A couple years ago I started my quest for a rugged waterproof camera that I could take hunting, fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and biking. I wanted a camera that would hold up to the abuse and extreme conditions I would subject it to but I also wanted a camera with a great processor, the ability to control exposure, ISO, and other settings as well as built in GPS so I can geo-tag my photos and add them to my iPhoto and Garmin GPS unit and Garmin Basecamp mapping program.
I also wanted a good easy auto setting for the times I just want to snap photos, decent video capability, a sharp OLED screen and a bright f2.0 lens….yes that narrowed the field down significantly.
Before we get too far let me be clear, yes you need a rugged waterproof camera….and yes I now the newer android and iPhones can take good quality photos and video. I simply think your phone should be kept safe. I don’t think it’s wise to subject a phone to the elements, no mater how good your weather resistant case is and then there is the issue of battery life. Your phone could be your lifeline in an emergency so you should protect it.
First impressions and use: The camera has a good feel and weight to it. It is heavier than you might expect and it feels high quality in your hands. The controls are well thought out and easy to access. Set up was easy and I was off and running quickly. There are an abundance of custom settings but for me it’s either auto mode, macro mode or full manual mode. I haven’t given any time to working with the more custom effects modes. I have found that both still and video modes are easy to understand and use and I’ve been very pleased with the quality of both.
So far I have taken the camera on many kayak fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico where the camera has been fully submerged. On one kayak fishing trip I had a mishap and the camera fell out of my kayak and into the Gulf where it took me about 30 minutes to locate and retrieve it in about 8 feet of water and covered in mud. After a quick rinse from my water bottle the camera was back in service.
On land I have taken the camera hunting, biking and camping and I’ve been very pleased. I highly recommend this camera.
Below are a few photos taken in Auto mode with the TG-1
My last mountain bike used for hunting was decommissioned at least ten years ago after many faithful turkey hunting trips. That first bike was a very basic one without any suspension that I used exclusively for turkey hunting and scouting.
In recent years it was becoming clear that I wanted to reach further into the refuges where I hunt with greater speed and ease both during hunting trips and scouting.
Although I wanted to purchase and customize a bike for about $300.00 total cost, I quickly realized that would be difficult if I wanted a decent quality bike with front suspension.
· Front suspension
· Decent quality frame and components
· 29” wheels
Knowing that a new bike was out of the question I began to scour the local online ads and stopped by a few local pawn shops. Within a couple weeks a promising bike was found very close to home. The owner of local pawn shop who is expert mountain bike rider had a Giant Talon 29 in decent shape for sale. When negotiations were concluded I rode it home for $275.00.
Back at home any decals were removed and painted surfaces cleaned and roughed with a scotch brite pad to prep them for camo paint. I applied a basic three color flat camo paint job with flat spray paint from Lowe’s and some camo duct tape applied to the forks and seat post. I installed a RAM mount on the handle bar post to hold my GPS or iPhone, installed a rear cargo rack, mounted a survival knife to one of the frame members and zip tied an old canvas bucket to the front bars. Phase 1 complete.
On a cool February day I loaded the bike in my now trusty 4Runner and went for a few hours of trail riding in one of my favorite refuges. I put a few pounds of gear in the front bag and put a pack on my back with about 15 pounds in it and threw my shotgun over my shoulder of my 185 lb frame. All in all I suppose the bike was carrying about 210 lbs. With the tires at approx. 35 lbs of air I found the bike moved easily over the trails that were grassy and relatively firm. The 29” wheels are a real plus when coming up on roots, rocks and branches of a reasonable size. In most cases, I simply slowed and rolled over them, in other cases leaning back and giving the front tires a little lift assist did the trick. In the mud and sand the bike did well, the aggressive tires wanted to power through unless the mud was too deep or sand too fine. Cornering was ok except of course in the mud. As far as shifting goes, it was effortless although keep in mind that this is Florida and there was no real elevation change to deal with only changing trail conditions and a little experimenting with various speeds. The best part of the ride was the ability to scout so much more territory relatively fast compared with being on foot. Additionally, I had forgotten that riding is often generates less noise than walking allowing me to slip up on all manner of fauna.
Next effort will be to think about how I want to set up the bike for spring turkey season and fall deer and hog.
The Hoginator started the quest for a hunting pack that would serve us through bow and gun season, was reasonable in price yet with above average features. If you have a fat gear budget there are other choices but if you are looking for value and performance or if you are cheap like the Hoginator, read on.
Being a scientist, Hoginator made quick work of the research and emailed me his results. Of course I was very skeptical but after a couple conversations and a quick review of his compilation I agreed that the ALPS Pursuit pack was a good choice.
Fast forward 4 or 5 months and this is what we think:
Through archery season the pack performed well with no complaints except the interior organizer pocket material is wimpy and I experienced a small tear in one of the compartments. We carried these packs on long and short excursions and they have performed very well. As far as durability goes we can’t judge that yet. For about $100.00, this pack is a solid value.
To give you an idea on what I typically carry in the pack:
I may call the Hoginator’s vehicle the “rusty” Nissan Pathfinder but his vehicle has also been the “trusty” one. My 1995 4Runner on the other hand started out the hunting season running a bit rough and that progressed to miserable then in short order to intolerable by the end of archery season....and that was after the air conditioning failed while on a camping trip in June..in Florida!
Back to the shop it went recently to be diagnosed. I had already resigned myself to the bad news I was sure to receive….yes the injectors are clogged with rust as well as the fuel filter (3rd fuel filter in 4 months) and the gas tank is severely corroded and needs to be replaced. And that is exactly what I heard.
A new good quality fuel tank later, and hundreds of dollars, the 4Runner is running like a buck in rut and my pursuit of the wild life has resumed with greater than ever confidence in my 20 year old SUV. By the way all repairs on 20 year old 4Runners will cost some magic number between $300 and $800 dollars. Be warned that is not a ceiling, you could easily spend more. Just repeat after me, you can't put a price on love.
No matter how “cheap” you buy one it may not remain inexpensive for long. Still in all, and when or if the repairs slow down, it will be a low cost vehicle to own…assuming I live long enough. Just remember, you can't put a price on love.
Lesson learned: If you purchase a 20 year old vehicle that has been sitting for a long while in the Florida temperature extremes with little to no fuel in the tank, inspect the tank and fuel system, it may have significant corrosion problems.
The summer and fall have been trying times for the 4Runner and my patience….and my budget. After preparing for and packing for one of my Redfish fishing trips the 4Runner would not start. convinced it was related to the aftermarket car alarm, which had been exhibiting some weird behavior, I did what any self respecting man would do, surf the web for forums and you tube videos that would help me diagnose and repair the problem. After wasting hours, I decided to reach out to a professional.
A couple days later, Douglas and I towed the vehicle to a neighborhood car audio shop and I had it removed and a new JVC radio installed that had a USB input / charger port that allows me to interface with my iPhone. The only problem was that after the removal of the car alarm, the 4Runner still would not start.
My next move after a very brief bout of, hey I’ll figure this out myself, was enlisting the help my daughter and I towed the 4Runner to my mechanics shop. After providing my daughter a short but instructive lesson in how to tow a vehicle that will not run, we made it to the shop with out a hitch. The shop is a small high quality operation in Gainesville FL called Performance Transmission and Auto Repair. Dustin easily found the problems suggested the course of action and expertly completed the work. It needed a started, relay and fuse. When it was ready, I rode my bike over and picked it up…back on the road again!
So what are my impressions of the 4Runner now that I have some miles and repair bills behind me? It's not been dependable...yet...and in fairness the repairs so far have been more or less to be expected for a 20 year old vehicle with over 100k miles. The 4Runner is a very capable, SUV with lots of room for its size, decent off road performance. The negatives so far (besides the repairs needed), the V6 engine is seems under-powered although in the lower gears and in 4WD the performance is decent. Fuel economy is average to poor. If I could wave a magic want the 4runner would have the turbo charged 4 cylinder diesel engine that is in my Audi.
If anyone from the Toyota corporation is reading this, the Hoginator and I would be more than willing to perform a long term field test on a new 4Runner, fully loaded, 4x4, and leather interior would be appreciated.
Background: Some years ago I purchased a Magellen Explorist 300 GPS unit for hunting, hiking, kayaking and other back country activities. It was a reasonably priced smaller handheld unit that has a basic screen (no color and no touch screen), could not download maps nor did it have a companion computer program for mapping, planning, etc. Additionally, now that I have to wear gosh darn reading glasses the small, low contrast screen had become frustration. Finally, I have a habit of going fair distances off trail and in the swamps where distinguishing features can be hard to see. One morning, many years ago while turkey hunting near the Suwannee river and Gulf of Mexico I was working towards a gobbler I heard deep in the swamp. As I went deeper and deeper into the swamp a heavy fog rolled in and it wasn’t long before I was unsure where I was. The day was overcast to start with then with the heavy fog I couldn’t see the sun, there were no roads nearby to listen for cars or trucks, nothing to provide any bearings and I was in a very generic looking swamp in an area I had never hunted before. I had decided last minute to go turkey hunting that morning and was light on supplies and didn’t tell anyone where I was heading…..all the ingredients for getting lost or worse. I hadn’t brought my trusty handheld Silva compass, no first aid supplies, no food, nothing to start a fire with, no whistle, I’m not sure I had even brought my water bottle. I decided that my best bet was to head in a Easterly direction the only way I thought to choose the direction was to look at the lichen growing on many of the trees in the swamp and interpolate what an Easterly direction was. Because Lichen often (but not always) grows more on the Northern exposure of many trees it seemed like a good bet. I did make it out eventually to a road a mile or two further South than I had hoped but hey, I eventually made it back to my truck, with lessons learned. I’ve never claimed to learn easily or fast and most of my better habits have been learned through experience, sometimes dangerous experiences. The lost turkey hunt experience has led to always having a compass in my gear kit and often a GPS unit.
It’s worth a brief mention of why I never, ever want to use my smart phone as a navigation tool in the woods or on the water. First, I've been hunting since long before the invention of the mobile phone…. yes, that may seem unbelievable to all the whippersnappers out there! These days I use my iPhone in my car and truck all the time when driving, even off road driving however, it has too many limitations in the backcountry. A few of my gripes are, fragile build, not water resistant, comparatively short battery life. And, yes I know you can get water resistant cases, carry back up power, and there is lots of good software out there. It’s just not my choice; I want to keep my phone packed safely in my kit and take it out as little as possible.
Being a thrifty guy I set up a budget of approx. $300 and started reading up on handheld units that units with a color touch screen and mapping capabilities. It didn’t take too long to determine two things, one, my budget wasn’t large enough and two, that the Garmin Oregon 600 was the front-runner. To deal with the budget problem I looked for a refurbished one. I always buy refurbished computers, and just about everything else I can. I found GPS Nation had a factory refurbished Garmin Oregon 600, in a factory box with all the docs, etc. that fit my budget and they double the factory warranty from one to two years and threw in free shipping. I also ordered the rechargeable batteries. Happy with that I ordered it online and just a couple days later it showed up.
The unit was easy to install the standard AA or rechargeable batteries. When the unit is connected to a computer with the supplied USB cord it is also charging the rechargeable batteries. The quick start guide was easy to follow and connecting it to the computer and getting a basic feel for Garmin’s free mapping software called Basecamp was decent. Getting a basic feel for the home screen went well and the visibility of the screen is great, even in the Florida sun. I did a walk about the neighborhood and found it sooooo easy to record a waypoint and add a description and choose an icon thanks to the touch screen. There is no going back to any unit without one.
The unit seemed to acquire satellites quickly and it appears to be very accurate. I liked the compass and line of sight feature also. A couple other attractive features are the customizable “dashboard” where you can choose what information you want displayed in various windows, the moon phase feature and the ability to download topo and other maps.
Going to take it hiking and start hunting with it in the near future and will provide a field report at a later date.
I’ve given the Magellen unit to Hoginator and we may do a follow up post on what he thinks of it. Finally, another reason I wanted to upgrade my GPS is to upload waypoints to my computer for trip planning and digital scouting.
It’s impossible for a man to be in pursuit of the wild life without the proper equipment and transportation. Last year after giving my truck to my ex (it is a long story for another time), I found myself in the unenviable position of short on cash (those darn kids needing a college education and dental work at the same time, and not having an off road vehicle.
Thanks to the generosity of my outdoors partner Douglas and his trusty and rusty 1996 Nissan Pathfinder, we didn’t miss a hunting or fishing expedition, but it’s no way to live. And so about a year ago following one of the basic tenets of men in the pursuit of wild life, I started researching and searching for an inexpensive but good quality vehicle. My first choices of a vehicle were either a mid 1990’s 4x4 Toyota Tacoma pickup or 4Runner. It turns out the 4 door pickups are very hard to find so I quickly narrowed the search to 4Runners. Good condition, low mileage, 4x4’s are also a rarity so I just took my time….about 6 months until I found the right one. I looked online in a 100 mile radius and as luck would have it, I found the right one 3 miles from home, neglected sitting in a small car lot on a side road wedged in with many other cars, bumper to bumper, junk yard style under some oak trees. The 4Runner was just right, 4x4, 3.0 V-6, SR5 trim, leather seats, cruise control, auto transmission, Timing belt and water pump replaced at 109k and tow hitch. It had 113k miles by one non-smoking owner and a car fax report verified that it had been maintained….well until it ended up sitting under the trees. After some serious negotiating and a check out by my mechanic, I paid $3k. Exterior is in great shape but the interior had a far amount of wear. Additionally, the tires were dry rotted and it was in need of a tune up and complete fluid change. More on the clean up, modifications later and the repairs saga later!