Tag Archives: Canadian Tire

Some Thoughts on Camping Gear

Some of you have asked how the gear we used on our trip worked.  Here are some thoughts.

  • Our Chevy HHR doesn’t have luggage racks so we bought a CCM rooftop bag from Canadian Tire.  The reviews were poor because they said it wasn’t water resistant at all.  So we tossed our sleeping bags and some tents into some heavy duty garbage bags.  We had extended periods of rain from Rosetown to almost Calgary.  When Mark and I opened the bag at the Johnston Canyon Campground, it was completely dry.  I am not sure what we did differently that those who had soaked bags but it worked great.
  • Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarspray: Provided waterproofing and UV protection to the tents.  While Mark and Oliver had a great high quality tent, Wendy and I were using a $100 tent from Walmart.  When it rained one night I was laying there going, “this should be leaking” and it never did.  So two thoughts from this:  Walmart tents are not bad for car camping and waterproofing your tent and tent fly is worth the money and energy.  Nikwax says that spraying UV protection on the tents will add years of life to your gear from backpacks to tents.

  • We bought a Walmart two burner camp stove instead of a Coleman stove because they were 1/2 the price, the reviews were excellent and I couldn’t tell any difference in build quality or design between the two.  It worked great.  We didn’t bring my Primus Classic Stove or Mark’s MSR Pocket Rocket but in hindsight, we should have just for making coffee and boiling water. 
  • If you have a Coleman Stove or need some propane canisters, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club has the cheapest canisters in Saskatoon.  They are around $4.   We bought three of them and thought we may need some more but we only used one and a bit.
  • A Red Niteize LED lightI bought Marley a red Niteize LED light for her collar.  She is a black dog and at night, is invisible.  She doesn’t like her natural advantage compromised but I can see her.  Other campers got a kick out of her as well.  We weren’t planning to do any night hiking but I put one on Oliver and Mark’s backpacks.  If we got caught out after dark, I want to see him.  Either way every night when Mark would take Marley for a walk though the campground, you could see this blinking from all over the place.
  • I had bought Wendy a couple of travel tea presses over the years and she offered to use one for coffee.  Big mistake.  I might as well just chewed on grounds.  The end result was not a single coffee.  We bought a GSI Outdoors Coffee Press last week.  Wendy can drink tea and hot chocolate, I want some black coffee. GSI Outdoors Coffee Press
  • We have some nice lightweight sleeping bags but while the air was hot, the ground was cold in Banff.  It got colder at night which meant with the air mattresses, we froze.  Wendy who has never camped before, ever realized that you needed some blankets between you and the air mattress to keep warm.  After Oliver was sick one night and we gave him one of our blankets, we froze.  We upgraded our sleeping bags this week to some four pound sleeping bags.  I had no idea you could sleeping bags for tall people but you can.  Mark and I both got tall four pound bags and since Wendy is confident that she will not hit a growth spurt at 46, she got a regular sized bag.  Oliver already had one.
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Wendy loves her Olympus OM-D E-M10 II camera but with smaller mirrorless cameras, you have smaller batteries.  Wendy brought an extra battery along but in reality she could have had four or five.  Meanwhile I had two in my Pentax K-3 DSLR and grip and had two extra batteries and never had to use them.   Yes mirrorless cameras are smaller but that size in part comes from a smaller battery.
  • The hammocks were wonderful.  I am glad I bought them.  There is something about a nap in a hammock after a long hike on a cool summer afternoon.  The main difference between mine and Wendy’s hammock is hers had hammock straps while I had to use some cordage to tie mine up.  For ten dollars they are worth it and are easier on trees.
  • I bought a heavy duty pot, tea kettle, and frying pan for the gear.  Looking back, we may just go with our camp kitchen setup for next year.  They took up a lot of space although a decent frying pan seems worth it.
  • No one packed my camping chair but the Compact Lite chairs I bought for Wendy, Mark and Oliver worked out great.  They take up almost no room.  The ones I bought for them are too heavy for hiking but the Helinox Chair One looks great.
  • Get yourself a great camp light.  Wendy bought me a 300 lumen light from Walmart for Christmas.  It lit up our tent brilliantly and was so useful when looking for something in the car or the campsite at night.

Ventura 300 Lumen Lantern

Column: Children lose out in 24-7 world

This week’s column in The StarPhoenix

You may have seen the Canadian Tire Jumpstart commercial. It features three teens in hockey gear on the bench, about to go on the ice.

The first two head on out while the third can’t, as we are reminded that one in three families in Canada cannot afford organized sports. The commercial is based on a 2009 Ipsos Reid poll, which points out that more and more people are having a difficult time paying for organized sports.

Amateur sport is expensive. Contact bantam hockey starts at $750 this year and does not include tournaments, concussion-inducing shoulder pads, composite hockey sticks or a mullet.

Pee Wee Kinsmen Football registration is $240. Youth Soccer is as much as $486 for the indoor season.

The impact of the high costs is more noticeable on the west side of Saskatoon where, no matter what the sport is, it takes a lot more neighbourhoods to draw enough kids to make up a team.

While costs have risen, organizations such as Jumpstart and Kidsport have stepped up and done a good job of helping families.

The bigger issue may be the kind of working hours that families are putting in to make ends meet – hours that are incompatible with participation in amateur sports or even a normal family life.

We live in a 24-hour working world. It wasn’t always like that. Ward Cleaver would come home at 6 p.m. and supper would be waiting for him. Many of us are old enough to remember the test pattern coming on television as even it shut down overnight.

I remember the controversy in Saskatoon as stores were allowed to stay open late throughout the week and, eventually, even on Sundays.

Last Christmas, some stores in West Edmonton Mall opened for business and were shocked at how busy they were, proving that western civilization can’t go one day without people wanting to wander through a mall.

Someone has to work those hours.

While I understand that some services are essential and need to be staffed around the clock, I am not sure that stores that sell jeans or video games qualify as essential services.

Of course, with more people working extended hours, pressure grows on stores to be open even longer so they can accommodate everyone.

We are not buying more because those stores are open later. In many cases the stores are simply open so that the customer doesn’t buy from a competitor. As I have heard many times, it’s all about market share.

And it goes beyond the time spent at the office; even when we are at home, we aren’t really at home.

Dalton Conley’s book, Elsewhere, U.S.A., refers to fathers spending more time physically with their children then ever before, but at the same time being much more disengaged from the lives of their children because iPads and Blackberrys win the battle for their attention.

While we are too busy to engage with our kids, they are ignoring us and bonding with their PlayStations.

Something has to give. Whether it is the cost or an increasing amount of us having to work hours that are incompatible with a traditional family life, amateur sports get taken off the schedule.

For my son to play Pee Wee football, it is a fivedays-a-week commitment. His practices are from 5: 15 p.m. to 7: 30 p.m.

Because his team is made up of kids from most of the west side, practices are not local but at Dr.

Seager Wheeler Park, in Westview.

It’s a stunning park, but it’s several miles away and impossible for him to get there and back without a ride from me. The same issue exists with games at the SaskTel Sports Centre. He can’t play without a commitment from me.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an amazing way to spend many fall afternoons together. Sadly, for many parents who have to work, it’s not an option.

It’s not realistic to expect we are going back to shorter store hours, but we should consider the impact of longer hours, split days off, and statutory holidays that have become like any other workday, are having on our communities, institutions and even minor sports.

Longer hours and working from home may be progress, but it comes with a cost. I’m afraid our children are getting the bill.


Selling out for the holidays

I have gotten a lot of feedback for my Christmas Gift Guides.  It seems to fall into three categories:

  1. People selling their own books/gadgets/junk who are link baiting.
  2. People accusing me of selling out to rampant commercialism.
  3. People who are happy for the ideas.

Let me explain the context that they are created in.

Wendy and I have a hard cap for Christmas shopping.  It has been the same for the first 11 years of our marriage and only this year did it go up by $50 for each of us.  We spend about $150 each on each other which includes all of our gifts from the kids as well.  The amount works out really well for us.

We spend about $100 on each of the boys and a little more on Lee.  We also exchange gifts with some friends who on top of that amount.  Shopping around the house starts in September which allows us to take advantage of any sales that come up like weekly loss leaders at Canadian Tire.  A the end of the day it allows us to avoid the panic that sets in with too many.  On Saturday, I was picking something up for Wendy with Mark and a women actually tried to take our item out of our hands while in line (which both freaked out Mark and the staff of the store who had to escort her out) and it wasn’t even December yet.

Google Docs Logo Wendy and I create a Google Spreadsheet where we list everyone we plan to buy gifts for and then we start listing ideas.  Some of the ideas are horrible but they start as a base for what we need to budget for and also starts a place where we can discuss and revise the list.  It’s the countless versions of the spreadsheet is where the gift guides emerge from.  The hope is that they serve as gift ideas for others.  We decided this year

While quite a few links head to Amazon.com, I link there because I really enjoy shopping from Amazon and because I find their prices are often better than other retailers.  I am also partial to linking to MEC because I am a long time member.  In case you are wondering, I do also get a portion of sales to Amazon.com and Amazon.ca that my site generates and that is dealt with in this sites disclosure statement.  It isn’t a lot of money.  Back in 2000, it generated about $200 each quarter but while the sites traffic has grown, the lack of dedicated store has meant that my revenue from Amazon dropped to $10 each quarter.  When I do get a gift certificate from them, it means that Mark gets a PS2 or Nintendo DS game.  The last thing I am thinking is that I want JordonCooper.com to be an online shrill for affiliate related goods.

msdjoin Many of my friends have alternative visions of what Christmas is supposed to be.  Jason Evans and the Ecclesia Collective has done a really good job with Make Something Day.  Mennonites across Canada are behind Buy Nothing Christmas and of course Ad Busters has Buy Nothing Day.  All are in some way or another reactions against an overly consumeristic Christmas and I understand where they are coming from.  When I was working as a pastor, I heard people talk about spending $5,000 over Christmas and I was shocked until I knew someone who spend over six figures for two consecutive years putting on the perfect Christmas between work and home (a couple of big parties, a couple of big gifts…) which is exactly what people are talking about.

At the same time our annual Christmas spending as a household is under one thousand dollars, we pay for it in cash with no credit card debt at all.  Part of the creativity of Christmas is not spending a bunch of money but finding a gift that articulates both who we see they are and what we value about them.  It’s why when Oliver opens his gifts, he will find things that Lee and I loved while growing up, it is why when Mark opens his gifts he will find his gifts are things that we will do together, why when Wendy opens her gifts she will find gifts which honor who she is and even the dogs are going to find something that they love (for Maggi is squeaks and needs to be fetched).

Yeah, I could be selling out to the consumeristic machine and encouraging people to commercialize Christmas but my intent is to just share some of the cool stuff that I have seen over the last couple of months in my quest to find some fun gifts for friends, family, and the arch-nemesis on my list.  You are more than entitled to disagree with me in the comments below.

New fishing rod

A walleye I am not a passionate fisherman by any extent of the imagination.  I went a couple of times as a kid and I can count all of the fish I have caught on two hands but since we own a cabin and I have a kid who wants to fish, so I decided we needed a couple of rod and reels.

For Christmas I gave Mark a rod, reel, and tackle box and he gave my brother the same thing.  That took care of those two but I still needed reel and rod.  This week at Canadian Tire they are blowing out all of their stock and they had rods on for 75% off.  I went out and bought a Zebco Horizon for $9.95.  It’s not professional grade but since I live within a couple of miles of North America’s oldest bird sanctuary (that features lots and lots of pelicans), there are not a lot of fish by our end of the lake.

Now all I need to know is what kind of lures you catch Walleye with (which is Saskatchewan’s provincial fish).  That and I need to learn how to clean a fish.  Either that or I need to talk Alan Creech to take his summer holidays at my lake.

One the other end of the scale is a couple of fishing rods I bought at Dollarama for a $1 a piece.  They aren’t good for a lot other than if Mark has some friends up, we have some rods that if they get broken, no one will care.  The reels are not the smoothest I have ever used.  Apparently no one fishes in the part of China where they were made.

The yard

A couple of times a year I post about the yard and it is slowly coming to shape this year.  It didn’t winter well and looks horrible right now.

We had a large cedar shrub get split in half this year because of the snow accumulating on it.  When we looked at it, it was dying from the inside out and had to be removed.   Other than that, our shrubs and trees did okay but not great.  Some fertilizer and lots of water and it should be okay.

Our grass along the side of the house took a tremendous beating and is all dead and will not come back.  The dogs are on it all winter and the grass seed I planted two years ago just couldn’t handle it.  I planted some Kentucky Blue Grass and some other quick growing nice looking varieties which look great but can’t handle the traffic of the family during the winter.  We looked at a couple of hardy grass seeds like the new stuff from Canadian Tire.  I went over to Early’s Yard and Garden Centre and they have the exact same grass seed at half the price.  It has a lot of red fescue in it, is drought resistant and known to take a pounding and a lot of traffic.  It is the same mix of grass seeds the city uses in it’s parks and boulevards.  Time will tell how it handles the abuse it gets from two boys, two dogs, and a lot of entertaining.  One of the mistakes I made in the designing of the backyard are a couple of narrow entrances which means a lot of traffic.  If this doesn’t work, I may have to consider adding in some paving stones.  In addition to replanting some grass seed, we are moving our sidewalk away from the house and re-grading along the side of the house.  New window wells and window well covers are going in.  The new sidewalk will just be pavers.  I am not sure what I am want to do there so until I do, this will work in the interim.  We had something similar growing up and once the grass grew up around them, we really liked it but this area will gets a lot more traffic.

The lawn in the back is okay but the dandelions from the abandoned lot behind us is killing us.  I went over the other day and spread a bag of weed and feed all over a 15 foot swath of weeds which I hope makes a bit of a difference.  I plan to do it next week as well.  It is impossible to keep weeds out of your yard when you have millions of them 10 feet away.  After spending a lot of money last year to fight dandelions and some noxious weeds, I am tempted to see if the Saskatoon Church of God and our other neighbors want to start up a Weed and Feed Cooperative so we can get better prices in bulk because that is what it is going to take.

Wendy’s perennial garden looks okay and survived the winter well.  She also added a flower bed of wildflowers from seed and we will see how that turns out.  A couple of gardeners have told us that it is a great way of getting perennials over the years as you can just transplant them out.

The biggest news of the year is that we finally have some rhubarb.  We have tried and failed to grow rhubarb for years and last year we planted some in a big planter and it is thriving.  I assume it is a combination of being warmer and better soil but hopefully it will continue to grow well into rhubarb crisp season and we can transplant some it to other places in the yard.

$1.99 Solar LED lights from XS CargoOur pond is working fine.  For years we have had to replace the pump for the pond at about $70 a piece.  A couple of years ago we got a pump from Peavey Mart that is still going strong that cost us $35.  This year we added a floating solar pond light from Jysk that changes colors all night long which is a cool effect. 

In addition to those lights, we added 16 $2 solar LED lights from XS Cargo.  The secret of buying LED lights from XS Cargo is accepting the fact that you will have to bring about half of them back.  We had to exchange 4 or 5 of them.  If they work for 2 days, they will keep working but it’s a tough 48 hours.  I bought these instead of the $3.44 copper and silver ones from Wal-Mart because they don’t stand out as much and I am hoping they won’t be stolen as quickly.  We will see how that works out.  At the cabin, we don’t have to worry about it and we went with some nicer stainless steel ones.

It is the year of painting things.  We have to paint the picket fence, the trim on the house, the deck, and the fence.  Of all of those things, I dread painting the picket fence the most.  Anyone who wants to come over and suffer with us, let me know.

The painting will be done by early July but I don’t think the grass will look that great until fall.  The plan is to baby it as much as possible over the summer, hit it with fall fertilizer, and see what the spring of 2010 looks like.