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Durable Goods

A New Dopp Kit from Koch Leather

This summer I was spent many days and nights on the road. Along with my kids, I was travelling enough to start to notice how some of the gear that I carry functions, or does not function.

One of the pieces of gear that I always carry is my Dopp Kit – a little leather or waxed canvas bag that holds my toiletry essentials like toothbrush, razor, pit stick, and more.

An interesting aside, did you know that the first Dopp Kit was made by Jerome Harris who worked in his uncle’s leather shop. Harris made the first kit and named it after his uncle, Charles Doppelt who was a leather craftsman, who moved to the U.S. from Germany in the 1900s.

Anyway, I noticed that the Dopp Kit I was carrying was pretty big – although an average size kit, but like carrying any bag, no matter the size of it, it gets filled with stuff. So the Dopp Kit I carried, while a great kit, was bigger than I needed and full of stuff I do not really need.

Koch Leather

I started looking at new Dopp Kits but then got side tracked by the small leather pouches on the Koch Leather website, especially the Leather Accessory Pouch (retail price of $50US).

So, rather than buying a Dopp Kit from Koch Leather, I settled on one of their Leather Accessory Pouches which is 10″ long, 5″ tall and 1 1/2″ across the bottom. Which, is just a little too small for a Dopp Kit.

Koch Leather Dopp Kit

I have purchased from Josh and Jen of Koch Leather before, and I know that they are willing to do simple modifications to their leather bags, so I asked them to make the bottom 2″ across. Just big enough to hold the essentials for going on the road.

Koch Leather Dopp Kit

And of course they said “no problem, give us a few days and we’ll get right on it.” And they did!

Koch Leather Dopp Kit

Anyway, I have put my new Leather Accessory Pouch – Dopp Kit into service and it works perfectly. As you can see in the photo above, it holds the essentials and more (you may notice that my toothbrush is not in the picture – rest assured, I DO carry, and use a toothbrush!).

The YKK zipper is VERY sturdy, quite stiff at first, but it is obvious it will last a lifetime, like the rest of the leather Dopp Kit.

While it is awesome to have and hold the leather work that Josh and Jen do at Koch Leather, perhaps the best part is receiving the parcel and smelling the leather when you cut the box open. The sweet aroma of quality leather absolutely fills the room. I love it!

Koch Leather

I figured that I was having a parcel shipped out from their workshop so it would be kind of a waste to send a box with just one leather bag, so I added two Writer’s Pouches ($25US each) to my order. So far I have been testing one out and carrying my iPhone charger, a couple of Apple dongles, and a pen and pencil. I will see what purpose I put the other one up to.

Overall, I am VERY pleased with my purchases from Josh and Jen of Koch Leather. Very good quality leather and zippers, impeccable (perfect?) stitching, and that willingness to make sure the customer is happy is why I do not hesitate to recommend Koch Leather to my friends.

I am a very happy customer!

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Durable Goods

Building an Ugly Drum Smoker

I want a Big Green Egg barbecue-smoker but I do not have the budget for one. So the next best thing – according to the internets is an Ugly Drum Smoker. A UDS. So I built one.

Ugly Drum Smoker

Well, I started to build one. Mine is 90% done. I will work on it some more this week to try and get it completed.

I still need to complete the briquette basket for inside, add a drum thermometer, and get the correct size of racks to put inside it.

And then I need to “do a burn” to season the interior of the drum. Seasoning the interior involves spraying or wiping the interior of the drum with an oil like canola oil and then burning a basket of briquettes with some hickory or apple wood to add some smoky goodness to the inside of the drum. That’s next.

The reality is that an Ugly Drum Smoker is NOT actually ugly. Once it is complete with a coat of high temperature paint, it is quite a handsome smoker.

I will add more details once I get to the next step with this Ugly Drum Smoker.

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Durable Goods

The House of Knives; City Knife – Country Knife

Not only did my daughter and I film a little tribute (parody?) of the Almazan Kitchen dude while we were at the cabin – we also did a video review of a couple new knives I picked up from the House of Knives.

House of Knives

The “city handy-knife” a Black Tusk Mesa Grey I picked up from the House of Knives actually retails for about $40 – watch for it to go on sale to get the good deal.

I picked up the “country handy-knife” at the House of Knives annual “warehouse sale” and it came in a package with a small, fold-up shovel and a little hatchet.

House of Knives

All kidding aside, the SOG Jungle Knife, shovel, and hatchet are great tools to keep in the trunk of your car for when you travel, especially if you are traveling in the winter time.

The Black Tusk Mesa Grey is a beautiful little knife. As I say in the video – it fits the hand quite nicely and opens and closes with a smooth action that is not “switch blade fast” – a good thing. It also has a blade that takes an edge very nicely making it perfect for opening all my Amazon boxes (at least one a month!)

House of Knives

At the same time, I do find the Mesa Grey to be a bit awkward sliding it into my pocket. The little knob that you press against to flip the blade open sticks out just a shade too much making it catch as I try to slide the pocket clip over the fabric of my dungarees.

For $42 the Mesa Grey is a very good value and I will be carrying it around and using it for all my “handy knife” needs. The SOG Jungle Knife will be a background player – handy but, you know, the optics of carrying a machete-like knife in town is not good.

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Durable Goods

Laundry Day; Washing my Levi 501s

Someone asked me the other day “What happened to those Levi 501s jeans you had that you said you never wash?”

As a matter of fact, I do still have those jeans and here’s an update on them.

Levi 501s

The jeans in the front, the very faded and very worn looking blue jeans are approximately 5 years old. This weekend I washed them – for the third time since owning them.

In fact, this weekend I washed all three pair of my Levi 501s pictured above.

The dark blue jeans in the middle are about four years old and this was their second time getting washed.

Same with the black Levi 501s on the back of the pile – look closely and you can see them – this weekend they were washed for the second time.

Admittedly, the faded blue jeans in the front really needed a wash. I’ve been wearing them on weekends around home and at the cabin and they really have become quite dirty as a result.

Levi 501s

However, the dark blue Levi 501s and the black ones in the back – you’d never know that I’ve been wearing them off and on for so many years.

And before you say “eww, that’s disgusting!” if you know me in real life, you have probably been near me when I’ve been wearing one of these pair of jeans and you probably didn’t notice – and no, they do not stink!

Bottom line, even if you don’t go to the no-wash-laundry extreme that I’ve gone to, you’re probably washing your jeans too often.

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Vehicles

The BC Bike Show Weekend

On the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the BC Bike Show at the Vancouver Convention Centre. This event is organized by people who know their supporters – they had a free bicycle valet outside the convention!

BC Bike Show

At the show they had bikes for every segment of the market – including bikes with frames made out of bamboo.

BC Bike Show

The bamboo frames are put together in the Philippines and then imported for assembly. Pretty funky idea. The frames have a three year warranty and are coated with a water-proofing material but the guy at their booth recommended giving the bike a good wipe down after riding in the rain.

I checked the Bambike Canada website and the bike pictured above (or one similar to it) is about $1300. Pretty good price for a cool looking bike that is part of a socio-ecolgical enterprise.

However, I had a limited amount of time to spend at the show so I spent my time in the ebike section of the show. What an amazing display of technology! Ebike technology has developed very quickly in recent years.

BC Bike Show

This bike – pictured above – was the real show stopper. This one was completely custom built by the team at Vintage Iron E-Cycles and yes, it is crazy expensive at $8495, but like I said, it is a full custom build with no expense spared.

If the BC Bike Show had a best overall e-bike, this bike would have won the best in show award. Style galore.

BC Bike Show

Or, if you want to relive your childhood dreams of having a classic mini-bike – check out the Vintage Iron Mini Bike. I am very tempted and at $2000 – why not! Sell the car and buy another e-bike!

The guys at the booth assured me that the batteries last for approximately 100 kilometres – of course that completely depends on the way you ride as well as the terrain you are riding.

BC Bike Show

For more affordable but still very cool looking retro-looking rides I checked in at the BC Bike Show with Rayvolt Premium E Bikes. Not inexpensive, but the bike pictured above retails for about $3500. And, you would be the coolest cat on ANY ride if you are on a Rayvolt e-bike.

As well as all the cool retro, vintage rides, there were also displays with the more utilitarian bike retailers like Voltbike and Rad Power Bikes. Just like the crew at Rayvolt Premium E-Bikes the Voltbike crew invited me to come out to their shop and test ride some of their e-bikes. Guaranteed I will be doing that. Video footage to follow.

Last but definitely not least, is the ultra-nerdy GRIN Technologies display. These guys can get or MAKE any of the gadgets required to convert your daily ride to an electric bike. I missed the demo but on Sunday they demonstrated how to convert a regular daily rider bike into an e-bike.

This is definitely a shop I will be visiting again soon – I want to convert my big orange cruiser into an e-bike! And these are the guys who will be able to help me complete that conversion.

Other than that, I didn’t have much time for anything else at the show. Well, other than watching some people ride their bicycles over some big lumps and do wild stunts.

BC Bike Show

That’s it for the 2019 BC Bike Show. Get out there and ride!

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Durable Goods

Filson Western Vest

Filson

A nice little Christmas gift I received this year was the Filson Western Vest (pictured above).

The vest is made in the USA of 100% pure Mackinaw wool from Canadian farms.

As you probably know, wool is a fantastic material because it keeps you warm even when it is wet. So if you are out for a walk in the rain and get wet, you’ll still be warm.

The best part of this vest to me is that it is stylish. I’ll happily and proudly wear it to school but I’ll also wear it on weekends when I’m out hiking or working on the back 40.

So that’s it for today. I’m headed out to the country to field test my new Filson Western Vest (that’s code for I’m going to walk the dog around the neighbourhood).

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Durable Goods

Another Woodworking Project Begins

The beginnings of another woodworking project.

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Vehicles

The #5DadsGoWild Ford Explorer Experience

I’m a guy who grew up with trucks. My dad had a truck, both my grandfathers had trucks, and the first vehicle I ever owned was a truck. I love trucks.

However, now my lifestyle is not conducive to owning a truck. In fact, I currently drive one of the smallest and least technologically advanced cars on the road. A car with hand crank windows and doors I need to lock manually – and I don’t mean by pressing a beeper on my keychain. My car is one of the most basic cars on the road and somewhat sadly, it is almost time to replace it – so I am exploring my options. And the most recent option I test drove was the Ford Explorer. Ford ExplorerSo when I was offered the chance to drive the 2018 Ford Explorer from my home in the burbs up to Manning Park on the #5DadsGoWild trip, I jumped at the opportunity to try driving an ultra-modern, technologically advanced vehicle.

Ford Explorer

The purpose of our trip was to go camping. Or as the other guys on the trip were fond of saying, we were going to “do the camping.” Seeing as I was the “rugged outdoorsman” with all the camping gear, I had Michael Kwan swing by my house and we loaded everything we might need, and more into the cargo space of the Ford Explorer.

Ford Explorer
Photo credit – Michael Kwan

Now speaking of technologically advanced, to fold and stow the third row of seats in the Explorer, after opening the rear tailgate (by pressing a button on the remote control) you simply press a button on a small panel inside the rear of the truck and the seats fold down and stow themselves. “Click” done. I can get used to convenience like that!

And then we could fill the cargo space with everything a group of dads might need for camping.

Ford Explorer

Yes, if you drive a new car or truck you will be familiar with some of the features I am discussing – things like side mirrors that automatically fold in or how the driver’s seat automatically slides back and the steering wheel lifts up when you shut the vehicle off. For me, these are technological leaps forward!

It is interesting for me to see how vehicles have progressed technologically over the years – especially the last few years.

I have been following with interest the conversation about self-driving vehicles, paying particular attention to the Google experimentation with autonomous vehicles. While the Google people have gone “all-in” for the self-driving car, I see manufacturers like Ford taking a more gradual approach to the autonomous vehicle business.

I guess that is Ford getting people used to all the little conveniences of technology – one handy little feature or two at a time.

Ford Explorer

 

See the image above – the image of the dash? Rest assured, I had Michael snap the picture while we were driving. The most important part of that image is the part right in the centre – the image of the car between two green lines. This is part of Ford’s “lane keeping system”.

There is a camera mounted on the windshield behind the rearview mirror and as long as it can see the lines on each side of the road, it is happy,

That is the first step in the direction of self-driving cars. That little image shows where your vehicle is on the road. And if you drift out of your lane, the steering wheel lets you know by giving a little shake (there is an adjustable intensity to the alert) – it is hard to describe the feeling other than to say it feels like the vehicle is saying, “Hey! are you aware of what you are doing? You’re drifting across the lines!”

Of course the green lines on the dash turn to yellow and then red and then disappear if you go too far over the lines, but it is the feedback through the steering wheel that lets you know you are headed for trouble.

Put your turn signal on and cross the lines to make a lane change – no problem. No feedback through the steering wheel. The lane-keeping system knows you meant to cross the line.

As someone who has spent many long hours at the wheel, often late at night and perhaps (admittedly) long after I should have pulled over to sleep, that is a safety feature I can appreciate it.

Ford Explorer

As well as safety features and loads of storage, the other feature I enjoyed about the Ford Explorer was the ability to control the temperature of each zone of the truck. I discovered that I like to keep the temperature in my part of the Ford at 18.5 degrees. Michael had his temperature at 21 degrees. We were both happy, and comfortable.

However, not only could we control the cabin temperature, we could also turn on the heated seats. After a long day of skiing (or standing on the side of a soccer field in a drizzly rain) and being chilled right through, heated seats would be a welcome addition.

And of course the seats were a very fine black leather. And we all know how hot black leather seats can be in the summer? Well, just turn on the seat COOLER to cool your jets! Yes, air conditioned seats! I love the idea.

And about the feeling of driving the Ford Explorer – this is a truck. I would hesitate to call it an SUV – it is a truck. When I was driving on the highway I felt SECURE. I felt SAFE. The Ford Explorer sits securely on the road like the trucks that I grew up riding in as a kid. I liked that feeling.

 

 

While there was lots I loved about the Ford Explorer, there were a few things that made me wonder what they were thinking.

Ford Explorer

First thing – as I said, this is a truck. The sort of vehicle that I would load my family into and happily head off to the ski hill or the cabin or up and along any snowy road. So why would Ford put a plastic “spoiler” across the front of the vehicle? I could imagine that good looking spoiler getting cracked and broken the first time I drove through a deep and crusty snow drift.

Ford Explorer And then the reality is that basically anyone and everyone has a mobile device. Ford seems to acknowledge this with the USB charging ports conveniently located in the front dash. But then where is there to stow your device? Another oversight.

And then that “lane keeping system”. I like it. I think it is a great safety feature. But why is it that the lane departure alert system is on the tiniest screen behind the steering wheel? Why not have it light up the much larger navigation/entertainment screen in the middle of the dash? Let the passenger know that the driver is drifting off or putting them at risk.

Overall, all things considered, I really enjoyed driving the Ford Explorer. It is a very comfortable vehicle, it feels safe, and it handles beautifully on the highway and in town (I did very little actual in town driving). The fuel consumption on our trip ended up being about 12 liters/100 km – pretty darn good for a vehicle of that size.

In spite of my quibbles about the plastic spoiler and there not being a spot to stash my phone, the Explorer is a really fun vehicle to drive. It was fun and it felt secure on the road. I would love to have all that space for when we go on a road trip! And with a fuel economy rating of 9.8 litres per 100 km for highway driving…that’s more than acceptable considering the size of the vehicle.

Disclosure: Ford Canada loaned the Ford Explorer to us for the #5DadsGoWild trip at no cost to us. We were responsible for fuel costs and other incidentals and I received no compensation for writing this blog post. As always, the opinions I express and editorial control of what goes on this blog remain mine. 

 

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5 Dads Go Wild and We All Survived!

Disclosure – this blog post is about the #5DadsGoWild camping trip to Manning Park that I took with four other dad bloggers. Our trip was supported with products from a group of brands including Filson, Ben Sherman, and Ford Canada. As always, editorial control of everything I share on my blog remains with me – all opinions expressed here are my own. 

I am very happy to say that we all survived our #5DadsGoWild camping trip up to Manning Park. You might even say we “thrived” on the camping trip – mostly because because of the top quality gear and clothing that we brought along.

The first and most important thing for any trip where you are going to be outdoors – for the day or overnight – other than having a steady supply of Bluemoose Coffee, is being properly dressed for the occasion. This is particularly true when going camping in mid-September – especially when the forecast calls for temperatures to minus one and possible snow flurries.

#5DadsGoWild

Filson supported our #5DadsGoWild trip by offering each of us dad bloggers a shirt and a hat to wear while we were on our camping trip. I chose to go with a Filson Lightweight Alaskan Guide shirt.

An all-season version of our iconic shirt, the Filson Lightweight Alaskan Guide Shirt is made with a 5-oz. cotton that’s pre-washed for a broken-in feel and vintage appearance. A pleated back and relaxed fit provide a full range of motion through the shoulders. This versatile shirt is built to last through years of wearing.

We knew ahead of time that the weather was going to be “iffy” and as it turned out, it did not snow but it certainly was chilly at just over 4000 feet elevation. Knowing the potential weather conditions prompted me to go with the warm and yet comfortable shirt.

The hat I chose to wear was the Wool Logger Cap – made from 100% virgin Mackinaw Wool and it is water-repellant.

#5DadsGoWild

 

Knowing that there was a pretty good chance that it would be raining at some point during the weekend, my choice of a wool hat had more to do with strategy than style – wool will keep you warm even if it does get wet. And yes, although we did have some rain showers – I was warm, comfortable, and definitely stylish in my Filson gear.

#5DadsGoWild

However, during the #5DadsGoWild camping trip we were not just hanging around the campfire telling scary stories of dial-up internet connections and making s’mores all weekend. There was serious business to be taken care – including leading discussion groups and test driving the trucks that Ford Canada provided us with for our weekend away – more about those awesome trucks later this week. And if I am going to be leading a discussion – I want to look stylish!

#5DadsGoWild

Thanks to another Ben Sherman Canada, another one of our sponsors, I did look great. Like Filson, Ben Sherman let us choose our outfits and I decided to go for a look that would set me apart from the crowd – on the trails around the Lightning Lakes as well as during our discussion sessions and back home in the office.

The printed floral trousers are described as “skinny leg” and although I am no longer a “skinny-legged hipster” I have to admit, I was concerned how the Ben Sherman trousers would fit my legs (never mind my butt!). And yet – they fit great! As I moved and hiked about, the trousers I chose, the printed floral trousers loosened up and became very comfortable. Stylish and comfortable? Yes please!

And of course the long sleeve Ben Sherman chambray tulip shirt I was wearing got all the attention of the other hikers on the trails. Perhaps not best suited for a hiking trail, but I was probably the most fashionable looking hiker on the trails of Manning Park over the weekend!

I will add a couple more blog posts in the next few days to talk about the Ford trucks, all the cool tools we learned how to use in the kitchen, as well as some of the new skills I picked up from the other dad bloggers who joined me on the trip.

And the names of those other dad bloggers:

I also encourage you to check out the hashtag #5DadsGoWild on all the social media channels – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to get more images of the fun that we had at this very inspiring event. More to come in the next few days!

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Vehicles

Rad Power Bikes RadRover; Follow Up Video

Now that I have put more than 500 kilometres on my Rad Power Bikes RadRover, I decided to sit down and put together a sort of “top ten list” of my thoughts, observations, and impressions of the bike.

Here they are:

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