Travel Gear Guide: Tips for Adventurers Caught Playing Tourist

This review comes from Scott Johns, an adventure cinematographer, mountain biker and snowboarder living in Incline Village on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. When Scott’s not creating beautiful imagery for video, he’s out ripping singletrack or shredding big lines in his backyard that we call the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

Sunsets in foreign lands. Another reason to travel.
Sunsets in foreign lands. Another reason to travel.

Travel season is upon us and my gear has already seen an overnight kayaking trip down the Carson River plus a combined two weeks of car camping and mountain biking in the rainy Northwets–that’s not a typo, I’m just proposing a name change because the Northwest can be so soggy at times. Some of my gear has been ideal, like my Saxx underwear, and some of it, not so much. Here’s what I’ve learned so far, and summer hasn’t even technically begun:


The Value of a Hammock

My first trip of the season, in a whitewater kayak, was something new to me. I was told I couldn’t bring a tent and was a bit apprehensive about that. Fortunately, Adam Broderick from Tahoe Mountain Sports had already written a great hammock info blog, specifically highlighting ENO hammocks.

With my mind a bit more at ease after reading, I sacked up, spent the cash (much cheaper than a tent, by the way), dropped it in a dry bag and stuffed it in the back of my kayak. Bottom line: hammocks are a huge weight and space saver. No tent, no pad, no problem. Just more room for beer, in my case, and easier traveling if you’re on foot. And I recommend going for the double hammock; the additional space is worth the extra $10.


Let Gravity do the Filtering

Something I wished I had on that kayaking trip, but had no budget for at the time, was a pump-free water purifier. My MSR MiniWorks is compact and works great, but pumping water for four thirsty dudes cuts heavily into your relaxation time when you only have a few hours off the river each day.

The Platypus GravityWorks filtration system is ideal for group settings. Just fill it up and walk away; it’ll be ready when you finish your coffee. There’s also a four-liter version, which you can find among Tahoe Mountain Sports’ multitude of other water paraphernalia.

Gabe Lambert Black Rock
Gabe Lambert traveling through…a lot of air. Black Rock Mountain Bike Area. Falls City, Oregon

Better than Rice

It seems like after every time I go kayaking, somebody’s phone ends up in a bag of rice. This trip was no different. Dry boxes work great to protect your phone, until you pull it out to use it. And using rice to suck moisture out of it, after the fact, actually works quite well, too. But waterproofing–and shock, dirt and snow proofing–your selfie-box, with a Lifeproof case, is a more sustainable, long-term solution to keeping it dry. So, I’ve come up with a new, million-dollar marketing slogan for Lifeproof. Ready? Lifeproof: it works better than a bag of rice. *Please make that check payable directly to Scott Johns, thank you. To watch a short travel film shot on an iPhone by a TMS employee, both under and above water in Central America, click here: 2 Tickets to Roatan, Honduras

Taking a Backpacker’s Approach to Car Camping


Because riding a bicycle is my preferred adrenaline-inducing activity, I do a lot of car camping on my mini-vacations. The upside is that there’s more space for extra gear. The downside, I always bring way too much crap. The other two of my three trips proved this once again. So, I’m tempted to start taking a backpacker’s approach to car camping.

Instead of the old, dual-burner Coleman stove, I’d be happier with something like the Snow Peak Trek Starter Kit. The included GigaPower stove and an isobutane fuel canister fit conveniently inside the pot and the whole package is still smaller than the propane canister for my Coleman.


One of Deuter’s many ingenious travel backpacks would be a huge improvement over the backpack I’ve been using since I was 17. Storing my spare underwear, laptop, so I can check in on the road, and muddy mountain bike clothing, all in the same compartment, is really getting old. Deuter is German for, “We are organizational wizards, fool!” No, not really; I don’t speak German. But, if you are doing any combination of backpacking, car camping, day hiking or telecommuting, these packs are set up for success. Get something like the Quantum 70+10 and you’ll have it all: comfort, a wet pocket, a detachable day pack that also works great on flights as your carry on, a multifunctional rain/travel cover, and oh so many purpose-engineered pockets and access points.

John Mark Carson Kayaking
Traveling by kayak with John Mark Carson. Try to stay dry!

Welcome to the New Age


Now that I’ve hypothetically freed up more space for the next trip, my imagination is already ready to fill it. GoPros are great, until they die. And leaving the car running for hours to charge them is pretty ridiculous. Especially when you show up to a deserted destination on empty like we did on a recent trip. We’re in a new era of awesome tech gear and Goal Zero’s Nomad 13 would have solved all our charging problems, though wouldn’t have help solve our transportation issue considering lack of gasoline in Falls City, Oregon. I’m talking about portable, personal solar panels here, kids. If you need something a little more compact than the Nomad 13, there are a slew of other options.

Looks like all of my problems have been solved in less than a thousand words. Take that, Doctor Phil. I’ll close with a few easy upgrades we can all make at some point. Next time you lose your sunglasses, try stepping into the magnetic interchangeable-lens game with a pair from Switch Vision. You probably already know this is a winning idea from your experience with snow goggles, so I’ll leave it at that. Ladies, if you’re doing some car camping or otherwise non-first-class traveling, but still want to bring a nice dress for a night out during your trip, you might consider the wrinkle-proof, sleeveless Kuhl Vega Dress made from organic cotton. And finally, for the second time in a blog post this month, I’ll mention that what I most want to upgrade is my traveling shoes, to a pair Sanuk Pick Pocket Slip Ons. Hopefully a specific somebody reads this, because we have an anniversary approaching. So much for subtle hints.

Black Rock Mountain Campfire
Look at those dirty camp feet. They could sure use some Sanuk Slip Ons.

Deuter Transit 65 Travel Backpack
MSRP: $188.95

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