Archive for May, 2011

Don’t Skimp on Sunglasses!

If you’ve read any magazines lately, you’ve probably seen article after article about sun protection. As an Arizona native, I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit nutsy about my sun protection.

And with summer just around the corner, I’ve been after ESP Boss to get new sunglasses (he did) and fussing at CodeWolf to either get contacts and sunglasses or a pair of prescription glasses. (Still working on that one!)

I always wear my hat, I use sunscreen like it’s going out of style, and my sunglasses are my best friends. (Yes, I’m working on a sunscreen article of my own!)

Kim in Sunglasses

But I know a lot of people who don’t wear sunglasses or who aren’t consistent in wearing them. And I’m here to tell you that you need to be!

What are some things to think about when choosing sunglasses for the family?

1. Will they wear them?
Protection does no good if it isn’t used. When you buy sunglasses, make sure the person who’s going to wear them is there to try them on. You’re going for fit first, not looks. So, make sure they don’t slip off the face, pinch the nose, or put pressure behind the ears.

2. Do they offer UV protection?
What’s the point of sun protection if it doesn’t protect? Read labels! If you can get some with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection that’s the best bet for your money. But at the very least make sure that your sunglasses offer some UV protection.

3. How big are they?
Itty bitty sunglasses might look cute, but they don’t really protect the eyes. As anybody who’s fished can tell you, there’s a lot of reflected glare coming UP at you, so make sure they protect the eyes all the way around.

4. How dark are they?
You want sunglasses that are dark enough so you won’t be squinting, no matter how bright the reflections or glares are. Squinting creates wrinkles too, and who wants those?

If you can, walk outside on a sunny day before buying your sunglasses. If nothing else, look at a store’s florescent lighting to get some idea of how the glasses will work outside.

ESP Boss and The Outdoor Princess

Between the hats and the glasses you can hardly see our faces! Trust me, that's ESP Boss and The Outdoor Princess under there!

5. Don’t skimp on cost
I love my polarized sunglasses since they dramatically reduce glare and reflections. Of course, they’re prescription so they were expensive to begin with, but the added cost of polarization is well worth it. But, if your family won’t WEAR the sunglasses (see Tip #1) then cheap or expensive doesn’t make much difference.

I will tell you this, though, if you wear prescription glasses and spend a lot of time outdoors: spring for the extra pair of prescription sunglasses OR the glasses the darken in the sun.

If you wear contact lenses then YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE not to have a good pair of sunglasses!

You know I LOVE recommending people take a look at Amazon.com for shopping ideas so here’s a link to the Amazon.com page about sunglasses. (Affiliate link)

Readers Weigh In:

  • How often do you wear sunglasses?
  • Crows feet make you look younger: yes or no?
  • What is your favorite pair of sunglasses? (Style, brand, etc)

Product Review: Insect Shield Clothing

In late summer of 2010 I was asked by a blog and newsletter reader to do some reviews of various types of insect repellants. Now, as The Outdoor Princess, I realize that bugs are just a part of being outside.

But, I will admit, as part of doing this research, I was surprised at how many people said that they absolutely never go outside for hikes, camping, or geocaching without some type of bug spray. Here in Arizona, we have our share of biting bugs, but thankfully, we’re pretty much safe from ticks, chiggers, and no-see-ums.

For all the long-term blog and newsletter readers, you’ll know that I’m allergic to pretty much everything that grows here in Northern Arizona. So, last September, I mentioned to my allergist that I wanted to do a product testing article and review on various insect repellants.

Well! Dr. Zeschke got very animated about that subject. (He’s opinionated about EVERYTHING so it wasn’t surprising.) Dr. Z told me that I absolutely had to test insect repellent clothing. He’s an avid hunter and when he told me that a shirt and hat were enough to keep the car-sized mosquitoes at bay in the Arctic Circle in the middle of summer, he had my attention.

The shirt I tested.

I contacted the great people over at Insect Shield to see if I could test their products and see if Dr. Z was right or if his success was an isolated incident. Not only are the Insect Shield shirts insect repellent, many are also rated at 30 SPF. Very cool!

The Test

My Insect Shield long-sleeved shirt arrived via UPS (happy). Of course, it arrived on the Tuesday before Labor Day weekend so there was no way I could test it until the holiday weekend.

Test 1:

Sunset picnic at Fain Park

Fain Park has a small trout pond so I thought it would be PERFECT for an evening test. I sat at a picnic table for a few minutes (munching KFC chicken) and looking for mosquitoes. The light breeze would have been great on a normal night but not when I was LOOKING for bugs! I finally found one buzzing around and then ran to my truck to put on the Insect Shield shirt. I never saw that mosquito again, or any others, all evening, even when I walked by the water.

Test 2:

Morning kayak at Lynx Lake

It was interesting to kayak in long sleeves, but I got used to it quickly.

Lynx is a beautiful lake here in Prescott. I really wanted to try out the SPF 30 rating on the shirt so I made sure NOT to put any sunscreen on my arms under the shirt. It took a while to get used to wearing long sleeves in the heat, but after ten minutes or so, I really didn’t notice if I was hot at all. I didn’t see a single bug all trip so I don’t know if it was the Insect Shield technology or if it was just a bug-free day. I can say that the SPF 30 worked like a charm though. I didn’t get any color on my arms but I DID get pink on my hands. I’ll remember next time to put sunscreen on my hands!

Test 3:

Morning kayak at Goldwater Lake

I was determined to find mosquitoes at the lake so I could really test the insect repelling properties of my new shirt. I saw several swarms buzzing around various trash cans and signs, but they were all too far away from my kayak. Then I hit the jackpot! I large swarm of mosquitoes buzzing along the shore, a foot above the water, near a tree. I kayaked over and held out an arm. Poof! All the mosquitoes got near the shirt and then promptly took off. Gone! Outta there! Adios!

Test 4:

Afternoon geocaching in Prescott National Forest

It was a lovely day for geocaching: hot and buggy. But not a bug to be seen near me!

In my area of Arizona, it seems the nastiest mosquitoes are the really hungry ones that lurk on the sides of the trails. So I went geocaching along trails, in bushes, and over boulders. No bugs. Even when I could see them up head on the trail, by the time I got close: gone! The closest I came was when I brushed a bug off a bush I was pushing through and onto me. The clothing not only repelled bugs, it also held up well to sweat (breathable and not too hot) and didn’t snag or catch when I was pushing through scrub oak. I was still careful with it as I bushwhacked, but I didn’t feel like I needed to find a path AROUND the bushes!

The Results

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, I figured the clothing would work (truth in marketing) but I wasn’t prepared for how WELL it worked. When I saw all those mosquitoes head for the hills on the lake, I was sold on the Insect Shield Repellant Clothing right then.

I hate getting bit by mosquitoes. Like when I went camping with Nicole — mosquitoes turned our trip from “Great!” into “Okay”. But with this shirt… I’m 100% sold. This is a must-have for any adventure weather it is geocaching, camping, kayaking, hiking, hunting, biking, fishing, bird watching… (you get the picture!)

Pros

  • The clothing repels all types of bugs: mosquitoes, chiggers, black flies, ticks, ants, etc.
  • SPF 30 (not all clothing, but a lot of styles)
  • Very stylish (pockets, breathable, variety of colors)
  • No mosquitoes! It even kept the flies away.
  • Excellent construction (I didn’t worry when I was pushing through the brush going after geocaches)
  • Comes in a variety of styles: shirts, pants, socks, bandannas and more
  • Lasts through 70 washes. Which, when I sat down and did the math, comes out to be 3 years or so. I wore it as a shell (over my tee shirt) so even though I wore it 4 times, I don’t feel it needs to be laundered.
  • Not a bug bite all weekend (while I was wearing the shirt. Without…well, that’s another story!)
  • Wash at home like any other piece of clothing. In fact, if you dry clean an Insect Shield product, it removes the bug repellent!
  • Not putting chemicals onto your skin. (That’s a big thing that Dr. Z really liked about the clothing!)
  • Kid and pet safe. Tie a bandanna around your dog’s neck, or over your kid’s head and you’re good to go!

Cons

  • Price. Clothing ranges from $20 to $80. My shirt was $80, so it can be kind of spendy. BUT, when you figure that on a per-wearing basis (maybe wear twice before washing?) then it comes out to be about $0.57 per use. Not bad!
  • You have to wear long sleeves in the heat. Of course, if you’re in an area with ticks, you probably wear long pants and long sleeves ANYWAY so it probably doesn’t make much difference.
  • You have to remember to bring it with you AND to wear it. Trust me, insect repellents (of any type) don’t do much good sitting at home!

About Insect Shield Technology

Insect Shield uses a man-made version of a natural insect repellent found in certain types of chrysanthemum flowers, like an African Daisy. There is a patent-pending process and proprietary formulation that secures the active ingredient to the fabric fibers. It lasts through 70 washings which would be more than the life of the garment.

Please check out Insect Shield on Facebook or directly on their website.

Where To Get The Clothing

If you follow any of these links and purchase your Insect Shield clothing, then I get credit as an affiliate. And that’s a GOOD thing!

Continuing Results

I’ve worn my Insect Shield shirt from everything to kayaking to hiking, gardening to parade watching and the shirt WORKS. After the initial test, I had no issues wearing long sleeves in the heat.

Knowing that I’m safe from bugs AND sunburn: wow!

Though the affiliate links above, I’ve also sold over $400 worth of Insect Shield clothing. Not one person has written to me complaining about the products either. This product is fantastic and I tell everybody I know about it. Well worth the money!

Future Testing

ESP Boss and the Queen Mother will be taking a 4 week long trip this June through Zion National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Montana. They’ll both be wearing Insect Shield shirts. As soon as they get back, we’ll get the results of their trip.

When I contacted the makers of a spray-on insect repellent last summer they NEVER got back to me. I’ll try again this spring. The same thing happened when I contacted the makers of the insect repellant bracelet.

However, I did get an all-natural product to test. That’ll be coming up in the next weeks so look for it!

Spring Camping Maintanence

Yeah! I am so excited it’s FINALLY spring. It’s been a long LONG winter here in Chino Valley. To make matters worse, spring teased us several times by getting warm and then snowing. Getting warm and then having knock-you-down wind that dropped the temperatures back into sweatshirt weather.

But it’s spring. For real. (And if it’s NOT for real, I’m here to tell winter to take a hike!)

That means that it’s time to do a pre-season shakedown of all your camping gear and head out!

Stoves and table top BBQs: Wipe them down from any residual grease or food particles. Yes, you should have done this in the fall, but a winter of storage will usually attract dust (and other more unsavory things!) to any spots you missed.

Stoves

Dirty campstove

Fuel: Check your stove’s fuel source to make sure you have enough and that it didn’t leak away over the winter. (Scary!) It is a good time to take the stove or BBQ outside and fire it up to make sure that all the hoses and connections are still in good shape. Replace anything that you’re worried about.

propane fuel

Lanterns: take a look at the mantels to make sure they don’t need to be replaced. Make sure you have a stock of replacements on hand. (And yes, I use a propane lantern like the one pictured below. BUT, I also carry a battery powered one as well!)

Lanterns

Propane lantern

Ice Chests: Check for mold, mildew, sour smells and left-over bologna sandwiches. A little chlorine bleach and mild detergent should clean them up sufficiently. I’m also a big fan of letting them sit opened in the sun for a while; UV rays kill a lot of icky things. Just be sure to properly store the ice chests away from UV rays since they’ll deteriorate the plastic and shorten the life of the ice chest.

Ice Chests

Ice Chest

Water Containers: You DID completely empty them and allow the inside to fully dry, right? If you grew mold in your water container over the winter, you might want to consider replacing the container; you’ll probably always have a funny taste. Make sure all the seals still work and that the inside is clean, dry and critter (bugs or mold) free.

Aqua-Tainer (this is the brand I use personally!)

Water Container

First aid kit: Make sure that you replenished any supplies you used last year. I recommend opening a bandage and making sure the adhesive hasn’t turned into a sticky mess. (Be sure to replace it!) Discard any outdated medicines. If any ointments look or smell funny, replace them as well.

First aid kit. Get a pre-made one and then customize it to your family.

First aid kit

Sleeping bags and pads: open and fluff! Look for any smells (mold or mildew are possible!), check zippers, drawstrings, etc. Now’s the time to repair any holes, rips or tears in your bag as well. Be sure to inflate your sleeping pads and check for leaks.

Sleeping bags

sleeping bags

 

See my article on sleeping bag maintenance.

Tents: set it up and make sure that all the zippers still work, the seams are in good condition, and all poles are still in good shape. Now’s the time to make sure you still have all the tent stakes and guy lines as well. Before your first camping adventure is the perfect time to apply seam-seal (if recommended by the tent manufacturer) and repair any rips in the walls or floor. Don’t forget to check the rain fly!

Tents

tent

 

Other gear: go over your camping checklists to make sure that all your favorite camping gear is still in working order.

If you discover anything broken, you can repair it yourself, find a professional repair service, or set about replacing it. And it’s better to do that while it’s still a bit cold and windy rather than when you’re heading out for your first camping adventure of 2011!

To make your life easier, I included a link after every category to Amazon.com. I’m more and more impressed with that company and use it to get a LOT of my gear! Those are affiliate links, FYI.

 

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you fix your gear in the fall or spring?
  • If you had a tear in a sleeping bag or tent, do you fix it or buy a new one?
  • What’s you must-do activity before heading out for the first camping trip of the season?
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