A year or so ago we bought a Subaru Outback, and then an Aluma trailer on which to haul it behind our class C RV. The Outback fits perfectly on the Aluma trailer, but figuring out the best way to tie the Outback down on the trailer was a bit of a puzzle.

A friend of ours (with the same trailer and Outback) suggested these lasso tie-down straps, which we tried. However, our trailer didn’t have attachment points in the best places for using those straps, and we improvised. Long story short, the straps didn’t work very well for us and frayed and broke–not very good when you’re towing down the highway. A better solution was needed.

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I’ve been running my NexStar 6SE scope in the field using an old 12V 7-Ah gel cell battery for awhile now, but it’s kinda heavy and has to sit on the ground, meaning I have to pay attention to not getting the power cord wrapped around the mount as I slew the telescope. I really wanted to find something that was light enough to attach to the arm of the mount itself but still had enough power in it to run the scope for at least an evening. Surfing some of the message boards, I found several reports of people using battery packs from TalentCell. The message board posts claimed up to several nights of observing with their battery packs. It sounded like I had found the answer.

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Who among the backpacking crowd hasn’t wished for a more manageable way to carry a decent camera on the trail? I carried a little pocket digital camera for many years but was never really happy with the pictures I was getting. I really longed for a better quality camera–one with decent optics, versatile optical zoom, capable of taking pictures under various lighting conditions, etc. But it’s a challenge to carry anything bigger than a pocket-sized camera on the trail. Where do you put it so it’s not either always in your hands or bouncing against you at the end of its strap? Continue reading

Decent paper maps for backpacking can sometimes be challenging to find. My preferred map has always been the USGS 7.5-minute quad, with a scale of 1-24,000 (1 inch equals 2000 feet). Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of ways to access the data. The USGS makes the map images available as PDFs online for free from the USGS Store, for example. National Geographic sells their TOPO! State Series software with maps on DVD for $49.95. Or you can go to a web site like Trails.com or AllTrails.com to access maps online (for $49.95/year–a price that I find a little astonishing). The big disadvantage to using any of these sources is that, for the average guy, it’s difficult to print out the map you want in the format you want.

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I love my HTC Incredible Android phone. I’ve had it for several months now and I continue to find new and cool ways to use it. Last fall, for example, I was looking for a way to connect my laptop to the internet while visiting my parents in rural Minnesota (they don’t have wifi in their home). I discovered PdaNet, an Android app that allows you to use your phone to connect your PC to the internet–for free. Of course, this is the same kind of functionality for which Verizon and other carriers want to charge you $20 a month–waaaay more than I’d pay for it, considering I’d only use the functionality once every few months. So PdaNet was a great solution for me.

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I confess to a general loathing of antivirus software. For many years I ran Norton Antivirus on all my computers, gritting my teeth and forking over the subscription payment every year while wondering if it was worth it. And, over those years, Norton forced me to upgrade periodically or I wouldn’t continue to receive antivirus signature updates. Every upgrade was more bloated than the last and further degraded the performance of my computer. Norton and McAfee were in such a race for market share that their products were increasingly stuffed with “features” that I neither needed nor wanted. And never during this time did Norton ever report finding or protecting me from a virus. Was all this virus business just a bunch of hooey?

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If you’re a regular visitor here on my blog, you’ve no doubt read about some of my ham radio backpacking adventures with Steve wGØAT and his goats Rooster and Peanut. It’s always fun to hoof it up the mountain with Steve and the boys–especially when Rooster carries the refreshments!

So, a few days ago I received a note from Steve announcing the opening of his new GoatWare shop on Cafe Press. Now you, too, can have your own “Old Goats Rule!” t-shirt, water bottle, or coffee mug! And if you’ve never seen the goats before, check them out on Steve’s Youtube channel.

I was getting ready to order a batch of coffee beans from my favorite coffee roaster, The Unseen Bean up the road from me in Boulder, Colorado. The owner and roaster is a visually-impaired man named Gerry Leary, whom I met a year or two ago when he came to visit with students at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind (I’m on the board there). Really an impressive guy.

So I’m perusing his web site, deciding what to order, and I stumbled upon a roast called Contester’s Blend. The logo on the bag shows a dog wearing a radio headset! He also offers a blend called Kilowatt Dark Roast.  I came to find out that Gerry’s a ham (WB6IVF) and he’s sold his coffees at Dayton.

Now, I’m no Starbucks snob, but the coffee I’ve gotten from the Unseen Bean has been pretty tasty stuff. If you enjoy fine coffee and you’re inclined to support a visually-impaired small business owner who’s friendly to hams, check out his web site.