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I really like beer. Whether at basecamp, at the pub or at home, a tasty brew can certainly make for a relaxing time.

For me, traveling around and enjoying the delicious brews from brewpub and bars has become a pastime. Here is the issue, though: Drinking and driving. Yes you can have a beer or even two with a meal in a couple of hours at the pub. However, I want to enjoy more than that and driving home from a remote brewery with a belly full of alcohol is not a good idea.

Most places will fill a growler for you to take home. This, however, has its own set of issues. The growler is sweaty from the cold beer inside and unless you have a cooler or equivalent with you it is hard to keep it cool enough until you get to a place where you can enjoy it. Enter Hydro Flask’s Growler.

Hydro Flask’s Growler has a series of double wall, vacuum-sealed double insulated bottles that keep cold things cold for twenty four hours or more. Sixty four ounce insulated beer vessels that will keep beer cold and fresh for even the longest drive. I started using Hydro Flask products in the desert in Arizona. They are BPA free and insulated, and they are both “cool” (literally and figuratively) as well as eco-friendly. With the release of the growler, I can go to the pub or brewery, fill up with a delicious beverage, and head back home to enjoy.

I have found nothing that matches the quality of materials and function that is even close to the price. Also they have a program to give five percent back for each bottle sold to eco-friendly charities.

As for me, I am off to get some Lagunitas IPA and some Green Flash. Dinner is going to be good tonight!

Have a look at all of the features of Hydro Flask’s products by visiting and receive a 10% discount by using coupon code “JPFREEK”

* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

Multiple day, long distance trips present challenges that a typical day of off-roading rarely do. Many of those challenges deal with decisions of what equipment to bring,  what supplies you need and how much room you have to carry them, especially if your trail rig is a CJ or Wrangler type vehicle.

Usually for a short two to three day trip, I will leave my off-road trailer at home which leaves me with limited room for excess or unnecessary gear in my Jeep TJ. A table was not a luxury I could afford to carry given the precious little space available for gear and supplies  but a table with chairs is not only convenient for eating but also preparing food and clean up.

At a recent Jeep Expeditions event at the Mesa, AZ  Sportsman’s Warehouse I found the answer to my needs. The ALPS Mountaineering Fold Up Table Combo. The set of a table and two benches  is made primarily of lightweight aluminum and folds up to about the size of a small croquet set. Something that all of us would be able to easily find room to carry in our Jeeps, find its way to a roof rack, or packed away in your off-road trailer.

Set up is a breeze and takes very little time. It stores for transport in a very nice carry bag. Each bench can hold up to two people and we tested the benches out to hold 300+ lbs or more. The size of the table is more than adequate to accommodate four people at dinner, and is perfect for preparing meals and cleanup afterwards.

* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

A year ago, I packed up my grungy 10 pot coffee brewer and made the switch to plunger style brewing with a glass French press. To a true coffee aficionado, the difference was euphoric. The French press let me brew the highest caliber, freshest, and best tasting coffee right in my kitchen.

When it came time to plan the food list for our next camping trip, I was not enthusiastic about the usual instant coffee we bring on our trips. I wanted to bring my French press with me and make some truly worthy coffee, but a glass French press seemed doomed to break out on the trail for sure.

My search for an answer came quickly. I’d heard of a backpacker’s press and found what I was looking for on the internet with a company called Planetary Designs. The Big Sky Bistro, the original French Press Mug, was designed by a backpacker and coffee connoisseur who had faced the same dilemma I was in and had envisioned this product as the answer.

Big Sky Bistro is an insulated French Press Mug that brews a perfect cup of coffee, and keeps it hot as you drink, all in the same container.

Admittedly I was initially concerned about the durability of the product; it is a plastic insulated mug, and the plunger is also constructed of plastic. I wondered if it would hold up. My interest in this product was for occasional use and by no means did I think I would use it everyday. My trip wasn’t for a couple more weeks and I was anxious to try it. The ease and convenience of brewing my morning tonic in the same mug that I walk out the door with was as exciting as the gratification I had when I switched from my electric brewer to the French press. I brew a full 16oz. of perfect coffee each morning in my Big Sky Bistro and have now used it everyday straight for two months. My concerns of durability were not necessary; this mug was built to hold up to the conditions of the trail and the continuous abuse of the daily grind.

– Durable, hard plastic construction
– Compact and lightweight at only 7.1 ounces
– Insulated to keep coffee and tea hot longer
– Fast to use; takes only four minutes
– Drink directly from the bistro or pour into another cup
– Makes 16 ounces of perfectly brewed coffee or tea

Rating:  5 out of 5!

Special thanks to Richard Tinnell for his contribution of this article.

* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

Most people do not pack their blender when heading out for a weekend camping trip. Margaritas, blended coffee, and smoothies are not typical camp fare. So I was very intrigued and courious about a hand-cranked blender from impressive product line of GSI Outdoors.

The Vortex Blender is a nesting, two-speed, hand-cranked blender that attaches to any table top (most park campgrounds have picnic tables that work well) or it will attach to the optional Vortex Trailer Hitch Table for those sites that are more off the beaten path.

The Vortex Blender’s construction is very durable, solid, and comfortable to use. The pitcher and shot cap are made of Lexan® resin making them virtually-indestructable.

Packing a blender on our trip allowed us to round out our Tex-Mex menu on one particular trip with margaritas and salsa. The versatible Vortex Blender can be used to crush ice or work as a food processor. We were very impressed with the two-speed option. The crank can be fitted to the low speed position to pulse fruit or vegetables, blend sauces, or batters. Dropping into “four” low we were highly impressed by the raw power pulled from our unexpected new friend as we cranked out batch after batch of frozen ritas. When you’re through being creative the base fits right into the pitcher making it very convenient to pack and store.

The GSI Outdoors site boasts that increasing your popularity, making new friends, and picking up ladies, are just a few of the hidden benefits of owning their hand-cranked blender. Overwhelmed with the cooking and beverage possibilities alone, I suppose I underestimated this awesome gadget according to their claims. What ever your reasons and wishful intentions may be for purchasing the GSI Outdoors Vortex Blender, you would not be disappointed. It would certainly make a very unique and highly appreciated gift to your favorite camp cook.

Rating:  5 out of 5

* Published by JPFreek Jeep Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

Real items for real adventure and real trail use. That’s the 4-1-1 on the Epicurean Camp Series Cutting Board and why we, as Jeep adventure enthusiasts and backcountry cuisine afficianados, dig this product!
Adventure usefulness and/or Jeep usefulness:     

This earth friendly cutting board made from dense recycled cardboard fibers proved very useful on my last trip to the mecca…for the Moab Easter Jeep Safari. I particularlly liked the dual use aspect of cutting board and strainer. In the past I had carried an extra colander that took up valuable space. This product helped solve that! Thank you Epicurean!!

Durability of the item in the field:     

The cutting board held up to multiple applications of typical Chef abuse such as the slicing, dicing, and chopping of a wide variety of produce and proteins. One of the better features in particular in this unit was the strainer aspect. Make sure to properly wash and sanitize in between cutting produce and meats and strainer use. I would recommend cutting all produce, especially ready to eat raw vegetables that might not get cooked such as salads and vegetable snacks prior to using anything else. A
quick wash in hot soapy water, rinse and wipe down with moist bleach towelette proved to do the job. It proved itself over again and again by handling the production of enough food for three dinners for at least 15 people. If that isn’t a testament to a product I don’t know what is. I will be sure to continue using it as part of my camp kitchen for sure. It proved to meet every claim that the company makes.

Value of product in relation to competitors’ product:     

The only competition I can remotely even think of or find is those little plastic roll up ones…and by far they don’t come close on several levels. The value of this product is definitely well worth every penny. I am going to additionally look into purchasing some of the larger sized ones for camping as well one or two potentially for the house from several of their other series of cutting boards.

Quality of product:     

At first I must candidly admit my initial thought was “recycled cardboard fiber…how will this hold up to knife banging even more so hot pasta water from straining a pot”! After putting the board the rigors of my trail testing my doubts were proved wrong. That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend soaking the board in water for any extended periods of time.

Ease of use:     

Place the board on a table, place the product on the board and cut away, it really doesn’t get any easier. The only slight imperfection and this is by far only a picky little chef thing, was that it wasn’t non-slip. I only say this as I like to have either a small rubber mat or moist towel under my cutting board where it contacts the table so it doesn’t slide around when slicing at super chef speeds. My simple fix was to do what I normally do with any cutting board…place a moist towel or small rubber mat under it. Great product and overall easy to use for sure!

Specifications of product per the manufacturer:

Epicurean Cutting Surfaces® are commercial grade cutting surfaces for the outdoor gourmet. Made from recycled cardboard fiber that will last for years of use, these premium surfaces are exceedingly durable, easy to handle and store, and won’t dull expensive knives. And unlike wood cutting boards, these nonporous surfaces will not harbor bacteria and can be safely cleaned in the dishwasher.

All Epicurean® Camp Series are light and slim enough to handle comfortably, clean, and store efficiently.

Epicurean® cutting surfaces are heat resistant up to 350˚F/176˚C. You can use them as a trivet and not leave a blemish.

Epicurean® cutting surfaces are made using recycled cardboard fiber.

Epicurean® cutting surfaces are exclusively designed and manufactured in the United States of America.

Unlike wood and bamboo cutting boards, Epicurean® food preparation surfaces are dishwasher safe.

* Published by JPFreek Jeep Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

Move over Julia Child and Betty Crocker cooking clubs of yesteryear, today’s chefs and food enthusiasts aren’t just Suzy Homemaker anymore. Enter the Man Pan.

Sure, I’d like to see someone say “cooking is for girls” these days to somebody like Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen…or even say it to me for that matter! Bring it, and that is just what Man Pans has done!

Having this pan myself since it was still in the prototype phases, I have trail-tested this pan on numerous occasions both out on the trail as well in my home kitchen. It is a useful tool for sauté, wok-style cooking, boiling water, cooking pasta as well pasta dishes, soups, stir fry, or even one pot meals such as stews or braised dishes. It performs in the house just as well as it does on the trail.

Adventure usefulness and/or Jeep usefulness:    

The Man Pan fits fairly well in an off-highway camp kit much more easily than it does in a backpacker’s trail kit. The handle, which has a great purposeful design, has its own slight issue being that it’s in a fixed location and might potentially lend to it taking up extra space or making it slightly tougher to pack. Nonetheless, The Man Pan’s superbly designed, lightweight nature and overall handle design usefulness does balance it out as an adventure savvy trail companion.

Durability of the item in the field:     

Lightweight it might be but I would consider it to be a heavyweight contender in durability. Construction is geared towards commercial use, and anybody that has worked in a restaurant/hotel/food service kitchen can attest to the beatings that pans take. Similar, cheap imitation pans made overseas might be considerably less expensive but guess what, you get what you pay for! Similar cheap pans would become loose and breakdown easily under pressure.

The Man Pan has been industry proven as it is used in several national chain restaurants. It can “Take a high heat licking and keep on ticking!” The one-piece handle itself is attached/riveted at four points from the inside with the handle integrated attachment point on the outside. This means your wife can smack you upside the head multiple times and the handle will not loosen from the pan.

Value of product in relation to competitors’ product:     

The fact that these pans are made in the good ole’ USA and secondly in an Eco-Friendly manner is of significant value within itself. As far as what the product costs, it certainly may seem expensive to the average Joe or Jane but by far there is no comparison in the quality of the finished product. Placed side by side with other contenders in this particular pan category the cost is comparable. The exceptional and added value amongst its competitors in the same range is certainly strength, durability, and design.

Additionally, the design itself incorporates methods of material forming for impressive H.E.T. (heat-energy-transfer) efficiency (like an R.T.I. ramp but for pans). This process gives the ability of lowering the heat source by up to 40% while still generating the same effects as if it were a full, high heat flame. This is the Man Pan claim and trail-tested and proven result. The Man Pan won’t sit in the garage or storage unit lonely with your other camp cookware. The Man Pan demands more than that. Its value is additionally shown in the ability to have it as an everyday home use pan. The wife just might actually get jealous if she doesn’t use it to smack you upside the head (remember, it is durable).

Quality of product:     

Designed by “a team of top industry engineers and experts” (possibly including wives, just a theory I have), the materials and design factors that went into the Man Pan shine through when in use and it shows. From the technologically superior design components such as the ultra durable cool grip handle and natural non-stick nature (Gen-X2, see information in manufacturer specifications), the Man Pan delivers (insert Tim the Tool-Man grunts here).

Similar cheap imitator pans use Teflon for non-stick. Let’s be honest here: How many Teflon pans have you thrown out (I HOPE YOU HAVE) because of flaking Teflon surfaces?

The integrated natural non-stick surface of the Man Pans comes from the pan making and metal forming/layering process itself. The claims of scratching with a coin hold true, I have done it myself, try that on a Teflon pan!

The cool grip handle design is purposeful and two fold.

The design itself and metal used keep the handle from getting the O.S.T.H.H.G. Factor (Oh S&%T that’s a Hot Handle Grab Factor) you have experienced while being camp chef. C’mon you know those “Wish I had the video camera AFV home video moments.”

The handle is further designed to be non-slip, which is a great added benefit. Industry pans often have “handle rubbers” that are just plain worthless and make the pan even more dangerous to handle.

Ease of use:     

Pretty simple here. Put over medium – high heat, add in a cooking medium (such as cooking oil not 30w or 40w), some food, and …cook away! Don’t worry about delicate clean-up either. Get in there and “Git ‘er Done!” without worry of scratching that precious Teflon coating!

– For more information on The Man Pan and other products built by Man Pans Cookware, check out their website at

Related – Epicurean Camp Series Cutting Board

* Published by JPFreek Jeep Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.

I have been a camper for more than 40 years and I have gone through a number of camp stoves. One thing all of us finds out with experience is there is no substitute for quality gear. A lesson learned the hard way on a recent 500 mile trip where my store brand $40 stove just refused to work. Even before that it started falling apart and it was just over a year old. Read the rest of this entry »

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