Exponent Design - One To Look Out for

Exponent Design is a new startup in California looking to make a statement in the bag world. Using top of the line materials and trying to blend the line between EDC and multi-day function.

I love seeing new bag/pack companies make their way into the scene and I’ve recently come across Exponent Design and have spoken with the guys over there. A couple main points peaked my interest - 1000D Cordura, YKK Aqua-guard Zippers, and made in the US. Those materials combined with what they are trying to put together sounds like a much different pack.

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Exponent’s goal is to have an expandable pack made with the best materials which can serve as a do it all EDC pack as well. These two are much different styles of bags but I would love to see how they will give this bag crossover like capabilities.

Check out their site here for further updates on the pack

Kiowa Creek Trap Shooting 10/15/16

Testing gear while getting outside and enjoying the outdoors, the two best things I get to do here at RMK. This past Saturday my father and I decided to head over to Kiowa Creek shooting club and let rip a couple hundred rounds while testing some new earmuffs and other gear in the process.  

Kiowa Creek sits about 50 miles east of Denver CO. Growing up it's always been my favorite place to go clay shooting, it's far enough out of the city to give a great atmosphere no matter the time of season you go. However, I will admit this time of year is the perfect time to head over. 

I brought some gear for the trip to do some testing as well as get some great shots on the perfect fall day. Here's the list

  • Yeti Hopper Flip 12
  • Tom Bihn Synapse 25
  • Beretta Outlander
  • Impact Sport earmuffs 
  • G-Shock Mudmaster Watch
  • Kuhl Pants 

The best part about Kiowa Creek is the unconventional shooting style. Instead of the normal clay range where the clays just shoot straight out with little to no variation, Kiowa Creek has a course with over 20+ station where each clay pairing is different. One of my favorite stations is the one below where you stand about 12ft above the ground on the bed of an old truck. It truly is a great course to shoot at. 

Each station has a cage and a picture of the project clay course. You can either launch the clays as a report pair - one at a time. Or as a true pair - both at the same time. 

I ended up shooting about average at the course finishing with a 74/100 the pops just pulled the W with 78. The beginning of the course was fairly easy with it getting harder towards the end. Another one of my favorite stations while being the hardest is the "Tower" station. The clays launch straight across the sky and are a blast to try and hit. 

It's always a great time shooting at Kiowa Creek and even better while testing some great gear. My new shooting ear protection the Impact Sport from Howard Leight by Honeywell worked great and was a joy to use. And the Yeti kept everything cool the entire day, while the Synapse held everything I needed to make this post. 

For anyone in Colorado looking to have a great time while enjoying some outside of the norm shooting, head over to Kiowa Creek Shooting club in Eastern CO. 

Gear Testing In The Mountains

I love Colorado - Whenever I need to test some gear and get a few perfect pictures I just load up the truck and take a quick hour drive into the heart of the Rockies. Last weekend I decided to load up the new "RMK Mobile" a 2001 Toyota Sequoia with a couple different items I had on the review table. 

I am going to start writing these blog posts not only after every adventure we take here at RMK, but also the quick trips we take our new gear on outside of the big trips. As well as the gear I bring along to test out I will also list the gear I or Breck wore throughout the day. 

  • Yeti Hopper Flip 12 for our lunch
  • Geigerrig Rig 1600 Tactical as my day pack
  • Yeti 64oz Growler to keep our soup we heated up in the morning warm until lunch time 
  • Kuhl Pants
  • UA Verge Mid hiking boots
  • Iron Doggy Leash 
  • Goruck Civvy Kit Duffle

I was planning on making the trip alone up to the mountains however, the pops had the day off and wanted to see what I did on these "business" day trips were all about. We heated up some leftover chicken tortilla soup, made coffee, packed some sandwiches and loaded up the Sequoia.

We had no real destination in mind I just wanted an off the beaten path spot to get Breck out while snapping pictures. Just over an hour on i-70 West and in total cruise control mode I missed the exit I had somewhat planned for Breckenridge. We decided to wait until the next exit and flip around to get back on course. I drove the last mile or so to the off ramp that for some reason looked promising. Seeing that we had no real plan and going to Breckenridge was not set in stone we skipped turning around and took a quick right off the ramp. Only about a quarter mile down we were spotted a crystal clear lake with almost no one around. The dirt parking lot was home to a few other Toyotas and the usual Subaru and that was it. By this time Breck knew we were getting out, and I guess she could sense the water because it was the first thing she went for. 

The pictures never give this kind of landscape justice, however, you can see from the lower just how clean and untouched this lake was.  I had no problem at all letting Breck splash face first into the mountain water. She hunted down the nearest "log" and knew I knew the deal. While throwing the small tree 30-40ft out for her I couldn't pass up getting some awesome pictures of the newYeti with the backdrop of this beautfiul lake. 

We continued on with the hike around the outside of the lake, Brecken splashing in every 100 yards or so and my newly acquired camera man (pops) snapping pictures of the Geigerrig 1600 along the way. The loop was much more of a trek then I measured up from the start which was great - espically for the dog that spent the morning charging up in the back of the truck. 

After crossing the bridge that lead us back to the dirt lot we decided to go try and find a nice riverside spot to have our lunch and see how the Yeti's did keeping our lunch the right temp.  

Dad remembered a river just North of Frisco Colorado which was only down I-70 the way we came about 20 minutes and we set course. At this point, Breck was nice and wet with that beautiful post-lake swim dog smell so we took advantage of the newly upgraded RMK mobile's sunroof and rear window. Finally, we found a small campsite with no charge before 5pm and took the road down to the Blue River. We pulled into a spot and claimed the old wooden picnic table for our mid-day lunch. 

I grabbed the Hopper and the Yeti Growler which was keeping our soup (hopefully)" still warm from 7am that morning. I opened them both up and laid out our 3-course picnic. The Hopper was still ice cold with our sandwiches and Gatorade while the Growler had steam coming out of the top. Having hot soup on a windy fall day up in the mountains is a luxury I could get used to. 

 I snagged some more pictures of the river and the Geigerrig / Hopper and let Breck drain the full battery before we decided to pack up and head home for the day. 

In my family, no trip to the mountains was complete without a Beu Joe's pizza on the way back down in Idaho Springs. Seeing that I had Breck, and the place was packed we decided to just get it to go and head back to Denver. 

I couldn't have asked for a better day to get out and test some gear while getting some unexpectedly great pictures. 

Day 3 of Outdoor Retailer Summer 2016

Today was the first day out on the show floor I wasn't completely overwhelmed and could get to a booth I wanted to without getting lost. I also noticed that the amount of people had slowly gone down since Tues/Wed which also helped with moving around the show room floor. Today was my shortest day at OR, the massive amounts of walking and talking finally caught up and the hotel bed was calling my name right around 3pm. 

I did, however, manage to get to a few new booths that looked great. The only real "meeting" I had was at 11:30 with Fjallraven to talk about some future packs they are releasing. For some reason, I was not snapping pics until about half way through the meeting so both the Raven and the Kaipack won't be on here until I get them sent from Fjallraven. The Kaipack is a 58L trekking pack built from their famous G1000 Material which is what attracted me to Fjallraven in the first place. I know there is a place for super-ultra light backpacks, but I love the durability and strength of the high denier packs. I will be getting a sample of the Kaipack and will be using it as my main overnight hiking backpack. The second bag from Fjallraven I will be reviewing is the Raven. The Raven is their "EDC" or Office pack also made from the same G1000 and comes with a fully featured, separate laptop sleeve, bottles pockets, and an admin pocket.  

The third pack from Fjallraven we spoke about is the new Travel Pack which will be coming sometime early next year. This one really took my attention. G1000, two main compartments, lockable zipper pulls, fully featured and lined laptop sleeve, stowable shoulder straps, front stash pocket, and beautiful. I have been wanting to review a dedicated travel pack on RMK for quite some time as it is one of my most asked questions. Be sure to look out for this review. Below are some pictures. 

Another pack booth I swung by on day 3 was the GEIGERRIG (GG) station. I have never had a GG pack however, I have looked at them and am really excited to see where their new fully featured tactical pack turns out. All the packs in the GG Tactical line are made with 500D Cordura which is a great material. The largest Tactical pack in their line-up is the "2200" the pack is as featured as they come with Multicam Cordura, padded laptop sleeve, insulated water bladder hose, mollee webbing, and plenty of pockets for your whole kit. 

They also have a smaller pack in the line-up the 1600 in the Tactical and the Normal version. I will be trying to get some of these packs as well to see how they compare to others on the market.  

I was also treated to a show of GEIGERRIG's one of a kind water bladder. Not only is this one of the most impressive water bladder's I have seen but it comes in at a very reasonable price. The bladder is the ONLY certified filer in North America. It is pressurized to give countless options other than sucking out water on a hike. You can wash clothes, shower, give your dog water, anything. It is also durable enough for a truck to run over so when you have it pumped fully in your pack there is no need to worry about it bursting. This is just a brief write up and does not do this thing justice, a full in-depth review will be coming soon. Below are some pictures. 

At some point, I want to do a "Best hiking boot" mashup review similar to what I am doing with the Best Growler showdown so I made sure to keep any eye out for any sweet boots. The Mountain 600 from Danner is sweet. Complete with lightweight full-grain leather and a Vibram sole and the classic Danner look these will definitely be in my show down. 

One of the last booths I stopped by today was the LALO booth. They specialize in military/tactical boots and shoes. I was lucky enough to score a pair of their workout shoes for review. The Bloodbird shoe is, from what I can see, a more complex Reebok Nano. Full review coming soon. 

Day 2 of Outdoor Retailer Summer 2016

Day 2 started the same as Day 1, with a short drive from the hotel and a long walk to the Salt Palace. The best part of the walk is making it to the Palace and being greeted by an ice cold High Brew coffee. They have been handing them out like hot cakes and the "Black" flavor is right up my alley. Plus they are surprisingly healthy. 

I am going to toss Mystery Ranch in today's piece as well. After writing yesterday's post I realized I missed a few awesome packs I wanted to write about. I went back today and made sure I got all the details. The first pack is the brand new EDC based "Daily". After talking to many of the reps with MR I found out that this is going to be their go to for the EDC or Campus/Office pack. The pack has a dedicated padded laptop sleeve, front fleece lined sunglasses pocket, front admin pocket with a tablet sleeve, stretch side water bottle pockets, and side compression straps. Think of it as the Mystery Ranch version of the North Face Surge. It will come in Black, Green and Blue for now and will be released spring 2017. I will be getting my hands on one before release for a full in-depth review. 

The next "pack" I wanted to see more of was the new Mission duffle. They will also be spring 2017 and will come in 40L 55L and 90L. The duffles have tons of features including storable shoulder straps, shoes/dirty clothes pockets, handles on either side, Large YKK water lined zips, and plenty of inner pockets. I will be working to get this duffle as well for a pre-release review. 

I spent a ton of time at the Mystery Ranch booth today meeting with almost everyone there including the legend himself Dana. Throughout my conversations, there was talk about trying to incorporate their EDC or Office packs features into the look and feel of a pack like the 3DAP. This is in no way set in stone however, they made it clear they have heard from many people and are listening... 

The last pack at the MR booth was their brand new "Stein" trail pack. It is by far the best looking and feature rich hiking pack I have seen from Mystery Ranch. Again, should be getting this one to test out. The best feature of this pack and one they are really trying to highlight is the ability to attach a smaller "daypack" through their yoke and give the ability to transform to a smaller pack once you are to camp. 

I finally stopped by the ENO booth and was greeted with a new set of patterned hammocks which is new for ENO. The two I really liked were the digital camo patterns. I did not get a release date for these although they should be soon.  

Kelty has a few new packs coming early next year as well. My favorite part of the new line of men's hiking packs from Kelty is that they backed away from the bright and shiny colors of last years Redwing and gave some very impressive color ways. The Revol pack is new to the Kelty line and features the Kinesis hip belt. This belt allows each side to move independently to allow for maximum comfort while on the trail. My favorite part is still the green and black colorway with the brown accents. 

Finally a non-backpack item I got to play around with today. The Mojo Bluetooth speaker that can literally do it all. This thing is a Bluetooth speaker, Flashlight, phone charger, and it will charge up using pure solar power. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one for review and will be doing a full in-depth review on it. For now, I will leave some pictures until I test it more. 

Day One Of Outdoor Retailer Summer 2016

Before RMK was even a thought I have followed other like websites and their journeys through Outdoor Retailer.  I never thought that I would have the opportunity to attend this amazing convention, let alone make the trip a reality.

I have never been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals with the same goals in mind. I felt right at home and got right to work. 

I started the day off by stopping by the Mystery Ranch booth to get my pack fix right away. What really caught my eye was the amount of new packs they had on display. 

In specific the newly updated "hiking" packs. The Coulee pack new to the lineup reminded me of the 3DAP except with a built-in mesh pocket on the front to allow for more storage. 

The second pack that stood out was the Scree which is the replacement to the discontinued Sweet Pea. 

The third pack that I really liked the look of was the Frazier which looked like a mix of a 3DAP and their Kletterwerks daypack. All of these packs will be avaiable early next year. I will be working to get my hands on some for review before the release for my readers. 

The second pack booth I stopped by was the Camelbak booth. I spotted many packs I have already seen including the Quantico which I have done a previous review on, however, one newly updated pack really looked great. The newly updated Urban Assualt pack from Camelbak. The pack has a great mixture of look and function with an admin pocket, suspended laptop sleeve, water bottle slots, front stash pockets, and a bright green inside for visibility. This pack will also be available next year and I will be working on getting one for review as well. 

One project I decided I would work on for this year at OR was getting my hands on as many 64oz beer Growlers as possible and doing a head to head to head review. I had some success. For now, I have gotten/getting sent Growlers from Hydroflask, Yeti, Miir, Drink Tanks, Klean Kanteen, Fifty Fifty, and Stanley. I will be testing each one of the Growlers in many different categories and be ranking them against each other when I get my hands on all of them. 

On the topic of products that keep things cool I also managed to get hooked up with the brand new Yeti Flip 12 soft sided cooler. I will be doing a full review on this bad boy as soon as it arrives and can not wait. The cooler is set to release on Aug 25th so hopefully I can get the review out before then. 

The last booth I am going to highlight today is the Granite Gear. Truthfully I was unaware that Granite Gear produced tactical/military packs and was blown away by them. I will be working to get a few for review as I think they are right up RMK's alley. 

Stay tuned for more packs and items that I discover tomorrow, day 2. 

Hiking The Incline 7/19/2016

The girlfriend has been in town for the past few weeks and decided it was finally her turn to climb the famous Manitou Springs Incline. For those of you not familiar the Incline is a very well known "hiking" trail located in Manitou Springs Colorado. The trail is, however, not like any other in the US. The trail is only just under a mile long, although you must climb up 2,000+ stairs and 2,000 vertical feet to reach the top.

Growing up not far from Colorado Springs I had always wanted to do this trail I just never found the time, this last visit marks my 3rd to the incline and definitely not the last. There is something about walking up the base of the incline and squinting to find the summit and knowing in an hour you will be up there.

The day started off with the routine Chick-fil-a breakfast Carley and my brother Jake were begging for.  After some breakfast and gas, we hopped on the highway south straight to CO Springs. The drive is only just over an hour and a half from my house in Littleton CO. 

The town of Manitou Springs is a typical Colorado mountain town. Filled with Brewery's, Gift shops, and the occasional mary jane hut. After driving through town you start to make your way up to the base of the incline. We decided to take Jakes Tacoma instead of mine so I would not have to deal with the 50% incline, traffic, and other hikers, with the old clutch. Since I was no newbie to the Incline I know of a somewhat hidden top parking lot which we luckily found the last spot and skipped the pavement part of the hike. 

At the base of the Incline stands a wall of porta-potties for everyone experiencing the view for the first time. After a pit stop at the wall, we stretched and embarked on the trail. 

You can really check your fitness level on this amazing trail in Colorado. Even after the first 50 steps, your legs start to tighten and so does your chest. At 8,000 ft Colorado springs is already a decent way up, add another 2,000 ft by the end of it and you will feel each breath. With Carley not fully acclimated to the altitude of Colorado we decided to take the trail chunk by chunk with water breaks every 100 steps or so. 

After many water breaks and shade-stops later we were a little over half way up the trail when I stopped to take this picture. From this picture alone you can see the amazing grade at which this trail sits. Jake is on the right taking a quick breather and photo break. 

After hiking up a few more 100 stairs Carley decided it was time for her to call it. There is a Barr Trail "Bailout" trailhead which is 2/3rds of the way up the Incline. With the lack of air at the altitude, we were at I was very proud of her even making it to the bailout. After leaving her with the rest of the water and her phone Jake and I continued on determined to reach the top.  

After reaching the false summit we could finally see our destination and decided to kick it into overdrive. We finally reached the summit and were rewarded by the beautiful view of Southern Colorado that we had worked so hard to see. Not only is it a great view from the top but a real sense of accomplishment when you reach the peak. You are surrounded by other like people who are willing to go test themselves and enjoy the outdoors. There really is nothing like it. This time being Jakes first ever attempt and success I felt the pride of an older brother which is enough to do it in itself.    

And of course the pack I took up with me.... my brand new custom Spare Camel from the lads over at BOGear. This thing is awesome. 

After a few snap chats, and Instagram moments Jake and I decided to head down and meet up with Carley at the trail head. The Barr Trail down is more of a normal hiking trail, with a dirt path and a gradual decline. 

My brother and I figured we would take a "short cut" which technically was however, was a bit more technical than we originally thought. 

After finally making our way out of the short cut and back on the trail we hiked down another 2 miles to the parking lot and met back up with Carley.  The concrete had never felt so good before. We all refilled our water bottles, changed our shoes and climbed back into the Tacoma. 

No incline trip is complete without lunch at the Manitou Springs Brewing Company. It has turned into somewhat of a tradition when hiking the Incline. The brewery is down the hill right at the start of the town and hidden away behind a craft store. The ice cold house brewed IPA and a big BBQ Bacon burger after the hike is second to none.  

The day was a successful one with 2/3 of the group making it to the top. Carley has promised next time she will make it to the summit. (I still think she could have this one) but we will be going again soon. For anyone looking for a one of a kind hike in Colorado Springs this one will not disappoint. Just make sure you are fully prepared! 

Truck Camping Rampart Range CO 7/13/16

Personally, I feel Rampart Range is one of the best drive-in camping spots in Denver Colorado. The drive is only around 45 minutes from my house and the views combined with the open space you are greeted with is second to none. 

The washboard dirt road up to the "golden spot" is almost a pleasure to climb. The sound of the rattling keys and the coolers in the truck bed are the first sounds of the night. After the first twenty minutes of the dirt road, the cars start to be more scattered and you find yourself on the back side of the mountain. Head up another couple miles and you are all alone on the south side with amazing views. In the picture above you can just make out the outline of Pikes Peak one of the most famous 14ers in Colorado. 

The day started off with a meeting of friends that had finally come home after a few years away from home. Some beer pong was played, a football was thrown and we ended the night with some old fashion drinking games. 

Nothing says summer like a relaxing night camping in the rockies of Colorado. One of the many reasons I find myself always coming back to this state. 

Hammock Day Trip in Deckers CO 7/8/2016

The smell of coffee always for some reason, reminds me of camping. There's nothing I love more than brewing a fresh pot and packing up the gear for a full day in the mountains of Colorado. 

The day started nice and early with some coffee and venison bacon and eggs from last hunting seasons trophies. Then with a quick assembly of PB+Js and some protein bars for later in the day. After Carley, Brecken, and I were full, we stuffed our packs to the brim as well. Getting the chance to pack up and try out a few items I have received for review lately. 

The drive to Deckers CO is only a short 45 minutes from the house. The drive seemed to take forever with the addition of the 15-mile dirt road after the highway, however after painting the Tacoma light brown and a few spilled drops of coffee we made it to the site.

My brother and I first discovered the tent-camping site a few years ago after the last minute site search lead us to this gem outside of Deckers CO.  The site is not far from the road which put me off at first as I like to hike into most of my sites, but it makes up for it in other ways. The campground is the neighbor to a small river which is a perfect spot to fish or let Breck swim.

On this trip, the girlfriend at I were only going up for the day and decided it would be better to hang out hammocks up a bit past the sites to make sure to leave them for anyone looking to stay the night.  

We eventually found the perfect spot to throw up the hammocks and made "camp". I probably could have gotten by with one of my smaller packs, however, I wanted to get out and try my newly purchased Kelty Redwing 50. I stuffed the pack full earlier that morning to give me an idea of how it would perform. Below is a list of the gear I took for this day trip. 

  • Kelty Redwing 50
  • 64oz Hydroflask 
  • 40oz personal Hydroflask
  • JBL Charge Bluetooth speaker
  • Canon t5i
  • Breckens leash and tree cord
  • Gopro hero 4
  • EDC/MED kit
  • Rumpl Blanket
  • ENO Doublenest Hammock
  • ENO Hammock Straps
  • Esee 4 Fixed blade knife

As stated before I could have easily packed 1/3 of these items as we were only staying up in Deckers for the day. 

The day consisted of relaxing on our new ENO Hammocks, eating our packed lunch, and swimming the river with Breck. We unfortunately had to pack up early due to a thunderstorm.

I managed to get some great pictures and use out of my new Kelty Redwing along with the ENO Hammocks and the Rumpl blanket. More pictures and separate reviews will be coming soon after a few more trips!  For anyone in Colorado looking for a great easy to access tent camping spot be sure to check out anything around Deckers CO.