The Bottom Line: As an avid skier and one who has always worn five-fingered gloves, Outdoor Research Highcamp 3-Finger Gloves keep my hands warmer than traditional leather racing gloves. With a use for every sport—alpine or backcountry skiing, winter fat biking, snowshoeing, or other cold weather activities—I came away from this review asking myself, “Why have I never tried mittens before?”
Otter Products gave me the Elevation 64 Growler for this review and I’m also disclosing up front that I am a part of #TeamOtterBox and am an #OtterBoxEmployee. I do my best to get past any biases I have toward Otter Products brands in these reviews and I also write reviews for other outdoor brands.
One thing that I have learned from this particular review is that I should always have extra water with me in the car, on the field and out in the wilderness. I often have neglected having extra water with me due to weight in my bag or just due to sheer laziness. I will no longer head out for an adventure without extra water.
Read on if you want to hear how my experience was with the Elevation 64 Growler.
The Elevation 64 Growler is great for carrying extra water during long excursions and keeps it ice cold for a long period of time. The same would be true for keeping hot drinks hot, all day long. However, I only tested cold water in the Growler for this review.
⛺️ Outdoor overnights, car camping, sporting events and cross-country road trips. Oh yea, I almost forgot – take it to your local pub and get it filled up with your favorite beer!
$69.99 (64 ounce) Available in stainless steel
My overall experience with this rugged OtterBox Growler was a great one. I put this growler to the test on a four hour hike in the Colorado outdoors and during multiple lacrosse games as a bottle re-filler for my son’s team. I guess you could call me the team water boy.
The first impression that I received during unboxing was good. The packaging was simple, yet stylish and the directions were easy to follow. Honestly, it’s a growler, so the most helpful instructions were how to keep it clean.
The growler came with their basic screw-in lid and has a plastic loop on the top. I found that even upside down in my bag for an extended period of time, the lid did not leak at all.
On the outside, the stainless steel finish glistens in the sun and looks pretty cool. However, I would prefer some additional color options because I can’t stand how stainless shows fingerprints. This is just a personal preference.
Here’s a quick list of features listed on the OtterBox website:
- 100% stainless steel for years of use and abuse
- Internal copper lining maintains ideal temp
- Screw-on, leak-proof lid — not a drop is lost
- Sweat-resistant design, leaves no rings
- Keeps liquids cold up to 7 days
- Backed by OtterBox Limited Lifetime Warranty
Get rid of those ugly fingerprints by periodically rubbing a light coat of Orange Glo furniture polish on the outside of the growler. This works great for preparing it for pictures. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to do this before the photographs I captured.
👍 Lightweight, rugged design.
It is amazing how long it keeps water ice cold!
👎 One color. The stainless steel color is nice, but it shows those ugly fingerprints. It would be better in some trendy, powder coated colors. Realtree camo would also be a hit in the outdoor market (hint, hint).
The OtterBox Elevation Growler. Fill it up and enjoy cold or hot drinks for days! Head on over to their site now and check ’em out.
➳ Otter Products, LLC provided equipment and associated materials for this review. John LaGuardia is an employee of Otter Products. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography.
A big Thank You to ThinkTank Photo, makers of the MindShift line of photography bags. This was a great opportunity for me to capture some photographs and write a review for them. After reviewing these bags, I have joined up with them as an affiliate. Check out their great products here.
One thing that I have learned from this review is that I may have a fetish for photography backpacks! There’s a unique allure that draws me in every time I see a new one enter the market. I guess I just haven’t found the perfect one yet. However, this one comes very close.
Read on if you want to hear how my experience was with the MindShift BackLight 26L and 36L backpacks.
The BackLight is great for outdoor adventure photography and can be used in harsh conditions. It is a backpack that can store all of your gear while getting you comfortably to your outdoor destinations.
🎒 Day hikes, overnight backcountry sleepovers, hut trips and just about anything else you can throw at it in the great outdoors.
$249.99 (26L) Available in Charcoal, Greenfield or Woodland Green
$289.99 (36L) Available in Charcoal or Woodland Green
My overall experience with this product was an excellent one. I put the 26L to the test in the Colorado outdoors while hiking, skiing and filming some clips for my YouTube channel.
The first impression that I received during unboxing was pleasant. Both of the bags were lightweight and well packaged. Included on the inside of the pack was a configuration card that gave some great examples on how the inside of the bag could be configured. The card got me up and running quickly.
The inside of the bag has a modular design and contains removable sections of padded fabric that can be moved around and adhered with velcro. This makes the storage in the main compartment extremely flexible for carrying DSLR bodies, lenses, filters and a cornucopia of other tools for outdoor photography.
Accessing the inside of the bag was easily done through the rear-panel. I found the zipper on the rear panel to be a bit stiff which slowed me down a tad. It wasn’t a huge deal, but I did miss a photo of a deer while hiking because of it. The zipper got stuck around one of the corners so it delayed me as I reached for my camera. Although this happened, it is still an efficient way to use this backpack.
The bag’s shoulder straps are some of the most comfortable straps that I have ever worn. I did not experience any muscle fatigue or pain with the straps. I also attribute this to the beefy waist belt that handles the majority of the load of the pack. Also very comfy, the waist straps are easily adjustable with gloves on and have straps on the outside for attaching accessories. My only negative feedback with the waist straps is the material on the inside that rests against your body. By the end of the first day of use deep powder skiing, the material had rubbed off and was obviously very worn. I’m not sure if it was rubbing against a zipper or something on my ski jacket, but I would expect this not to happen on a new backpack with a similar use case.
The front of the pack has dedicated compartments that fit a laptop up to 15″ along with a small tablet. I was able to not only carry those items mentioned, but I was also able to stash away a base layer and a mid layer of clothing too.
The pockets are extra deep! Upon returning from a ski trip, I had put my extra battery pack below my laptop and it got pushed way to the bottom. When I returned home, I had totally forgotten where I put it, checked all the pockets in the bag and still couldn’t find it. Two weeks later, I found it deep in the bottom while reaching down there for something else that had fallen in. This backpack can serve as an all-in-one day pack and photography bag. It really has the perfect size and combination of pockets.
There are a lot of additional features too! Here’s a quick list of everything else, directly pasted from the MindShift website:
- Daisy chain, ice axe loops and additional lash points for expanding your carry capacity
- Includes tripod/monopod mounting system on front or side
- Block and tackle style adjustment on the waistbelt provides 2:1 mechanical advantage
- Flap-keeper neck strap allows you to work out of the bag, unencumbered
- Two large water bottle pockets with cinch cord fits a 32oz Nalgene
- Side compression straps with locking SR buckles for additional lash points
- Air channel and lumbar support on rear-panel for all-day comfort
- Ergonomic zipper pulls are easily gripped with gloves or frozen fingers
- Highest quality YKK zippers, 420D Velocity and 420D high-density nylon for long lasting durability and strength
- Front stuff pockets for trail essentials: headlamp, gloves, chargers
- Adjustable dividers for large telephoto lenses, traditional photo gear or personal items
- Top zippered pocket for quick access to essentials
- Interior mesh pockets for storing filters, batteries, cables, etc.
- Seam-sealed rain cover included
- Compatible with the Tripod Suspension Kit, Filter Nest/Hive and Switch Case
With the waist belt still buckled, remove the shoulder straps from your shoulders and spin the pack around your waist to your chest. Let the bag hang from your hips and access the gear from the rear panel compartment. This is the quickest way to access your photography gear without having to set the bag onto the ground. Very efficient!
👍 Lightweight, rugged design with extreme comfort built-in.
Burly waist and shoulder straps are not only comfortable, but are fully adjustable with easy to use webbing.
Rear panel compartment allows for quick access to gear on or off your body.
Looped zipper pulls are easily put to use, even with gloves on.
Room for a 15″ laptop, small tablet and some extra clothing layers in addition to photography gear.
👎 Rear panel compartment zipper is not fluid and smooth when trying to quickly access gear. It seems to get hung up a bit around the corners of its rectangular path.
After a full day skiing deep powder and accessing the pack multiple times, I noticed that the material on the inside of the waist straps was very worn on one side.
- Exterior Dimensions:
11.4” W x 20.3” H x 7.9” D
(29 x 51.5 x 20 cm)
- Interior Dimensions:
10.2” W x 19.3” H x 5.9” D
(26 x 49 x 15 cm)
10” W x 15.3” H x 1”D
(25.5 x 38.8 x 2.5 cm)
9.3” W x 10.2” H x 0.6” D
(23.5 x 26 x 1.5 cm)
The MindShift BackLight. You may have just found your perfect outdoor photography backpack! Head on over to their site now and check ’em out.
➳ MindShift provided equipment and associated materials for this review. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography.
A big shout out to eXclaim IP, LLC, makers of Phoozy, for allowing me to capture some photographs and write a review for this space age, mobile phone product. Is it a case or a sleeve or both? You decide.
Read on if you would like to hear what I think…
Over the past few years, I have been continually frustrated with my iPhone batteries dying in the cold while alpine skiing, ski touring or on outdoor photography adventures. In the past, I would literally take my phone out of my pocket and it would die immediately after taking a picture or video. This would put a damper on my day because I prefer to rock out to my music playlists while charging down the mountain. The only way to get it to turn back on was to plug it into a charger – something you can’t do on a chairlift or while tree skiing.
Overheating iPhone batteries have also been a problem in the summer time, especially at the neighborhood pool and on the patio at my favorite pub.
The Phoozy has come to my rescue and if you struggle with these same issues, it will enhance your outdoor, mobile phone experience as well.
Outdoors while exposed to extreme cold or direct sunlight and generally anytime you need to ensure that your phone battery doesn’t discharge from the cold or shut down due to overheating.
Available for iPhone, Samsung, Google, Huawei and other mainstream mobile phones.
$29.99 Silver with other color options coming soon. Gold is now available in select retail stores and on Phoozy’s Amazon page.
Online reports rumor a new XP3 series with Realtree Edge™ and Realtree Fishing™ camo colors. These are expected to become available Spring 2018. That’s right around the corner!
I am sending vibes to Phoozy in hopes that they will also send a few of these new designs my way for a follow up review. If they do, I will setup some giveaway contests so that you can benefit from this product too. 🙏
My overall experience with this product was a good one. I put it to the test in the Colorado mountains skiing and on a local outdoor photography excursion in the late afternoon sun.
The first impression that this product gave me when I opened the box was one of intrigue. I pulled it out of the box and noticed that it is extremely light. The reflective material caught my eye in a good way and their marketing material was an interesting read too. I like the clever marketing play on space suit technology and how they have adapted that into their product. However, this product isn’t just for astronauts.
Build quality on this product seems to be good. Stitching is solid and burly while both the outer and inner materials are excellent. Two sewn in tabs at the top make it very easy to open and close the Phoozy, even with gloves on. The velcro just inside the opening at the top is strong and grippy as you would expect.
As far as drop protection goes, I did accidentally drop the product with a phone inside from a height of about 3 feet. However, it was difficult to tell how protective it really was because my phone already had a case on it, inside the Phoozy. There was absolutely no damage to the phone or the Phoozy when I dropped it.
I did not get a chance to float their claim of the capsule being buoyant in water. This could be a benefit if using it while boating in the summertime or while at the neighborhood pool, but I would recommend having a thin, waterproof case on the phone in addition to the Phoozy. The Phoozy is not fully waterproof, only water resistant, so be aware of that.
Overall, I would highly recommend this product for outdoor, winter activities in the cold.
I would also like to see a larger Phoozy produced for storing up to 5 DJI Mavic Air drone batteries. This would be a huge benefit during the winter in the backcountry.
In a pinch, when your phone is not inside the Thermal Capsule™, place your phone camera face down on top of the padded Phoozy to protect the camera lens. It can double as a comfy little bed for your mobile phone while at your desk.
👍 Lightweight, padded design at an affordable price.
Definitely extends the life of the phone battery in extreme cold and keeps the device from overheating in direct sun.
Thin to medium thick phone case can also be on your phone while using the Phoozy.
Tabs are great for ease of use and it has just the right amount of padding on the inside to protect your screen.
👎 Slick finish. I didn’t like the insecurity that I felt on the ski lift as I pulled it out of my pocket to change the music on my phone. The case felt like it was going to slide right out of my hand and fall out of bounds on the slope below.
- Dimensions: 7″ x 4″
- Materials: Chromium shell™. This shell provides military grade protection from heat, cold and solar radiation. The Impactor Core Layer™ provides military grade drop protection and buoyancy in water. A Space Penetration Layer™ gives the shell durability and the Softtouch Protective Liner™ keeps your touch screen from getting scratched inside the capsule.
- Protection: Reflects more than 90% of the sun’s energy with military grade (810G 516.6) protection from solar radiation. Rated from 200°F to -32°F.
- Note: This is not a phone cooler or heater. It prevents overheating in the sun and extends battery life in cold temperatures.
The Phoozy. I recommend you take one on your next outdoor adventure so that you get the optimal battery life out of your mobile phone.
➳ Phoozy provided products and associated materials for this review. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography.
📸 ©johnlaguardia – Patagonia Nine Trails LS shirt. 100% Polyester spun jersey with Polygiene® permanent odor control.
ver the years, I have experimented with various fabrics on my adventures and have learned a lot along the way. I am no expert on this subject and I have to admit that it wasn’t until recently that this all started coming together for me. I thought I would write a quick article about how to layer clothing in hopes that it adds value to your life.
I have worn everything from Merino wool to cotton T-shirts to heavy fleece, in search of the ultimate comfort while running, hiking, biking and skiing. The fact is that in each of these situations, layering clothing and the weather’s elements may vary. However, the concept that I am sharing with you today can be applied to any sport in any climate. Here goes…
If you think about it, this topic has a lot in common with the true originators of layering. How did we as humans originally learn about layering? It was by observing things in our natural world. Observing Marino sheep has been one way. I really like the following picture taken from the Icebreaker.com website because it really gets the point across on what an effective layering system consists of. In short, it is a base layer next to your skin, a mid-layer for warmth and an outer layer for breaking the elements (wind, rain, snow).
📸 Icebreaker.com – Merino sheep, Austrailia
Layer #1 – Base Layer
This next-to-your-skin layer is normally where most people go wrong. We are all very accustomed to wearing cotton T-shirts in most, daily situations. However, the cardinal sin in layering clothes is using a cotton T-shirt as your base layer. Don’t do it!
Cotton tends to get soaked with sweat and takes a long time to dry. Therefore, if you use cotton as your base layer, once it gets wet with sweat, you are in for a long, cold day in winter or a wet and clammy day in the summer.
Your base layer needs to be made out of a fabric that wicks sweat from your body as you perspire and disperses that sweat to the outer layers so it can evaporate. This will keep your body dry so that you stay cool in the summer months and avoid hyperthermia during outside activities in the winter.
Some examples of excellent base layer fabric are merino wool or synthetic fabrics such as polyester. There are some great brands on the market today such as Icebreaker, SmartWool, Polartec PowerDry® and Patagonia Capiline®.
Layer #2 – Mid Layer
The mid layer acts as your insulation and traps heat in the air molecules close to your body. It is best to use goose down, wool or fleece for this layer and it is worn over the base layer.
So which one do you choose for your mid layer? It depends. If you know you will be in a dry, cold climate, your best bet would be goose down like a down pullover sweater or full zip jacket. However, goose down doesn’t like damp, wet climates. In that type of climate, it would be best to go with Merino wool or fleece which are both reliably warm and even when damp or wet.
Fleece is a common option and is what you will find in just about every outdoor enthusiast’s closet. Fleece comes in 3 different weights – Light-weight, Mid-weight and Expedition-weight. One disadvantage to fleece is that the wind tends to go right through it. However, it is an excellent choice as a mid-layer if your outer layer can combat any wind that Mother Nature throws at it.
Layer #3 – Outer Layer
The outer layer is sometimes referred to as the “shell”. This is the layer that will be exposed to the elements such as wind, rain or snow on the outside and the layer that is breathable from the inside to let any sweat moisture escape. Make sure you purchase an outer layer that is big enough to allow room for your base and mid-layers.
There are many types of outer layers to choose from. Some are completely waterproof, making water bead up and run off the fabric. Others can be semi-waterproof or “soft”, meaning highly breathable and stretchy. Insulated shells can have fleece sewn into the inside of the jacket for added warmth.
When choosing an outer layer for your layering system, take a look at your base and mid layers then consider the type of climate you will be in along with the activity you will be participating in. For some instances, you may want a lightweight, packable layer just for rainy climates while hiking in the Summer and Fall. On the other hand, you might require a more durable, waterproof and breathable outer shell for mountaineering use in extreme environments.
This layering concept is not new for most, but a lot of people get it wrong and regret it when they get outdoors. At the end of the trail, be sure to have worn a combination of layers that is just right for your body’s comfort, the climate and the activity.
Experiment with your layers to find what works best for you while doing the activities you enjoy. I would also encourage you to purchase from reputable outdoor companies that engage in practices that minimize their impact on the environment. I’ll have to follow this article up with something about that in the future, but until then, live adventurously!
You might also like my base layer review which you can find here.
I would like to take a time-out and reflect on some things that I learned this past year. As I sit back in my comfy chair and look out the back porch at Mount Werner in Steamboat Springs, I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. As you read this, take a step back too and think of the things you have been blessed with this year. Here are 5 lessons I am thankful I learned this year…
This concept revolutionized the way I think about things, especially in my photography business. For so long I had been putzing around taking some pictures and never sharing them with the world. I had some ideas about how I could sell prints and share images on social media, but I just never got around to getting them posted. I also had a desire to fly drones and create some cool videos, but I had stories in my head where I told myself that I didn’t have enough experience or training to produce good content.
This all changed when I decided to put myself out there and do it. I started being more intentional about getting outside and taking photographs. I learned that the more I would get out and shoot, the better I got. I started posting my images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I took on a couple of photography jobs that were totally outside of my comfort zone and I nailed them. I made enough money from those jobs that I was able to purchase a drone and then I learned how to fly. Once I learned how to fly, I looked into ways that I could make money with my drone. I learned that I needed an FAA Part 107 certificate in order to do that, so what did I do? I studied, sat for the exam and aced it. Now I do drone work for all kinds of businesses.
The key was that I never thought twice about all of these things. I just started, took baby steps, celebrated the successes, learned from mistakes and kept moving toward goals throughout the process.
If you have something that you have been wanting to do, but keep putting it off, just start and see what happens. You will never get anywhere with it unless you put in the effort to get moving.
I have had people tell me that to get anywhere in life, you do anything it takes to get there, including stomping on others along the way. That is complete B.S. and the worst advice anyone could give.
Pay it forward. Be nice to others and give back. You will get so much more satisfaction in life.
Take the time to care for others around you and I don’t just mean family and friends you already know. Help someone on the street corner. Hold the door open for another. Be kind and strike up a conversation with the person bagging your groceries at the grocery store. Buy a beer for the ski tech that tunes your skis this season. Give your mail person and your milk delivery person a gift card for Christmas. Do you get the idea?
Go out of your way to be nice to someone, even when you are having a bad day. That brings me to the next one…
It’s up to you and it is a choice. The way we act and the attitude we have is a personal choice. We can choose to be grumpy and synical or we can choose to be happy and have fun with the situations we experience in life. I’m not saying everything is peachy keen all the time. Rather, it is up to you to choose joy in the things that life throws at you.
Stop looking at the dark side. Stop bringing others around you down because of your negitivity. Just plain stop.
I learned this concept In San Diego at High 5 Leadership and it has completely changed my life. If you are looking to better yourself next year, I highly recommend you invest in this course. It will change your life in many ways and bring you immense value. I will link to their website in the comments below, but for now, keep on reading. We are almost to the end of this article.
As I look back on my life, I see times when I tried to do things that I really didn’t enjoy because I thought those things would make me successful. It turns out that those things were just a waste of time and I could have been using that time for other life fulfilling activities.
The best version of yourself is you.
Don’t try and impress others by being something you are not. People see right through that.
Be you. Do you. Share what you are passionate about. Go all out!
Last, but definitely not least, is that I have learned to get outside more. I have found that the more I do this simple thing, the better I feel.
Getting outside forces our bodies to move and with movement comes better health.
Here are a few more benefits that scientists say we realize when we get out into the great outdoors:
- Reduced stress
- Increased weight loss
- Stronger immune system
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increase in Vitamin D intake
- Better memory and attention span
- Improved self-esteem
When you embark on an outdoor activity, you automatically embrace adventure. You don’t have to be on a multi-day trip in the wilderness or on a mountaineering trip to Mount Everest.
Getting outside can be as simple as walking in the park, visiting a waterfall or doing some light trail running.
For more tips on this topic, check out my article, 5 Excuses That Keep You From Getting Outdoors
You can also get more great outdoor advice, tips on how to get better photos and reviews on stylin’ outdoor gear by signing up to receive my monthly email called LaGuardia’s Outdoor Dispatch
Are there things that you learned this past year? What are you thankful for? Share your comments with us below. It will help us all grow together!
So you are a little behind this year on training your body to handle all of the strains that ski season puts on your core, legs, knees and feet. Don’t worry. It is not too late!
I’m using the term “ski season” generically here, so all of you snowboarders out there, don’t be offended. This article is for you too!
Here are some suggestions that will help you get ready to shred the gnar at your favorite resort or in the backcountry.
Mind Over Matter
The most important piece of advice that I can give you is to train your mind. You’ve got to get out of bed in the morning and start working on your body, consistently. If you are not a morning person, put your exercise routine on your schedule. If you don’t, other things in life will take precedence and it won’t happen. Be intentional with your training and I promise, you will see great benefits!
Cardio – You’ve got to take your cardio game to the next level. Doing activities that increase your heart rate and push your body to its limits are essential here.
- Go for a long run or winter bike ride – 2x/week
- Workout at your local Cycle Bar – they will push and motivate you – 2x/week
- Do burpees and super set them with jumping jacks – 3 reps of 60 seconds, 3x/week
Core & Strength – Here are some exercises you can do at home to get in shape for ski season.
- Complete 3 cycles of the activities below, each at 30 sec
- Jog in place for active rest in-between each exercise below
- Alternating side lunge and core rotations
- On your back bicycles
- Alternating squat kicks
- 3 punch and high-knee pulls
- Burpees with no jumping
- Complete 3 cycles of the activities below, each for 12 reps
- Jog in place for active rest in-between each exercise below – 30 sec
- Dumbbell row push-ups
- Alternating dumbbell lunges with bicep curls
- Standing dumbbell presses
- Leaning dumbbell rows
- Standing dumbbell tricep extensions
- Dumbbell ab twists
- Complete 5 cycles of the activities below, each for 20 seconds
- Superset – jumping jacks and prison squats
- Superset – high knee taps and chair step ups
- Superset – commando planks and reverse crunches
- Complete 5 cycles of the activities below, each at 10 reps with 10 standing knee to elbow crunches in-between each activity.
- Lateral lunges
- Decline push-ups
- Reverse plank kicks
- Bench dips
- Shoulder touch planks
- Complete 3 cycles of the following, each at 10 reps
- Superset – floor dumbbell flys and floor dumbbell presses
- Superset – standing shoulder presses and lateral dumbbell raises until failure
- Superset – dumbbell tricep kick backs and overhead tricep extensions
- Complete 3 cycles of the following, each at 10 reps
- Superset – alternating side leg lifts with dumbbells and then sumo squats
- Superset – glute bridges with dumbbells and then chair squats
- Superset – calf raises and reverse dumbbell lunges
- Sunday – take the day off so your body can rest and recuperate!
If your equipment is not in tip-top shape, you are in for a lousy season. Get some tuning gear and learn how to tune your skis, snowboard or split board. If you don’t have the extra time to devote to ski tuning each year, let your local professional ski shop take care of your tuning for you.
Be sure that you have a safe, reliable means of transportation into the mountains. Check your tires each season to make sure you have enough tread. I highly recommend spending the extra money for a set of winter snow tires. They make a big difference over all-season tires for driving on icy and snow packed roads.
In addition, stock your car with essentials you might need along the snowy roadways. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car at all times, along with a shovel, cooler of food/water and a sleeping bag for each passenger.
What have I missed? Tell us in the comments below and help others prepare for a great ski season this winter!