Day and a pair for Mark for his birthday.  Jordon keeps a small pair of binoculars in this bag all of the time for when we are hiking and they are great for watching Mark’s football games at SMF Field.  The 10 times magnification is great for almost everything and they are good for almost any kind of daylight viewing.


Chilling out at Home

We live in a small house in Saskatoon.  We don’t have the room for a vast sound system or home theatre system.  So if we are entertaining at home, we want a great room filling audio system in a small package and good headphones when we want to escape into our work or a great playlist.

Let’s start with some headphones.

Bose SoundTrue II Headphones

Bose SoundTrue II Headphones

Bose Sound True around-ear headphones II were engineered with advanced Bose technologies. They feature exclusive TriPort technology so your music sounds deep, clear and full of life.  The headphones feature a softly padded headband that distributes weight evenly across your head, and memory foam creates a gentle cushion around your ears. So they stay light and comfortable whether or not you are working in a co-working space or just relaxing to a long playlist at home.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

If the cost of the Bose headphones are too much, check out a long lasting resident of these gift guides, the Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones are a great value.

Sennheiser HD202II Headphones

The HD 202 MK II closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones are the ideal partner for DJs and powerful modern music, providing great insulation against ambient noise and a vivid, crisp bass response. The rugged lightweight headphones have a secure fit and can be used for both mobile sources and home (mini) hi-fi systems. When out and about, a convenient cord take-up lets you adjust the headphone cable to the required length.

For when we want some room filling sound, we use our Bluetooth speakers.  It is discrete enough to never be noticed but has enough oomph to fill the room.

Bose Wave Music System IV

Bose Wave Music System IV

This is the sound system you have been looking for.  For almost all of us, the first time we ever heard one of these, we went, “Oh, that is what the big deal is about.”  The latest Bose Wave System IV works with your home Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth devices so you can play almost anything you can imagine. Use it to stream millions of songs from music services like Spotify and Pandora, thousands of Internet radio stations and your stored music library. There’s also a CD player and AM/FM radio tuner. So you can hear whatever you want with room-filling sound-all from an easy-to-use system that now comes in a new design.

It is the kind of gift that not only will he love but so will the entire household.

Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot

You really want an Amazon Echo

I don’t know how to best describe Amazon Echo other than comparing it to either the computer on Star Trek or Jarvis from Ironman.  It is like Siri for your home.

Setting up an Amazon Echo

It started out as a music player but it keeps getting smarter and smarter.  Check this page out for what it can do now (and it keeps getting smarter in the future).  Of course if you aren’t looking to play music, check out the Amazon Echo Dot.   At $50 you can have them all over your house.  If two of them hear you, the closest one answers.  It connects with everything to your phone to your furnace.  Again with it being cloud based, the upgrades happen online so you aren’t a slave to adding new hardware all of the time.

Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet would probably enjoy owning a portable Bluetooth speaker. The best deliver sound quality that’s good enough for casual music listening, podcasts, and Internet radio. Portable Bluetooth speakers have a rechargeable battery that lets you easily take them all around the house or to the park or the beach. We’ve found they make hotel rooms feel more like home and long business trips much more bearable.

UE Roll 2

Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about the UE Roll 2

The original UE Roll was our unanimous pick for best portable speaker when we tested 30 new models last year, and we feel just as strongly about its replacement, the UE Roll 2. Like the original, the UE Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes tUE Roll 2 Bluetooth Speakero cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a beach blanket with sound. It’s so watertight it will survive being dunked one meter underwater for 30 minutes. Seven months of worldwide traveling with the original Roll have only confirmed our love of this design. The only real downside is that it lacks a speakerphone function.

Bose SoundLink Mini II

Bose SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth Speaker System

For those who want even better sound quality and louder volume and don’t need their portable Bluetooth speaker to be super-portable, the Bose SoundLink Mini II is worth the cost (roughly twice the price of the Roll 2). It’s shocking to hear how much better the SoundLink Mini II sounds than most of its competitors, with clearer voices and a fuller sound closer to what you’d expect to hear from a decent small stereo system. It also plays loud enough to drown out a small dinner party. At 1½ pounds the SoundLink Mini II is perfect for lugging along on family vacations or from room to room in the house but probably heavier than backpackers and business travelers will want to carry.

Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds Headphones with Mic/Controller

31KkJHBsooLThese are always dirt cheap and available everywhere so it’s easy to dismiss them as not that good but The Wirecutter’s blind hearing test of in ear headphones consistently rates these near the top of their rankings despite their low price.  So if you are on a budget but are looking for a great gift for a traveler, hiker, or someone who is always on the move, you can do a lot worse than a pair of these headphones.

Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer

Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer

A 6-inch, 20-watt downward-firing powered subwoofer. Eight 1-inch full-range transducers. Plug-and-play compatibility with virtually any multimedia device. And stunning industrial design that perfectly matches the clarity of the sound. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks III desktop sound system brings a new level of excitement to music, games and movies with a minimum of wiring and looks spectacular doing it.


Something to Watch

Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet

Looking for an affordable tablet?  The Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet is the one you are looking for.

Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet

Another slightly more expensive option is the Asus Zenpad 8” tablet.  Of course you will want a discrete case to carry it in.  I recommend this one that looks like a manila envelope.

Manila Envelope 7" Tablet Case by Boxwave

Jordon got one of these when he bought a Kindle a few years back.  They protect the tablet well and people smile whenever he pulls a tablet out of one.

Apple iPad Mini 4

If you want to go higher end, check out the Apple iPad Mini 4.

Apple iPad Mini 4

Capture the Action

Why does he wants a drone?  Why do you want a drone?  Check out this video of a New Zealand family vacation which I love.

How much fun would one of these be to document a family vacation or a long weekend away.  Our household is a big fan of Casey Neistat and his use of drones do such a great job of capturing his adventures and they are so easy to use.

DJI Mavic Pro

DJI Mavic Pro Drone

One of the best drones one the market as well as more affordable than other options on the market.  Since it folds up, it is small enough to fit in a shoulder bag and carry with you always.  A 27 minute battery life gives you the time to capture all of the footage you want.

Yuneec  Breeze Drone

Yuneec Breeze Drone

The Yuneec Breeze is another affordable drone that is designed for social media.  If the DJI Mavic is there to capture cities and adventures, the Yuneec Breeze exists to capture you.  It’s even easier to fly, works well inside and out, and has a 4k video camera to capture everything.

It doesn’t have the performance that the DJI Mavic does but it costs about half as much.

Around the House

Survival Seed Vault

So if you are convinced the world will end in 2017 or 2018, you probably already have this.  For the rest of us, this seed vault offers a wide variety of seeds to take you guys garden to the next level.

Survival Seed Vault

These 20 fruits and vegetables provide an excellent source of nutrients you need for a well-balanced diet. Each seed variety is individually sealed to remove air and moisture and will store for five years and even longer at temperatures below 75 F.

What’s Inside the Survival Seed Vault:

  • Blue Lake Bush Beans <150 seeds
  • California Wonder Bell Pepper < 70 seeds
  • Market more Cucumber < 150 seeds
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrot < 800 seeds
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce < 900 seeds
  • Golden Acre Cabbage < 530 seeds
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet < 260 seeds
  • Lincoln Sweet Pea < 100 seeds
  • Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn < 260 seeds
  • Beefsteak Tomato < 180 seeds
  • Champion Radish < 320 seeds
  • Green Sprouting Broccoli < 500 seeds
  • Waltham Butternut Winter Squash < 100 seeds
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach < 260 seeds
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion < 145 seeds
  • Black Turtle Bean < 70 seeds
  • Hales Best Cantaloupe < 70 seeds
  • Snowball Cauliflower < 285 seeds
  • Black Beauty Zucchini < 50 seeds
  • Crimson Sweet Watermelon < 60 seeds

Manly Cookbooks

If you guy likes to cook, raise his game with one of these fun cookbooks this Christmas.  I picked a barbecue/entertaining focus because not only will this encourage him to help out around the house but he’ll have some friends over to eat all of the food he has proudly made.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Cooking with Beer CookbookGordon Ramsay's Sunday Lunch: 25 Simple Menus to Pamper Family and Friends Essential Company's Coming Guys' CookbookEat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever NeedBig Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue JointPaul Kirk's Championship Barbecue: Barbecue Your Way to Greatness With 575 Lip-Smackin' Recipes from the Baron of BarbecueSouthern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and SmokingThe Hell's Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes from the KitchenGordon Ramsay's Home Cooking: Everything You Need to Know to Make Fabulous FoodGordon Ramsay's Fast Food: More Than 100 Delicious, Super-Fast, and Easy RecipesThe Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty

You might us well upgrade his cooking utensil game while you are it.

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife

 

A great all-round knife that at a great price. The Fibrox Pro 8″ Chef’s Knife is optimally weighted with high-quality, lightweight European steel that reduces hand and wrist fatigue, making it feel less like a knife and more like an extension of the hand. Perfectly suited for dicing onions, mincing shallots, chopping herbs, crushing garlic, slicing meats of all varieties, and shredding cabbage, its versatility will quickly make it his go-to knife.

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set

  • Grill set includes chef’s spatula, grill tongs, silicone basting brush, 4 pairs of corn holders, cleaning brush, and extra brush head
  • Also includes aluminum storage case–perfect for the on-the-go griller
  • Durable stainless-steel tool construction
  • Elongated handles; convenient handle rings for hanging
  • Spatula has built-in bottle opener

Time to Play

DMI Bristle Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

DMI Bristle Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

All work and no play makes for a dull guy.  How about spicing up their games room with a dartboard, darts, and oak cabinet.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas-Gift-Guide2-1[13]Christmas Gifts for the Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | In-Laws| Teens | Elementary School Aged | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies

Vacationing with Mark

Several of you who are parents seem surprised that Mark enjoys going on family vacations still.  Many of you hated going with your parents at that age and some have kids who are resenting going on trips with them.

I don’t have a secret but here are some things I have done so Mark wants to go on vacation.

  • Scott Theede suggested we purchase Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies which is a book that evaluates hiking trails in the Rockies so you don’t take bad ones.   At first glance it seems expensive at almost $60 but it worth it when you consider it is 677 pages and if you are like us, refer to it often.   I have read the book cover to cover and so has Mark.  In fact he wants his own copy.   When we planned this trip (and are already planning the next one), I had Mark plan it as well.  I spent a lot of time getting his input and helping him figure out what he wanted to do and seeing how that can happen.  Mark suggested going to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and spent some time researching fun things to do.  He was also a part of decisions like, “Do we take the dog?”  It was Mark that convinced us that we should.  At the same time he also said, “I’ll help the dog on the Banff Gondola”, a decision that seemed a lot simpler in Saskatoon than it was in line at the base of Sulpher Mountain.

  • Mark and Oliver were comfortable in their own tent.  I kept hearing from people how much they hated sleeping in the tent/camper with their parents and how much of a different it made even as adults to have their own space.  Mark and Oliver have their own space.  They have their own duffel bags, sleeping bags, air mattresses, compact chairs, and gear.   They really appreciated having their own space.  It was worthwhile.   Parks Canada campgrounds only allow for two tents per campground (although I saw some that had a third small one) but I was clear to Mark that if he wanted his own space separate from Oliver, we would make that happen, even if it was a different campsite for him.  I’ll post the gear that we have for the boys in a later post.
  • I bought Mark the gear that he wanted.  In case it rained, he wanted a new deck of cards, a decent lantern for his tent and a great coffee mug.  The cost of all of those things was very low when you consider that they all made camping nicer.
  • I checked out the day’s itinerary with Mark every morning.  Now we have everything planned out a long time in advance but he appreciated the quiet conversation we had about what we were going to do and what ideas he had to make it better.
  • Despite being in the mountains before, this was the first trip he ever took where he was in awe with what he saw.  He fell in love with Castle Mountain and wanted to hang out and linger longer at the lookout.  He wanted to risk life and hypothermia by climbing up a stream and waterfall at Moraine Lake.  I just let him soak it in at his pace.  Same with Oliver.  Oliver’s camera is waterproof and at a certain time he sat on a rock taking underwater photos and was having a blast.
  • He had his own money from work but appreciated shopping with Wendy and I as he figured out what he wanted to get.  95% of that time was mocking what we saw but I know he did appreciate the suggestions on what to get.  My only disappointment was that he never got a onesie.

For next year we have started out debate about what we are going to do (the big picture is using Lake Louise Campground as a base camp to explore Lake Louise trails and some trails in Yoho National Park before pushing towards Jasper).  We are working on a budget and making a list of what gear to upgrade before next year.  He is a part of all of those discussions because I want it to be something we all like, not just Wendy and I.

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Easy 1.5 – 2.0 km One Way Hike

On Sunday, Wendy, Mark, Oliver, Marley and I drove to Prince Albert National Park and hiked the Kingsmere River Trail at the far end of Kingsmere Road.  The first 15 km of the road out of Waskesiu is paved with narrow shoulders but the last 17.5 km is gravel and pretty soft.  It’s not a road you would want to drive on after a couple of days of rain.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the parking lot and picnic area with washrooms.

The trail shares the trailhead with the start of the Grey Owl trail.  Take the path for the first 500 metres before you come to a clear sign that directs you to the Kingsmere River Trail and the stairs that take you into the valley. 

At the bottom of the stairs you will come to a bridge where you can see the clear water flowing along the Kingsmere River. Once your across the bridge you will see a set of train tracks. These tracks are used for people to move small boats or canoes to Kingsmere Lake. Follow the tracks until you get to a dirt and later rock covered trail.  The dirt trail will bring you all the way to the Southend Campground. Once at the campground area, you will have a picnic area, stove, out houses, and bear stands. The campground area over looks Kingsmere Lake, and if you look over to your left you will spot a cabin with a boat, and that is the Park Warden’s cabin.

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teens | 2015 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Tablet

Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Android Tablet

  • 7″ IPS Display (1024 x 600) with ASUS TruVivid technology for better visual experience
  • Intel Atom x3-C3200 Quad-Core, 64bit, 1.2GHz
  • 1G RAM, 16G Onboard Storage, Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2M/0.3M Dual Camera; 1 x microSD Card slot, support up to 64GB SDHC
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

$100 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus Zenpad tablet runs a 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 5.0, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and a Bluetooth speaker.

Amazon Fire Tablet with a 7” Display

Amazon Fire Tabet with a 7" Display

For less then $50, you can get your teen a modern and functional tablet from Amazon.  If you get the $49.99 version, it comes with advertising on the lock screen but for only $15 more, it has no advertising, just a fully functional tablet.  It’s a great deal.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my Pentax K-30 to him after I upgraded this summer.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 Digital SLR from Don's Photo

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4

Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera

If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

If you are looking seriously at a camera for your teen and aspiring photographer this Christmas, check out this post I wrote over at the Don’s Photo blog, it gives many more options than I listed here.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

Sennheisser HD 202 II Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD202 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.  Sure they may be asking for Dre Beats but Sennheisser headphones offer superior sound at a far better price.  No wonder they are the number one best selling headphones this year on Amazon.

Brainwavz Delta In Ear HeadphonesBrainwavz Delta IEM Earphones

 

If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by Brainwavz at an affordable price.   Already named the best sounding headphones under $40 by the audiofiles at The Wirecutter, they offer one of the best values of this Christmas season.  And who doesn’t like a great pair of headphones for a really good price.

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Speaker

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Waterproof Speaker

One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com.  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.   It comes in comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  Not only that but it is waterproof meaning that it can go where your teen goes.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Tucom is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.

The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

Squier by Fender “Stop Dreaming, Start Playing” Set

Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set

If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.

ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

So many parents we talk to tell me that all their kid is sit inside and game all summer.  In part because that is where all of the money is spent.  Instead of a new Playstation 4 or a XBox One, why not get them some quality gear for the great outdoors?  This 2 person tent invites them to get outside, explore the world, and see what else is out there.  Whether it is a weekend at a nearby regional park or an overnight hike on a historic trail, give them the gear to go exploring in 2016.

It is a roomy 2 person backpacking tent. It has a Hubbed Shockcorded Aluminum Frame that is strong and durable. The Full Coverage Fly will protect the tent from the worst weather and has 2 Doors and 2 Vestibules for stowing excess gear out side the tent. Each Vestibule has an Adjustable Vent to help with ventilation. And the no-see-um mesh panels on the roof and walls will help keep the tent comfortable. So much mesh that you could leave the fly off for stargazing should the sky be clear. Other features include fully taped Fly and Floor seams, aluminum stakes, sturdy #8 zippers,

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

When you’re away from home and want to add extra comfort to your cot or sleeping bag, try this ALPS Mountaineering self-inflating air pad. Par of the lightweight series, this pad inflates and deflates quickly with the jet stream foam and rolls up compactly to fit into the stuff sack. The top fabric is tough, lightweight ripstop and the bottom is made of durable polyester taffeta. Another benefit of adding an air pad is that it will help keep you warmer, which is essential to a well-rested night at the campsite. A stuff sack, compression straps, and repair kit are included with every pad.

Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

If they are going to explore, they are going to need to know where they are going at night.  For this, they will need a headlamp.

  • Four LED headlamp with three white LEDs and one red LED
  • Three modes: White (high & low), red for night vision
  • Pivots to direct light where you need it
  • 80 lumens of light output
  • 8.5 hour run time
  • Packed with three Energizer MAX AAA batteries
  • Water & impact resistant to stand up to harsh conditions.

 

Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

Everyone has to start somewhere, and for beginning backpackers and campers there’s no better place to start than the Etekcity mini camping stove. There’s virtually zero setup and it’s extremely easy to use with no risk of fuel spills and no priming required.  We have one of these and it is the easiest stove I have ever used.  You just screw it into the fuel canister, turn it on, use the Piezo ignition system and away you go.

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

Even if your teen does get lost, he or she can always find their way back home with the D Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device from Bushnell

High-functioning GPS capabilities and a precision digital compass with latitude and longitude allow you to track any course by automatically keeping track of time, temperature, and altitude, along with route, length and speed. Once you mark one of five waypoints, it will also help you find your back to that place, whether it is a camp, a parking lot, or home.

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

The best selling sports GPS unit on Amazon is the new eTrex 20x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 20, with enhanced screen resolution and expanded internal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the ease of-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boats and cars. The new eTrex 20x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. It supports geocaching GPX files for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit.

Other Christmas Gift Guides

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Police Investigate Family for Letting Their Kids Walk Home Alone

This is getting insane

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explicitly ally themselves with the “free range” parenting movement, which believes that children have to take calculated risks in order to learn to be self-reliant. Their kids usually even carry a card that says: “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid,” although they didn’t happen to have it that day. They had carefully prepared their kids for that walk, letting them go first just around the block, then to a library a little farther away, and then the full mile. When the police came to the door, they did not present as hassled overworked parents who leave their children alone at a playground by necessity, or laissez-faire parents who let their children roam wherever, but as an ideological counterpoint to all that’s wrong with child-rearing in America today. If we are lucky, the Meitivs will end up on every morning talk show and help convince American parents that it’s perfectly OK to let children walk without an adult to the neighborhood playground.

Perhaps if they had been black and lived in South Carolina, they would have been arrested like Debra Harrell, the single mother who let her daughter go to the playground while she was working at McDonald’s. As white suburban professionals, the Meitivs experienced a lower level of intrusion, but still one that would make any parent bristle. The police asked for the father’s ID, and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs, and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand “shots would be fired,” according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says.) Soon after, a representative from Montgomery County Child Welfare Services came by and required that the couple sign a “safety plan” promising not to let the children go unsupervised until the following week, when another CPS worker would talk to them. At first, the dad refused, but then the workers told him they would take the kids away if he did not sign.

When we lived in Calgary, I walked a mile from where lived in Deer Ridge Estates to my elementary school.  I walked home for lunch, watched the Buck Shot Show and then walked back to school.  At the end of the day we walked home again, always avoiding the Catholic school whose crossing guard picked on us.

No one thought that was wrong.  The lawyer who lived behind us.  The vet on the corner.  The cop on our street.  Walking a mile was normal.  We walked around a mile to get the crappy mall.  We walked a mile to play at our school’s park.  We went about two miles to the convenience store so we could get hockey cards and those crappy hockey sticker books.

When I was ten, we used to take the LRT from Anderson Station downtown and back.  We used to roam downtown Calgary.  We had those Kangaroo shoes with pockets that held a quarter in case we needed to phone home. 

The fact that kids these days can’t do what those same cops and child welfare workers did as children shows how much of a nanny state that cities are becoming.

Of course as The Atlantic points out, there is an alternative.

Christmas & Holidays Gift Guide for Your Husband, Boyfriend and Important Men In Your Life | 2014 Edition

Hi, it’s Wendy.  Every year I write a Christmas Gift Guide for those of you who are shopping for the men (boyfriends, brothers, husbands, fathers) in your life.  The highly organized of you out there are already searching for Christmas gifts (as evidenced by the increased page views of previous years Christmas Gift Guides) so I decided that I had better kick off the 2014 edition before I hand the rest of them of to Jordon (although I will return to author a post on Christmas gifts for the cook).  So here goes.  Let me know what you think of these gifts in the comments.

iPad Mini with Retina Display

I know recommending an iPad is like picking low hanging fruit but the new iPad Mini’s with a retina display is amazing.   The new retina display has over 3.1 million pixels, which is a million more than a HDTV.

I never recommend that anyone uses the back camera of a tablet ever (you look ridiculous while using it as a camera), but the front facing camera of the iPad Mini with Retina Display is high definition and makes Apple Facetime (or Skype) video calls look fantastic which could be a killer feature if you or your loved one travels a lot.   Staying in touch is important.

If the man you are Christmas shopping for is an iPhone or a Mac user, it’s an great addition (or upgrade) from a previous iPad (which may or may not support iOS 8)

Nexus 7 from Google (7-Inch, 16 GB, Black) by ASUS Tablet

If the man you are shopping for is an Android user, check out the new Nexus 7 from Google.  It thinner, lighter, and faster. It’s not quite as sharp as the iPad Mini but it has a whopping 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  So even if he has an older tablet, this is a great reason to upgrade with Google’s flagship Android tablet.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.  He’ll love it.

  • He will love the technology, you will love the price.  It’s only $199 for the 16gb version on Amazon

Whether you get him an Android or iOS powered device, he is probably going to want to chill out with it which means he will need a great set of headphones.  Money doesn’t mean quality (most people find Beats by Dre to be over priced and provide underwhelming sound despite their popularity).  Here are some highly recommended headphones from well respected electronics website, The Wirecutter which tests hundreds of headphones every year.

Sony MDR-7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones

Here is what The Wirecutter said about them:

The MDR-7506 have been a studio staple for years, and there’s a great reason why: Not only do they have an even response across the entire frequency range, the 7506 have better sonic depth and dexterity than many headphones twice their price. Plus, they are durable, comfortable, and reliable. And at a current retail price of less than $90, their performance was better than some of the competition that cost almost twice as much.

If you are on a budget, The Wirecutter recommends the Panasonic RP-TCM125K in ear headphones.  We got a pair for Mark and he loves them.  For only $15, they were one of the best technology purchases that Jordonor I have ever made.

The Panasonic headphones won because they sounded the best. Hands down. They were everyone’s top choice in terms of sound fidelity. They have a nice overall balance with airy, mellow highs and present-but-not-dominating bass. They sound just as good listening to acoustic guitar as they do hip hop and rock. Nothing pierces, nothing muddies: every frequency plays well with the others. And as you’ll see with other contenders later, that’s not often the case in this price range.

Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

So if your guy wants to share the music, movie, or game he is playing (let’s not share the game), you will want to check out the MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker by Logitech.

Logitech’s UE Mini Boom works because it’s a speaker that you’ll actually use. It’s so portable it fits in a jacket pocket, but the sound it produces has enough power to clearly fill a room and preserve the most important aspects of the song being played. On top of that, despite retailing for substantially less than the original Jambox, pretty much every reviewer agrees that it performs better.

The House of Marley Chant Bluetooth Audio System

A smaller option with a fantastic looking carrying case and carabineer that allow you to take this speaker even more places and on more adventures.

It’s small and protected enough to take with you on trips, back and forth to work or even take with you on a hike and day out of the city.

The chant gives you around six hours of listening on a single charge which is perfect for an evening around the fire or chilling out with friends.

Tivoli The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

If you know Jordon, you know that he is on 650 News Talk Radio twice a week with David Kirton on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show.  So I have to include a tabletop radio.  The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio has both an amazing tabletop radio experience with a Bluetooth speaker.

 

It’s costly at $269 but it would look amazing on any bookshelf while providing brilliant sound to listen to the Saskatoon Afternoon Show on or to listen to the podcast later on that evening.  Even if the guy you are shopping for isn ‘ t a News Talk Radio fan, can you think of a better device to listen to ESPN Radio on while having a drink on the deck?  I can’t either.

If he is more old school and doesn’t mind some cords to connect his iPhone to the speaker, check out the Sangean WR-11SE AM/FM Table Top Radio 40th Anniversary Edition.

 

Pentax 8×21 UCF R Binoculars

 

These are fantastic mini-binoculars.  While not as good as high end binoculars from Zeiss or even higher end Pentax, these are affordable and portable enough to take with you anywhere.  Jordon keeps a pair of Nikon Realtree Binoculars in his go-bag at all times.  If these had come out when he bought those, he would have picked these instead.

Pentax QS-1

Jordon is a photographer and loves his Pentax K-30 DSLR.  He bought a Pentax Q this summer and loved it.  It doesn’t replace his K-30 (it offers none of the lens options or the low light performance) but is so incredibly portable and easy to take with you no matter where he is going.  It’s not going to be the camera he takes with him to photograph Nuit Blanche or to shoot Mark’s football games but it has been great to take with him when we are heading out for a walk, exploring the city or just chasing after the kids.  Pentax/Ricoh’s website gives you an idea of lens options but according to Jordon, you really only need four.

The best camera is the one that you have with you.  If a Pentax Q-S1 isn’t what you are looking for, then take a look at the popular Nikon 1 series of cameras. The Nikon 1 J4 camera with 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm lens and 30-110mm telephoto zoom lens is a great combo.

Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera

At $1300 it isn’t cheap but you wouldn’t expect the best compact camera in the world to be inexpensive.

The Fujifilm FinePix X100was a milestone camera in the industry as one of the first large sensor, prime lens cameras to achieve widespread popularity. Its classic look, obviously cribbed from a certain German camera maker, were justified by the excellent image quality its 35mm equivalent f/2 lens could produce. It was also a rare example of a camera its maker continued to develop, long after it hit the market.  The X100T is is the third generation X100 and is better than ever.

Google Chromecast

I bought Jordon an Apple TV last Christmas.  He loves it but if the Google Chromecast was available in Canada last year, I probably would have gotten him one of those.

Here are the reasons he will love it.

  • Stream online video, music, photos and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Supports a growing number of apps including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio. Allows to cast a Chrome browser tab.
  • Box includes Chromecast, HDMI extender, USB power cable, and power adapter. No remote needed.
  • Easy setup: Plug into any HDTV and connect to your home WiFi network
  • Works with Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks

Oh yeah, it is only $23 from Amazon

Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg by Bartley Knives and Bryron Scott
 
This was Jordon’s favourite book of 2014.  Desired and reviled, adulated and condemned, Winnipeg inspires intense and contradictory emotions from residents, visitors and people who have never even ventured within wading distance of the Manitoba capital. The city at the centre of North America inspires a profound sense of ambivalence, stuck as it is between a colourful and triumphant early history, a long period of 20th-Century decline and an uncertain if optimistic future.
Stuck in the Middle finds photographer Bryan Scott and journalist Bartley Kives exploring the geography, design and reputation of the only city they have ever truly known, loved and hated. With vicious honesty and intense affection, Scott and Kives expose Winnipeg’s beautiful and conflicted soul for the rest of the world to admire and detest and ultimately ignore.  An amazing book for the photographer or urbanist on your Christmas shopping list.
 
The Innovators, his follow-up to the massive (in both sales and size) Steve Jobs, is probably the widest-ranging and most comprehensive narrative of them all. Don’t let the scope or page-count deter you: while Isaacson builds the story from the 19th century–innovator by innovator, just as the players themselves stood atop the achievements of their predecessors–his discipline and era-based structure allows readers to dip in and out of digital history, from Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, to Alan Turing and the codebreakers of Bletchley Park, to Tim Berners-Lee and the birth of the World Wide Web (with contextual nods to influential counterculture weirdos along the way). Isaacson’s presentation is both brisk and illuminating; while it doesn’t supersede previous histories, The Innovators might be the definitive overview, and it’s certainly one great read.
 
13 HOURS presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya. A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.

A new leather Dopp Kit ($34) with:

He will love using the gift and you will love how he looks and smells after. (if the price of leather is too high, check out this great dopp kit from MEC)

LL Bean Canvas Duffle Bag

LL Bean’s Adventure Duffle now comes in soft yet rugged cotton canvas for a lasting combination of durability and classic style. It’s more or less the same great bag that people have been using since the 1940s.  It now has a water-resistant coating and comes in a variety of colors.  Meets airline carry-on size requirements if not over stuffed.  It’s a great gift for the traveller.

Maglite

Men love flashlights. It’s part of what makes them men. He needs a small one on his keychain, a tactical one (a universal one works too) to take with him on adventures and and a more heavy-duty one in your house and garage. You can’t go wrong with a classic Maglite. The LED bulb will last nearly forever, and heavy-duty aluminum casing gives it shock and water resistance.

Stanley Thermos

For times when he leaves the houses and has to do manly things, he will want an amazing travelling thermos. Made with stainless steel, the Stanley Thermos is rustproof and BPA free. The 8-ounce lid doubles as a cup for your coffee, hot chocolate, or soup. Oh, and it keeps its contents hot/cold for 24 hours. Need more convincing? Didn’t think so.

 


Kiwi Shoeskine Kit

A shoeshine kit makes the perfect gift; it’s something that no guy thinks to buy, but every guy needs. Buy a quality kit in a manly wooden box that has all the necessary accoutrements to keep your loved one’s shoes shining like a sheet of glass. Included in this set are two cloths, a tin each of brown and black polish, two sponge daubers, two 100% horsehair brushes, a shoe horn, and of course the handsome wood box.

Atari Flashback

Depending on how old the guy is you are shopping for, he may have grown up with an Atari 2600 gaming console.  He can relive his wasted youth with this flashback system.  92 built in games, the console and two controllers for under $50.  What’s not to like?

Retron 3

If he is younger and wasted his youth on a Sega Genesis or a Nintendo, check out this system.  No built in games but it is a completely redesigned Nintendo and Sega system in the same system.  Blades of Steel, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tecmo Super Bowl, and Super Mario all on the same console.

Timex Expedition Analog/Digital Watch

I know watches are passé now that we all have our smartphones (unless of course your watch is a smartwatch) but sometimes you don’t have your phone with you to whip out 20 times a minute.  Other times you just need to look like an adult.  In those times you need a watch that is rugged enough to survive and smart looking enough to wear out on the town.

The Timex Expedition watches 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 and can’t bear the thought of having to shell out over $150 or more, this is perfect.

  • Full size watch, 3 time zone settings for traveling, Maximum style and performance with water resistant leather strap
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters, Indigo night light for low light conditions, Metal case construction for enhanced durability
  • 24 hour chronograph with lap and split option
  • Daily alarm
  • Easy to use 24 hour countdown timer

GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition

He has probably checked out the GoPro channel on YouTube (and made you watch some of them).  Whether he admits it or not, he wants one of these.  Here is why:

  • Built-In Touch Display: Frame your shots. Easily adjust settings. Play back videos and photos. Improved Camera Control: New dedicated button enables quick access to camera settings. Simplified menus make navigating settings easier than ever.
  • Fast, Powerful Photo Capture: Captures high-quality 12MP photos at speeds of up to 30 fps.
  • Built-In WiFi + Bluetooth: Delivers enhanced connectivity to the GoPro App, Smart Remote
  • Durable + Waterproof to 131′ (40m): Designed to withstand extreme environments and conditions. Wearable + Mountable: Enables immersive self-capture during your favorite activities. Compatible with all GoPro Mounts: 60+ mounts and accessories – and counting – for capturing a wide variety of perspective and activities. GoPro App + Software: Control your camera remotely. View and share your content. Easily create gorgeous GoPro-style videos.
  • Protune – Now for Video + Photos: Cinema-quality capture and manual control of color, ISO limit, exposure and more. Night Photo Lapse: Customizable exposure settings up to 30 seconds for single and Time Lapse Photos. Auto Low Light: Automatically adjusts frame rates for optimal low-light performance. High-Performance Audio: New Audio System captures clean, high fidelity sound and nearly 2x the dynamic range. Ultra Wide-Angle Glass Lens: Enables engaging, immersive footage of you and your world. Selecable FOV: Three FOV settings – Ultra-Wide, Medium and Narrow – allow for a broad range of perspectives. HiLight Tag: Mark key moments while recording for easy playback, editing, and sharing. QuikCapture: Power on and record automatically with the press of a single button. SuperView: Captures the world’s most immersive wide-angle field of view.

Cast Iron Pan

Cast irons pans last a lifetime, cook your food evenly, and even impart a low dose of iron to your food. He’ll be making you bacon and eggs every single morning with this thing.

A Wax Seal

If you get him a great pen, he may actually start writing hand written letters.  What would be better then sealing those letters with a wax seal.  The fascinating history of the wax seal that dates all the way to the Middle Ages. The practice has changed very little since that time, and it’s easy to do yourself to bring some class to your correspondence. This kit contains one brass seal engraved with a letter of your choice, and four sticks of their supple sealing wax.

Speaking of writing, every man should keep a journal. If he is having trouble getting into this manly habit, perhaps what he needs is a journal so handsome and inviting it’s hard not to write in it.   Wrapped up in leather, this journal will have him putting pen to paper in no time. Perfect as a travelogue for all of his 2015 adventures.

Another option is a 8×5.5 inch Moleskine Notebook and a great pen.
 
The Parker I.M. Appeals to modern, stylish professionals seeking a high-quality writing instrument which makes it a great gift.  It’s also at a price that if it gets lost, it isn’t the end of the world.

KA-BAR USMC knife

First used by Marines during WWII, the KA-BAR USMC knife has since become standard issue among other branches of the U.S. military. And for good reason. He will feel 5x more manlier just holding it.

Craftsman 94 Piece Mechanic Tool Set

Craftsman is the gold standard when it comes to tools. This set comes with the Craftsman lifetime warranty, is made of alloyed steel, and better yet, will serve all your socket wrench needs. For the man in your life that isn’t terribly familiar with tools, this is a great set to have. It comes with two wrenches and 52 sockets, as well as a screwdriver with an interchangeable bit set.

Pocket Compass

If you know a man who spends a great deal of time outdoors, get him a nice pocket compass so he’ll never lose his way. Sure, GPS may be easier and more accurate, but batteries die and satellite connections can be disrupted. That’s when having a compass comes in handy. Get him one that he’ll pass on to his grandkids.

AlpineSwiss Leather Card Wallet

Jordon went to a super slim card wallet this year and has loved it.  This is the thinnest wallet on the market and just makes a man’s life better.

Nest Programmable Thermostat

The number one selling home product on Amazon.  No wonder, it is a gift that will quickly save you money.  The Nest Learning Thermostat learns what temperatures you like, turns itself down when you’re away and can be controlled from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Rayovac Sportsman 240 Lumen LED Lantern

With optimized beams, rubber grips, and tactical switches, Rayovac’s Sportsman lantern is ideal for use inside and out, whether you’re heading for the hills or camping out in your home during a power outage. Nicely compact and ultra-portable at just 7 inches tall and under 3.5 inches wide, the Rayovac lantern also provides an incredibly bright 240-lumen light that makes it a useful resource for outdoor adventures as well as for emergency preparedness.

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

The slow death of the US space program

This is a must read on the slow decline of the US Space program and NASA

The failure by the American government to prepare for the shuttle’s inevitable retirement, and to articulate a plan for what was to come next, is for Chris Kraft an unmitigated disaster.

He just might know. As America’s first flight director, he is the man for whom mission control is named.

During his nine decades Chris Kraft has observed the entire arc of U.S. and Russian history in space, from the early days of desperately trying to catch the Soviets in space, to beating them to the moon, to now hitching rides to the space station on Russian capsules and being threatened by Russian officials.

“The cancellation of the space shuttle may be the biggest blunder ever made by the United States,” Kraft said. “It’s fairly obvious that no one in the government thought through what they were about to bring about when they made that decision.”

Kraft isn’t alone. A Houston scientist who studies the moon, Paul Spudis, served on a Presidential Commission tasked with implementing President Bush’s vision in 2004. What has happened since then, he said, is appalling.

“I’ve never seen such a screwed up mess in my life as the way NASA is right now,” he said.

You think it is easy to walk to the South Pole? Read this:

Amazing story by Ben Saunders of the hardships they face coming back from the South Pole unassisted.

Our near-empty sledges still felt heavy and the energy that carried us up the Beardmore, and indeed to the Pole itself in record time despite dragging more than anyone in history, started to wane dramatically in the last few days. What’s more, we’ve been running lower on food as we failed to meet our mileage targets. Six days ago we started to eat half rations, and I’ve felt shattered every day since, aware that I was depleting my body at a rate that might have been reckless. My stomach growled permanently, my ribs became more prominent by the day, my legs were painfully weak and my mind and thoughts and decision-making grew foggy and dim. On our second day of half-rations I got dangerously cold when I had to remove my outer jacket in the middle of a storm to add more insulating layers, and it was only Tarka’s help -zipping up my jackets like I was a toddler while my cold hands hung useless by my side- that got me out of trouble and through a very dark day indeed.

I’ve been reluctant to say so (sorry mum!) but we’ve both been on the ragged edge for a while now, and on New Year’s Eve, we set out on what was to prove the hardest day of the expedition. It was Tarka’s turn this time to struggle, and I’d reached a state where I was barely able to realise it. The windchill was -45 degrees centigrade when I recorded it, and we stayed outside for more than 13 hours, on fifty percent of the food I’d intended and wearing almost all the clothes we had with us. At breaks we would eat halved energy bars and our normally-sweet drinks tasted like lukewarm dishwater with a hint of lemon. Towards the eighth or ninth hour Tarka’s normally rock-steady metronomic pace started to become erratic and he seemed to stagger and stumble more than usual on ridges and divots in the snow surface. He stopped mid-session, in a howling blizzard, to remove his outer gilet (the Primaloft-insulated Mountain Equipment Compressor vests that have served us so well here) and flipped back his hood as if he were too hot. I know -as a professional leader of expeditions to the coldest places on the planet- that these are tell-tale signs of hypothermia, yet I was on the limit myself and failed to react. All I can remember from that afternoon that drifted into evening, with the dim sun slowly wheeling around us and the horizon erasing itself and reappearing again in the whirling fog of spindrift, was being unable to think of anything more than the battle raging in my head against the part of me that wanted so desperately to stop. Just to lean my shoulders on my ski poles and slump forwards against the resistance of my harness and rest, and to hell with the consequences. I wondered at times if I fell over whether I’d have the strength to stand up again, the energy to yell for Tarka, or whether he’d even notice me calling over the noise of the wind.

When I took over the lead I kept turning back to see Tarka -normally right on my heels- drifting further behind me. I stopped a few times to let him catch up, but it was too cold for me to wait for more than a minute or two before I started shivering, so I raised a single ski pole, he raised his in reply -a signal we’ve often used here- and I shuffled on. After doing this a few times, with Tarka receding as if the horizon was sucking him backward like quicksand, he stopped raising his pole. I waited, but by now he was a tiny dark speck in the white that took forever to grow. I unclipped my harness and started to put the tent up, feeling dizzy and breathless myself, and taking what seemed like ages to match the poles to their corresponding fabric sleeves, like a drunk taking some sort of coordination test. “Sorry I’m late”, said Tarka as he arrived, but it sounded like someone else entirely, his words mumbled and slow.

As we finished slowly setting up camp, I saw he was fumbling in his giant outer mittens with the plastic buckles that strap our sledges closed. “I can’t feel my hands”, he said through a mask encrusted with ice, his shoulders slumped forwards. As we zipped ourselves into the porch of the tent to take our boots and outer layers off before climbing into our sleeping bags, we saw that the tips of his thumbs were at least badly frostnipped, if not lost entirely to frostbite. I remember feeling a mixture of fear and anger, both at him and at myself for letting this happen. I pulled up my jacket and fleece so he could warm his hands in my armpits, and to my relief the colour and circulation started to return. We ate our watery half-dinners in near-silence and fell asleep exhausted and cold, knowing we would have to match the same distance the next day.

Our depot was still 74km away and we had barely more than half a day’s food to reach it; eight energy bars each, half a breakfast and half an evening meal. 16km into the following day Tarka started to slow again as he led, before stopping entirely and waving me forward to talk. “I feel really weak in the legs again”, he said. “OK. What do you want to do?” I answered snappily, before realising this was on me. I came here to be challenged and tested, to give my all to the hardest task I have ever set myself and to the biggest dream I have ever had. And here was the crux. This was the moment that mattered, not standing by the Pole having my photograph taken, but standing next to my friend, in a howling gale, miles away from anyone or anything. “Let’s put the tent up”, I said, “I’ve got an idea”.

My idea was to call for a resupply. To have more food and fuel flown to our position so that we could rest and recover before finishing this journey. A decision that changes the status of this expedition from “unsupported” or “unassisted” or whatever semantics you wish to choose to the opposite. Part of me also feels it inevitable that we and this journey would face critics even if we’d done it in period clothing eating pemmican and pony meat. Yet in an instant I realised that my and Tarka’s lives are not something I wanted to gamble with, and that we had given our all. We were lucky that neither of us had collapsed the day before, and I knew we couldn’t possibly have hoped to recover on our meagre rations from the physical holes we’d dug ourselves into.

At the other end of the world, on the other end of a crackling and hissing satellite phone line, our expedition manager Andy Ward sprang into action, and things happened incredibly quickly, with a ski-plane carrying eight days’ of rations landing twelve hours later. The weather worsened as we waited and I feared the flight would be aborted, or that a bag would be air-dropped at speed and lost in the blizzard, but in a beautiful twist of what some might call fate, the pilot was Troy, the same man that picked me up from the Arctic Ocean after my 72-day solo expedition nearly ten years ago, and in my eyes the finest polar pilot in the world. The Twin Otter appeared through a tiny hole in the rolling cloud and swang over us once before landing on the ridged and uneven snow surface and taxiing right up to our tent, its wing-tip almost above our roof. The wind was still blasting and the plane’s skis were almost hidden under the blowing snow. “I’m sorry about the weather”, I said to Troy, amazed that he’d been able to land. “Oh, it was fine”, he replied modestly.

The hours we spent waiting were, I fear, dark ones for Tarka. He seemed a broken man. “It’ll look like my fault”, he said, “and that’s a good thing for you.” This was Tarka through and through. Weeks ago he said humbly, “If there are media at the airport when we get back, I’m happy to help with the bags while you talk to them.” He finally admitted last night that when I was struggling (and if I’m honest now, on the verge of wanting to quit) a few weeks ago he’d taken food bags from my sledge while I was in the tent to help lighten my load without telling me, so he’d been pulling more weight than me for weeks.

Tarka is the hero here, and the irony of our situation is that I would never have made it to this point without his herculean efforts; his giving everything he has to this goal. I’m proud of how deep we have each dug, and I am amazed and humbled by Tarka’s sacrifice. He has pushed (or indeed pulled) himself until he dropped, and I’m also as exhausted as I’ve ever been. For weeks now I have slept fitfully and woken up cold. We are both alarmingly lean, and we have both struggled for a while to maintain trains of thought or decent conversations. I suspect my writing has been going downhill too.

And now we are lying here resting, like two new men after ten hours’ sleep, full-bellied and warm again for the first time in weeks, before we move north again to complete this unfinished journey. Our status has changed, but how little that means to me now. Scott didn’t wear his harness until the Beardmore and would have been “supported” in modern polar parlance. I don’t think we made any mistakes, and I don’t think we could have done anything more, or pulled any more food up here. We travelled 5.6km per day at the start with 200kg per man, greater loads than each of Scott’s weakest ponies hauled.

Heck of a trip regardless of the outcome.  Make sure you read the entire post.

Guest Post: Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Your Husband/Boyfriend/Father | 2013 Edition

It’s that time of year again when people start searching the web for Christmas gifts for loved ones.  For the last several years I have published a gift guide of what to get for your husband on JordonCooper.com and this year is no different.  So without further ado (and I know how much we all hate ado), here is my Christmas gift suggestions for your husband/boyfriend/father (and all of the other men in your life).  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments – Wendy.

Sony RX-100 II

Sony RX-100 II compact cameraIf you are looking for the world’s best point and shoot compact camera, here it is; the Sony RX-100 II.

  • It has a huge one inch sensor (which means better low light performance and more vibrant photos)
  • It features an extremely fast F1.8 Carl Zeiss lens which again will mean excellent low light photos and action shots.
  • Connection to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or if you have a new Android powered phone, NFC.
The New York Times called it the best compact camera ever made and it’s a great second camera to the serious photographer or outdoorsman in your life.  It’s small enough to always have with you and yet powerful enough to make sure he will always get a fantastic photo.  If your guy is one that loves the wilderness and is prone to do things like dump a canoe in the river, the camera is small enough to place in a waterproof Pelican 1010 container so even if he isn’t dry, the camera is.

Canon Powershot G16
Canon Powershot G16 CameraOther options to consider for less money is the Canon Powershot G16.  Canon combined a 1 1/17 inch sensor with a DIGIC VI sensor to create a camera that has DSLR type power in a point and shoot body.  The result is a compact, advanced point-and-shoot camera that produces high quality still imagery and full HD 1080p video with notable low-light quality and sensitivity to ISO 12800. The sensor and processor work together to form the Canon HS SYSTEM, which helps to improve the image quality of dimly-lit shots by reducing noise and enhancing the overall clarity. Additionally, the processor offers a range of speed-related assets throughout the camera, including a maximum sustained full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 9.3 fps for over 500 shots as well as a High Speed AF system for maintained sharpness in a variety of shooting conditions.

Samsung WB30F
samsung_wb30f_redIf both of these compact cameras left you with a sticker shock (they did for me), you may want to check out this excellent Samsung WB30F.    It features 16.2MP CCD, 24-240mm (35mm Equiv), Optical Zoom Lens Capture HD 720/30p Video, Wi-Fi Connectivity, Panorama, Smart Auto, Smart Movie and smile detection.  Small enough to carry with you everywhere and a good enough quality to get you the photos you want.

        GoPro Hero 3+

        You have probably seen one of the hundreds of amazing videos that have been posted to the GoPro YouTube Channel or seen one of the many thousands of more videos that have been posted over the last couple of years with these amazing cameras.  While GoPro has competitors, none match the features that GoPro offers or any of the many mounts that GoPro has to secure the camera to your car, head, chest, poles, floatation devices, or bikes with ease.  For $20-$30 you can literally mount a GoPro on anything.

        Go Pro Hero 3+

        The camera itself is a lot fun with a super wide angle view, HD video, slow motion video, and time lapse features that allow you to film your ideas.  Jordon has one and has had a lot of fun over the years with it.  Your guy will as well.  An added bonus is that GoPro has released a free video editor so you can easily edit and upload your adventures.


        Fuji XF1

        Fuji XF1 digital cameraLightweight, durable aluminum body parts and synthetic leather covering enhance the feel of the camera in the hand, with texture that resembles genuine leather.

        The bright f/1.8 lens lets you capture quality pictures not normally possible with a compact camera. Noise is kept to a minimum without boosting sensitivity, while camera-shake and subject motion are prevented due to high shutter speeds. And thanks to the large aperture, you can also create attractive "bokeh" blurred background effects.

        With it’s retro styling, it’s also a camera guaranteed to be noticed even before you take those great photos.


        Moleskine hardcover notebookElectronics is cool but so is writing stuff down with pen and paper and nothing beats a Moleskine notebook and a quality pen to do that with.  You can find really nice Moleskine notebooks in any bookstore but for about half of that, you can find journals at your local Staples or office supply store.


        Bose AE2 audio headphonesBose AE2

        I purchased Jordon a pair of Bose IE2 in ear headphones last year.  He put them in his ears and could not believe the difference between them and the $20 headphones he had used forever.  As he said, "It’s like hearing my music for the first time again".  For Father’s Day, I got him a pair of Bose AE2 headphones that go over the ear and the sound was even better.  It’s easy to dismiss high end headphones as not being worth the money but I can really say that these are.  Both are incredibly comfortable and bring a bit of luxury to your world no matter where you are listening to them at.  Everyone needs a retreat and this does that.  I can’t recommend them enough.


        JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesIf you are looking for a less expensive option, check out JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.

        For over the ear comfort and sound at a great price, check out Sony’s MDR-ZX100 headphones.  We have a couple of pairs around the house and they are much loved and oft used.


        Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuffDetroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff | Jordon grew up with Detroit cable television and for many in our city, they have a close affinity with Detroit.  This is the story of what went wrong and is told from a personal perspective. Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”

        The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006- by Paul Wells | This is the book that every one of our friends is reading or wants for Christmas.  In The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Paul Wells explores just what Harper’s understanding of Canada is, and who he speaks for in the national conversation. He explains Harper not only to Harper supporters but also to readers who can’t believe he is still Canada’s prime minister. In this authoritative, engaging and sometimes deeply critical account of the man, Paul Wells also brings us an illuminating portrait of Canadian democracy: “glorious, a little dented, and free.”


        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock | If the guy you are shopping for is a music lover, you will want to consider this amazing Samsung wireless speaker dock. Incredible sound and rich, warm styling makes the Samsung DA-E750 wireless audio dock the perfect addition to your home. The unique vacuum tube amplifier technology lets you hear music the way it was meant to be heard. Compatible with both Samsung and Apple phones, this device lets you stream music using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology, or load it from a USB memory stick.

        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock


        SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf your husband is a fan of the radio (nothing better than baseball on a summer’s night over the radio), check out the SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio.  Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.

        Plus baseball just sounds better played on one of these radios.


        X-Mini II Portable Capsule SpeakerX-Mini II Portable Capsule Speaker | Jordon gave me one of these last year and I thought it looked cute and didn’t think much more about it but they work fantastic.  The big difference with the X-Mini II speakers is that you can link them together to create better sound as well as more volume.  We take ours with us everywhere and its nice at the cabin or even in a hotel room on a vacation.   There are some other two speaker options as well but you can find the X-Mini’s almost everywhere and they are about the same price.


        1296669-p-MULTIVIEWKenneth Cole Leather Messenger Bag

        Keep your belongings, and yourself, stylishly organized with Kenneth Cole’s lovely messenger bag. Contrast stitching accents its rich leather body, while a short handle and long, adjustable strap keep your carrying options open. The flap closure opens up to reveal a roomy main compartment, complete with a full-length zipper pocket for your smaller necessities. Front gusseted pockets include a cell phone pocket to keep it handy and within reach.

        Soft, Columbian full-grain leather and casual, but polished styling make this messenger the perfect bag for work and everyday. The interior is simple, but versatile enough to carry a laptop, papers, books, etc. There is even a cell phone pocket plus organizer features in the front gusset pockets.


         
        Boeing Airmail Laptop SleeveBoeing Airmail Laptop Sleeve | Yes I am sure your guy has a laptop bag but he doesn’t have this laptop bag which will standout wherever he goes.  It’s both unique and incredibly manly at the same time while protecting his most precious possession, his Macbook or laptop.

        RCAF Large Kit Bag |  What an amazing piece of Canadiana.  This RCAF kit bag is a great value all by itself but then you add in the design and the coolness factor and you have a great gift for any fan of Canadian or military history.

        Red Canoe Dopp KitRCAF Dopp Kitt | Unlike many women who require a small suitcase for their toiletries, a traveling man needs only a few essentials to be happy. Nevertheless, a man needs a place to stow these items. Enter the Dopp kit.  Now you can get a $5 shaving kit from Wal-Mart but that has no class  What you want is something with personality and I think we can all agree, this dope kit has personality.  Not only will it keep you guy’s stuff organized, it will be something he holds on to for years and years.


        Whiskey Stones

        Whiskey Sipping Stones

        Sipping Stones is the aficionado’s choice for chilling a drink. It eliminates a common problem for all connoisseurs of fine whiskey: it cools your drink perfectly without the dilution from melting ice. Now all your favorite drinks are able to be served the way they were intended to be, perfectly pure and precisely chilled. Sipping Stones are non-porous meaning there is no odor or taste to tarnish your drink. And unlike ice, Sipping Stones provides a smooth chill that does not overwhelm the character of your beverage. Each set of Sipping Stones comes with nine finely crafted cubes made from soapstone, a safe alternative to ice. Sipping Stones is a great gift for anyone who loves the perfectly chilled beverage. Or you can use it as a conversation starter at your next party. Simply keep the Sipping Stones in your freezer until you are ready to chill your next glass of whiskey.


        Finally, how much fun would any guy have playing with an AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter.  It’s easy to fly, records in HD video and if he does crash it (you know he will), there is a large stock of replacement parts.

        AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter

        That being said, the automated features of the AR Drone 2.0 make it almost impossible to crash making it stable platform to fly, do stunts with or film video with.  Take a look at the video below to see how it performs


        Netatmo Urban Weather Station

        Netatmo Urban Weather StationThe Netatmo Weather Station contains a unique set of sensors to monitor your living environment and wirelessly transmits all your data to your Smartphone. The Netatmo App displays your Station’s indoor and outdoor measurements into clear and comprehensive dashboards, graphs and notifications. All of your data is recorded online and made permanently accessible for you, on your Smartphone or PC. Seamlessly measure, track and monitor your Weather and Environment, indoor and outdoor, at any time and from anywhere. The Netatmo App is available for free at the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. With the app you can:

        • Connect multiple Stations to your Smartphone or computer
        • Check the your Stations from any Smartphone or computer
        • Share the info on your favorite social networks

        We spend 80% of our time indoor, resting, playing with the kids or at the office. The Netatmo Station monitors your indoor air quality (CO2 concentration), and reminds you to ventilate, at the right moment. The Netatmo Weather Station allows city dwellers to monitor indoor air quality, get real-time updates on local Air Quality Index report and pick the best moments for outdoor activities.The Netatmo Weather Station also monitors noise pollution and measures home or office acoustic comfort.

        Bushnell 10×42 Binoculars

        Bushnell 10x42 BinocularsBushnell Powerview Roof Prism Binoculars are designed to provide high-quality optics in a versatile and durable format at an affordable price. Constructed with a rugged, shock absorbing rubber armor for a comfortable, non-slip grip and equipped with the roof prism system for increased durability, Powerview Binoculars are suitable for multiple applications from sports to nature viewing. The 10×42 Powerview Binoculars offer powerful 10x magnification with larger, light-gathering 42-millimeter objective lenses that will perform well anywhere you use them–from a bird watching hike to a stadium. Meanwhile the BaK-7 prisms and multi-coated optics provide high-level image resolution and clarity. Additional user friendly details include a center focus knob for easy adjustments, fold down eye cups, and a tripod adaptable base. Bushnell Powerview Binoculars carry a limited lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship for the original owner.

        Purchase at Amazon.com | $69


        Tonx Coffee

        Give the gift of great coffee.  Tonx sources the best beans from exceptional coffee farmers who are as fanatical about tasty coffee as we are. To make the best cup, you have to start with the best ingredients. Tonx has years of experience finding and working with the best farmers in the world.

        They then ship that amazing coffee to your house.  It costs you $19 per 12oz shipment and you have a new shipment coming every two weeks.  That’s right, fresh coffee beans coming to your house every second week.  How awesome is that?


        He Likes Black Coffee MugHe Likes Black Coffee | This is a mug for Jordon.  Over the years I have given some cool (and not so cool) gifts but his eyes light up every time he sees a cool coffee mug.  Of course there are some limitations.  Your guy has to like black coffee but if he does, he will love this gift.


        Art Prints

        Jordon Cooper's prints for sale at Image KindI am biased because Jordon has been selling some amazing photographs of shots he has posted to The Daily but have you considered the gift of art this Christmas?  Image Kind has hundreds of incredible artists selling amazing art on archival quality paper.  Not only are you supporting local artists but you are getting someone you love something that they won’t get at your local big box store.  Check out his Saskatoon, rural, and travel galleries.  You may be surprised at what you will find there.


        Am I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

        Christmas Gift Guides for all of the important people in your lifeYou can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

        The Abandoned Fish Creek Church (Immaculate Conception Church)

        The Abandoned Fish Creek Church (Immaculate Conception Church) in Fish Creek, SaskatchewanThe Abandoned Fish Creek Church (Immaculate Conception Church) in Fish Creek, SaskatchewanThe Abandoned Fish Creek Church (Immaculate Conception Church) in Fish Creek, SaskatchewanThe Abandoned Fish Creek Church (Immaculate Conception Church) in Fish Creek, SaskatchewanFish Creek, Saskatchewan

        The first church services in the surrounding area apparently occurred in Fort Carlton in 1838. Roman Catholic missionaries served the people of the area beginning in 1870.

        The first church in the RM of Fish Creek was part of the Métis settlement along the South Saskatchewan river. It is often reffered to as the Fish Creek Church but it’s religious name was the Immaculate Conception Church. It was a Roman Catholic church, built in 1901. Prior to that, settlers went to the Catholic Church in Batoche, St. Antoine de Padoue, which had been built in 1883, for marriages and christenings and funerals. Father Brueck who was responsible for St. Patrick Orphanage in Prince Albert was sent to Fish Creek to set up the mission in 1900. A portion of a letter sent to his bishop is included in "Kaleidescope. Many Cultures, One Faith." Father Theodore Krist became the first resident priest. He had River Lot 12 in Township 42A. This first church was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1901. Little is recorded about the original members of this church, but they were presumably all Metis. It is interesting that the first priests were German but they likely also spoke French.

        The original church was burnt in 1920 and a new church was built on the same site following a plan similar to the original church. The three altars of this church were built by Peter Bukowsky and his sister Wilhemina made the altar linens.

        In 1954, the parish became a mission of Alvena and the church was closed in 1957. In 1973 the land and church was sold to Joe & Olga Bazowski. He planted wheat right up to the church in the hopes of preventing vandalism. Although abandoned, it still stands on private land owned by Olga Bazowski.

        La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

        Some photos from our hike to the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam site which is abandoned dam project 45km downstream from Prince Albert on the North Saskatchewan River.

        LaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, SaskatchewanLaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam outside of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

        Here is how CBC News described the project

        An avid history buff is marking the 100th anniversary of the day the plug was pulled on a massive hydroelectric project that was started on the Saskatchewan River, north of Prince Albert, Sask.

        What was launched as the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Development instead became a multi-million dollar monument to lofty ambitions, and a financial millstone for Prince Albert taxpayers for decades to come.

        "The dam was one-third finished, into the river," Paul Van Pul, a hydraulic archaeology surveyor who has written extensively on the La Colle blunder, said Tuesday. "They never managed to start building the power station."

        According to Van Pul, who checked out the remnants of the project, there are only a few holes in the ground that could have been the start of foundation work for a power plant.

        The unfinished dam, however, is a prominent — if odd-looking — feature on the river.

        By the time the project was halted two years of construction work had gone into it and Prince Albert had spent $3 million, or about $62 million in today’s terms, adjusting for inflation using a Bank of Canada calculator.

        "The project was, in fact, too big for the engineers from Prince Albert," Van Pul believes, when asked how it was that the plan was scrubbed. "They had to depend on the city engineer at the time who had no experience at all building such a big, complicated project."

        The city was sold on a hydroelectric dam by the engineer who developed Niagara Falls. That expert, however, rarely checked in on how the La Colle venture was proceeding.

        Van Pul said design changes, during construction, also added to the costs.

        The burden of loans used to finance a project that was never completed nearly drove Prince Albert into bankruptcy, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the debt was paid off.

        "P.A. never became the second-largest city of Saskatchewan just because of La Colle Falls," Van Pul believes.

        "And the thing is, they almost got there," he added, wistfully.

        Van Pul is hoping the concrete structure that remains is designated a heritage site.

        "It’s a cautious reminder," he said, even as cities embark on large-scale projects today. "Something can go wrong and then we’re stuck with it for the next 50 years."

        Remains of a River: source to sea down the Colorado

        From October 2011 to January 2012, Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore hiked and paddled from Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains to Mexico following the Colorado River system from its farthest inland source to the sea, filming and narrating on the fly. The resulting film, Remains of a River, is an unforgettable story of friendship, adventure and environmental degradation.