Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Product Review: Bisquick Shake ‘n Pour

Yummy Pancakes

If you’re anything like me then pancakes are a must-have camping breakfast staple. There’s just something about sitting on a cold cement picnic table in the early morning snarffing down hot, fluffy pancakes that is just perfection.

Of course, I’ve always found the MAKING of pancakes in camp to be messy and difficult! If you’re talented in the kitchen you can always make them from scratch OR even bring a powdered mix and add the wet ingredients. The issue is then having a big enough bowl for mixing, bringing a wire whisk so the attempt is made to have the pancakes fluffy, a large spoon to scoop the batter. And then the cleanup!

And if you don’t deal with pancake batter right away… Well let’s just say that it can do a pretty good job of FIXING that cement picnic table after it dries in the bottom of the bowl!

Enter: Bisquick Shake ‘n Pour Buttermilk Pancake Mix

Bisquick Shake 'n Pour Buttermilk Pancake Mix
I had seen it in the stores but was certain that it wouldn’t live up to the reputation: light, fluffy pancakes with no mixing mess. It couldn’t be THAT good, right?

Ha! It was better!

Code Wolf & I had the 10.6 oz container which promised 12-15 4-inch pancakes. All we needed was some cold water, shake and ta-dah! (Of course, I forgot my measuring cup so I estimated with a water bottle…)

It did take some shaking and tapping to get all the batter mixed in so make sure that you have somebody really shake the jar hard. I was impressed that the lid didn’t pop off the container or have any leakage AT ALL.

pancake batter
Then pour a dab of batter into a hot, greased skillet and INSTANT fluffy pancakes!

There was no way that just two of us could use a whole bottle of batter in just one sitting. But the left-over batter is good for up to 3 days refrigerated. So I just popped it back into the ice chest and we had pancakes the next morning too.

And as for the 12-15 pancakes, we ended up with 17 between the two breakfasts. If I had gotten really aggressive with the bit of batter left in the bottle, I think I could have made one more.

Browning pancakes

The only thing that is a bit of a negative is the price: $2.99. I expect to pay a bit more for the convenience for when I’m cooking outside. You’d need multiple bottles to feed a larger family or a whole host of kids. But the trade-off in easy: that’s priceless!

Readers Weigh In:

Links are to my Amazon.com affiliate account.

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!

Sticker-Free Hiking

It’s next to impossible to go camping without also going hiking. Or at least walking in Nature! I nearly gave up walking anywhere other than on pavement because of how much I hated getting stickers, prickers, thorns, and other pokey-scratchy things in my socks.

(In fact, this was one of the reasons I didn’t want to go deer hunting with ESP Boss when I was in high school!)

Then, my ESP Boss gave me the best invention EVER: hiking gators! Gators (also spelled “gaiters”) are traditionally used to prevent snake bites. Snake gators cover the legs from boot laces to knee and are made of a hard material to prevent fang penetration. Snake gators are hot and stiff.

Hiking gators, on the other hand, are just enough to cover the boot top and your socks and can be worn either with pants or shorts. Mine were marketed through Cabellas (they’ve since stopped carrying them) and are of a heavy duty canvas with an elastic top that goes around my ankle.

I'm just wearing sneakers in the picture - NOT the boots I hike in!

I wear my gaiters every day when I’m out camping. I also wear them when I’m weeding my garden to keep stickers out of my socks and to keep bugs from crawling up my pant legs.

My camping tip for the week is to invest in some hiking gators. If you find a pair you really like, go out and buy a second pair. That way, you’re covered if you lose one or if your favorite gators aren’t being made anymore.

I did some research, and it seems like these Hiking Gaiters through Amazon.com are pretty close to what I’ve got.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your must-have item when you’re camping or hiking?

Product Review: Solar Showers

Most of the time, getting dirty while camping is half the fun. But on longer trips, or if it is really hot out, I’m always interested in cleaning up a bit. Trust me, having clean hair, face and hands goes a LONG way toward making me feel human again!

It holds 5 gallons of water and is made from heavy-duty plasic.

Whenever I drive through a campground, I see tons of those PVC camp showers laying on picnic tables and the hoods of cars. But my only experience with one was decidedly unpleasant so I’m never tempted to try it one out.

The Story

It was just before my 4th birthday. Standing on a picnic table, The Queen Mother decided to hose me down. Needless to say, the water was FREEZING and I was screaming that I was camping, there was no way I’d ever take a shower! Needless to say, Mom gave it up as a bad job and just dried me off! No solar showers for me!

According to the package, the solar shower should be able to heat 5 gallons of water from 60 degrees to 105 degrees in just three hours. And, according to various water/shower websites, most people shower in water between 102 and 107 degrees. So, the box promising water of 105 would be right in the comfortable range for most people.

I'm not sure how easy it would be to fill the shower without using a garden hose!

Of course, there’s a HUGE difference between a solar camp shower and your shower at home:

The Bathroom!

At home, you close the door and trap all the warm air around you. In camp, there aren’t really any doors to close!

The only thing left to do was to put the solar shower to the test!

The Test:

  • Initial Water Temperature: 78°
  • Gallons in shower: 5
  • Put in sun at: 1:07 pm
  • Outside Temperature: 94°

High-dollar weather station I "borrowed" from ESP Boss.

Mid-way through the 3 hours:

  • Time: 2:37 pm
  • Water Temperature: 92°
  • Outside Temperature: 97°

After 3 hours

  • Time: 4:08 pm
  • Water Temperature: 100°
  • Outside Temperature: 94°

The Verdict:

Well, at 100 degrees, maybe the water would be warm enough and maybe not. On a hot day, it would probably be okay to rinse hands and face. Even a quick scrub to my hair. Since I was at the office, couldn’t really test it!

My water, straight from the garden hose, started out at a balmy 78 degrees. I’m pretty sure that this is much warmer than water that comes out of the spigot at any campground I’VE ever been too!

I used an aquarium termometer to measure water temperatures.

The shower was a bit hard to fill with the hose. It seemed like it would go better as a two person job. To make matters worse, when I tried to pick up the bag, the clear plastic shower tube popped off and water went pouring over my foot. (This is a problem!)

It was actually quite difficult to carry the shower from where I filled it to where I was going to conduct the test. Of course, I couldn’t really wrap my arms around it and carry it like a baby since I was at the office and didn’t want to get all wet. In camp, this might not be as much of an issue since wet and dirty are part of the fun of camping.

I’m not sure at all how you would HANG 5 gallons of hot water so you could get UNDER the hose to wash anything. 1 gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds; 5 gallons weighs 42 pounds, give or take. That’s an awful lot of weight to haul up into a tree!

The full shower is heavy and awkward!

The box said that the hot water is also good for washing dishes. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in camp, I want to scrub dishes with BOILING water. Maybe use warm water (solar shower warm) as a rinse.

Now, there is one more part of the puzzle:

It was partly cloudy in the afternoon so the solar shower wasn’t in 100% full sun. I don’t know how much of a difference that makes to the over all water temperature. I’m planning on re-testing the shower with cold water and on a fully sunny day. I also am curious to know if air temperature makes that much of a difference. And, what happens if you DON’T put the bag in the sun, clear-side-up?

Readers Weigh In:

  • What have been your experiences with solar showers?
  • What is your favorite way to clean up while you’re in camp?

Here’s a link, in case you want to purchase a camp shower.

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