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Gear Reviews

  • BlackOvis NWT Merino Series

    BlackOvis Merino Wool

    For this gear review, I purchased five items from the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool gear line. The idea was to buy everything from the waist up, give it a go and see what I thought. I bought the following items:

    There is actually an additional top in their line, the 190 Crew Long Sleeve Top, but I missed it when I loaded my shopping cart. I can guarantee it will be hanging in my gear room before this September.

    When choosing a base layer material, we essentially have three options: synthetic, wool or a blending of the two. As a general rule, synthetics like polyester, capilene, et al. are less expensive, dry faster, breathe better and are typically more durable than wool. For a long time, wool was coarse, itchy and therefore uncomfortable. This was a strong motivator to buy synthetic. Merino wool isn’t a new product. It has been around for quite a while now, but when the industry discovered the amazing merino… it changed everything. A merino wool fiber is super fine, much more fine than a human hair, which translates into incredible “next to skin” comfort. Selective breeding programs and new manufacturing techniques continue to make wool “obstacle”s essentially obsolete.

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  • Garmin Fenix 5 Plus vs 5x Plus Comparison

    Similarities and Differences between the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus and 5x Plus Smartwatch



    Click here to see the Fenix 5 Plus without Sapphire
    Click here to see the Fenix 5 Plus with Sapphire
    Click here to see the Fenix 5x Plus


    Differences

    The difference in price is effected most by two key factors:
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  • Lightweight Camp Stoves

    I love camp stoves. For me, it isn’t difficult to explain why they continually draw my attention to that section of the website over and over again. I like shopping for stoves because of what they represent. When I’m confined to the valley floors, slugging it out in the concrete jungle, I need hope. I need to see light at the end of the tunnel. I need to know that I’ll be back on the mountain again soon. When I see a camp stove, my mind drifts off to dark mornings and hot coffee. I can almost smell the pre-dawn air. In my minds eye, I’m watching the sun creep down the hillside on its way down to the valley below. The birds are in full chorus. Mule deer are hastily grabbing every last bite of food as they disappear into the shadows. My world is coming alive and for that brief moment, as I shop for camp stoves, the business of life is put on hold and I am free. That’s why I love camp stoves!

    Have you ever noticed how certain smells, images or a song can instantly transport you back to a former place and time? When I look at stoves, I remember the days spent sitting in the snow with a stove boiling water between my feet. I see my stoves and I remember melting snow on a scouting trip. I remember hiking with my son in the summer until we reached snow line. My mind drifts off to backpack camping with my daughter through the Jewel Basin. I can shop for stoves and reminisce for hours!

    When it comes time to choose a camp stove or a cooking system, there really is “a tool for every job”. So let’s begin by asking the most basic of all questions, “what is the task that we need our stove to accomplish”? Essentially, we’re looking for a heat source. Preferably a heat source that is a smidge smaller than my barbeque grill and a lot more efficient than my smoker.

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  • Havlon Piranta Edge VS Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite

    Havalon and Outdoor Edge

    I’m a bit of a brute. My friends & family call it “The Howard Syndrome”. If there’s a weakness or a design flaw in anything that I use, that item simply will not survive. This is important for you to know, because it affects the way I approach my gear choices. I am really, really rough on my gear. It isn’t intentional. I pay good money for my gear & I would never ruin my stuff on purpose. Destruction just sort of happens…

    Additionally, I primarily hunt the mountains of Montana. This requires a lot of effort including large swings in elevation everytime I go into the woods. So, when it came time to choose a knife, I had three main criterion:

    1. 1) It needs to be lightweight
    2. 2) It has to hold its edge
    3. 3) It must be durable!

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  • 2018 Sitka Apex Series Review

    ORIGINS

    For years Sitka’s 90% series ruled the game in terms of comfortable and quiet technical hunting apparel. However, with advancements in textile development and consumer demand, the 90% series was overshadowed over the course of a time and consequently discontinued. Many fans of 90% were very sad to see it go and wondered what could possibly replace it.

    For 2018 Sitka answered that question with their new APEX series. Designed for the spot and stalk hunter who demands silence and performance out of their gear no matter what.

    The APEX series features the APEX Hoody, APEX Pant, and APEX Pack. All are purpose built to be extremely quiet, comfortable, and practical for hunters that prefer to sneak up on their intended quarry. I was lucky enough to put these pieces to the test on an OTC Arizona Mule Deer hunt in January of this year and I was very impressed.

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  • Midweight Merino Base Layer Comparison

    If you love spending time outdoors, I’m sure you’ve come to realize how vital your base layers are to the quality of your overall experience. Base layers provide warmth and comfort, and a good base layer is probably one of the most underrated pieces of equipment we have at our disposal as outdoorsmen. When the guys at BlackOvis mentioned to me that they were interested in comparing their BlackOvis brand of base layer with one of the industry leaders in merino base layers - First Lite - I was all over the idea. I don’t think you can have enough base layers, because as the temps drop you can just throw one on over top of the other and layer to keep warm. From late October on, if I’m out in the field, I almost always have at least 2 light to midweight base layers on.

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  • BlackOvis Custom Arrow ID - Why and How?

    BlackOvis Custom Arrow ID Logo

    Let's face it you guys, factory fletchings is a thing of the past. Grabbing a dozen arrows off the shelf that are already pre-fletched is great and easy to grab last minute, but what if we told you that you could create a dozen custom arrows, see a preview of what they'd actually look like, and have them built and shipped within 48 hours...

    Welcome to the BlackOvis Arrow ID...

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  • ALPS Upland Game Vest X - Gear Review

    Alps Outdoors Logo

    The ALPS Upland Vest X (Pack) is one of the best designed upland packs in the industry today. It is a well thought out pack that was built by an upland hunter that understands the needs of upland hunters. My goal in this post is to go over the key features that really make this pack awesome.

    - Key Features of the ALPS Upland Game Pack -

     

    Bird Pocket: The biggest thing that differentiates an upland game pack from any other pack is going to be the bird pocket.  It’s designed to be able to easily slip a freshly retrieved bird into the large pocket from either side of the pack so you can get back to the hunt with little to no interference. In the ALPS Pack, the bird pocket is large and accessible from either side. One key feature that differentiates this from a traditional bird vest is that it has a zipper at the top so you can fully open the pocket to dump out your kill; rather than having to pull birds out one by one, or shake them out. You can also lock the zipper with a toggle to avoid it coming undone.

    Alps Upland Vest

     

    Hydration Sleeve: I almost missed this feature because it’s concealed so well, but the hydration pocket is right behind the back panel. You can access it from the top, and there are ports leading out both sides of the harness straps. This is definitely something you won’t find in a traditional bird vest, and is really nice to have for those longer days. Continue reading

  • Crispi Briksdal GTX - Product Gear Review

    Crispi Briksdal GTX Review Banner

    The Briksdal GTX was one of the new additions that Crispi US made to the lineup this year. Reason being is that they would give hunters the option of getting into a stiffer boot than the Nevada’s but not quite to the extreme as let's say..a Scarpa.  That way you maintain that comfort level that Crispi is well known for. This boot was really designed to fill the need for those hunting at extreme elevation where they need a bit of Insulation (200 g), a stiffer board last, and a boot that will take a beating in the extreme terrain without getting into a pure mountaineering pack boot.

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  • Crispi Nevada Legend GTX Insulated Hunting Boot Review

    One of the first things you learn as a mountain hunter is that if your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t happy. Your boots can literally make or break your whole hunt (or scouting trip, shed hunt, etc). A quality, durable, well-fitting and broken-in boot is an overlooked necessity that should be one of the most sought after items in your gear list. I refuse to let something like poor choice of footwear keep me out of the mountains!

    Comfortable feet at 9300'

    After wearing and really enjoying the Kennetrek Mountain Extreme 400’s for the last 3+ years, they were nearing the end of their useful life and needed to be replaced. As I’d been searching for my next pair of boots, I almost decided to go with the Mountain Extremes again: they’re tough boots, waterproof, have great ankle support and I really liked how stiff the soles were since that helped keep my foot locked in place when side-hilling across steep slopes – in other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! My biggest issue with them, though, was that they went 10” up my leg. This could make for some hot hiking in the summer and early fall, and this extra heat sometimes led to hot spots on rare occasions, but mostly it just resulted in extremely hot and sweaty feet. Also, it took me quite a while to get them broken in to my liking. Even though I was happy overall with the Mountain Extremes, I decided to branch out and give something else a try. I’d heard a lot of good things about Crispi boots, and when BlackOvis started offering them, I decided to jump on the opportunity to get some. I went with the Nevada Legend GTX Insulated Hunting boot because I wanted my boots to keep my feet warm and dry when it gets cold out, like during a late season hunt, hiking in the snow, or during creek crossings. I like my boots, and just about all my gear, to be functional in as many different environments and situations as possible.

    Training hike with 30+ pounds in the pack

    When I got the Nevada’s and tried them on for the first time, I was impressed by their comfort and support. One of the main things I noticed right out of the box, was that the sole wasn’t completely stiff like in the Mountain Extremes. I knew this would be the case though, since the Mountain Extremes have a steel shank in the sole that maintains complete sole stiffness. The Nevada’s were not far from feeling completely stiff though; the only part in the sole that had any flex at all was right under the balls of my forefoot. After having hiked in them, I like how they flex just slightly in that area as it has helped me with balance and gaining a good foothold as I’m going up steep hills. I also noticed, even while walking around my living room in them, that I really liked how they only went 8” up my leg versus the Mountain Extremes that went 10” up my calf. You may think 2” may not be a huge deal, but I could tell a noticeable difference in comfort even in my living room.

    One of the first things I did, as I do with every new pair of boots I get, is I laced them up tight and started walking up and down the basement stairs. I would highly suggest that you base your initial opinion of a new pair of boots off of how comfortable/uncomfortable the boot (and especially the heel) feels when you put the boots on right out of the box, lace them up, and walk up the stairs. If you feel extreme pressure or discomfort in the heel area, remember that this discomfort will not go away or break in and will always be there with you when you’re climbing the mountain.

    Evening at the archery range

    Before buying, I’d heard from the majority of Nevada owners that they ran very true to size, and the general consensus was to order them in whatever size of every day shoe you wear. For me, that would be a 10.5. But, being the skeptic that I am sometimes (since no two peoples opinion of gear is exactly the same), I ordered two pair (10.5 and 11) to try both and see which fit me best. After several hours of walking around the house and doing laps up and down the basement stairs, I decided that the general consensus had been true, that they ran very true to size, and I kept my 10.5s. Thanks to BlackOvis’s awesome return policy, I had my money back for the size 11 pair I’d returned within just a few days.

    I’d also read and heard that some people had worn the boots on a hunt right after buying them, with no break-in and surprisingly no problems they claimed, but I was not going to be one of those people. I’ve made it a habit to always break my boots in by wearing them to work and around town before ever wearing them on a mountainside, and I think this has saved me a lot of pain. I wore them around town for a few weeks, and I am a firm believer that this really does help with initial break-in.

    The Nevada Legend GTX are insulated with a Gore-Tex lining that Crispi claims is roughly equivalent to 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation, but they say that because of how they apply the insulation it allows the boot to breathe better than it would if it had Thinsulate. In my experience with the boots, I honestly didn’t notice any difference between the insulated Nevada’s and my old Mountain Extremes which have 400 grams of Thinsulate. This may be due to the fact that the Gore-Tex lining may retain heat a little differently than Thinsulate does, or it could be just me. Everyone’s body manages heat slightly differently, but I found the Nevada Legend GTX’s to be plenty warm, even when I was sitting on a windy mountainside and it was 40° F while waiting for some bucks to get out of their beds for the day.

    On a recent hike I went on in the Nevada’s, I was hiking up an incredibly steep hillside while on a scouting trip. I could feel my right heel starting to get a little hot when I got to the base of the last steep hill before camp. By time I made it to camp and took my boots off, I noticed I had a roughly dime-sized blister on the back of my heel that had burst. This is not the boots fault by any means, this was operator error as far as I’m concerned; first off, it was probably in the high 70s when I was hiking in at 4 pm, and I was going up some very steep inclines, so my feet were sweating more than normal, and I had a medium weight merino sock on – not a good combination to keep your feet from perspiring profusely.   Also, I came to the realization that I probably hadn’t broken them in by wearing them to work and around town as much as I thought I had.

    Most claim no blister problems with little to no break-in; I was not one of these people

    I’m not recounting my blister experience to deter anyone from getting these boots by any means, but simply to make the point that while some people may have been able to use the boots with no break in time at all and come out just fine, that won’t be the case for everyone (case in point: me) since no two sets of feet are exactly the same. This is merely meant to be a reminder to always break your boots in as best you can prior to field use in order to try and mitigate any potential problems. If you don’t, you may end up wishing you had.

    Waterproofness is also something that is very important in a mountain hunting boot. I was able to test the waterproofness of the Nevada’s while doing some stream crossings. I stood in water up to and over my ankles for a few minutes and never felt a drop of water hit my feet. I also took the boots off after one of the stream crossings and checked my socks for any damp spots, but didn’t find any.

    Dry feet

    The ankle support that the Nevada’s provide is excellent. Crispi’s A.B.S.S. (Ankle Bone Support System) is a support system comprised of a combination of materials that contour to your ankle when you lace the boots up. The ankle support system is designed to support your feet in steep terrain by limiting fatigue and providing excellent sprain protection. I can attest to the truth of these claims made by Crispi as I’ve taken the Nevada’s into some incredibly steep terrain and experienced no issues with my ankles, even with a fairly heavy pack on.

    If there’s one thing that surprised me about the Nevada’s, it’s that the toe box was on the big side compared to what I’m used to. This hasn’t been an issue at all for me, just more of an observation. So if you prefer a small or tight toe box, you’ll want to make sure to try the Nevada’s on first to make sure it’s not too big for your liking.

    I’m happy I decided to try the Crispi Nevada Legend GTX Insulated Hunting boots, and I would highly recommend them. If you’re in need of new boots, you can’t go wrong with these. They offer excellent support, waterproofness and protection from the elements, and they’re extremely comfortable. They will definitely help keep your feet happy so that you can continue to enjoy the mountains!

    Photo credit: Skyler Arent

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