Mark O.

Mark O.

I like to be outside & get a lil dirty. The mountains, the ocean or a nice patio with some sun on my face is where its at. I cruise on a motorcycle, overland, drink too much coffee & spend way too much time working on a PhD but adventuring is usually the name of the game. I have a general belief that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Ask me about the time I was able to go skiing & scuba in the same weekend 🤙🏼


New Mexico

Products I Love

Camelbak M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack

Camelbak M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack My Review

A longtime favorite for day excursions

I’m on my third M.U.L.E. and I have no idea what M.U.L.E. stands for but I’m sure it’s something clever. I’m on my third one not because it’s a shitty product but because I’ve been using one in some form for the last 20 years. I got first one when Camelbak was a newer company. It was a godsend on long hikes with my Boy Scout trip. Somewhere about 10 years ago I upgraded to my second M.U.L.E.. This one was a very roomy back pack that I still have. It was blue and came with about 100oz water reservoir. I’m since switched over to an all-black mil-spec M.U.L.E., I really like mole system and it integrates better with a lot of my gear.

The M.U.L.E. is great for a day hikes and short adventures but storage capacity for gear won’t be great for a weekend trip. However, wherever I go though, this is always an essential item. Its sturdy and can take a beating. I use a carbineer to attach my dog’s leash to one of the attached D-rings. He’s 80lbs, rambunctious and strong, he has yet to cause any failures. It holds 100oz of water and came with a coozie for the hose section (?), giant straw you drink out of, basically it helps keep the water from getting grossly warm or from freezing depending on the weather. It’s a good feature. I personally think highly of the Camelback systems and am disappointed that REI has stopped carrying them. There are definitely cheaper options but I’ve found that Camelbak has put a lot of thought into their hydration systems and have not just looked at the water bladder as a value-add integration into a backpack. I’m expecting sometime in another 10 years I’ll purchase my 4th M.U.L.E..

Yakima BedRock HD Truck Rack Towers

Yakima BedRock HD Truck Rack Towers My Review

Hard Pass

I have some of these on my Tacoma. I REALLY want to like them but they move around & I’ve tried several things to get them to stop from moving. I think I may have finally found a hack but I won’t know till my next trip.

I was drawn to them in part because of the price but also the functionality and how module of a system it could be with all the various Yakima accessories there are out there. I keep a Space Cadet (smaller Yakima storage bin) cable locked onto the 78” bars I have in the bedrock system. The Bedrock towers shift or move the storage bin want to come through the cab window & join me in the trouble seat.

Where I really like the idea of this system, had I to do it over again I would go with some bed bars that are a bit more meaty, sturdier & really meant for camping or overland. If you aren’t moving a lot off road or just want some to attach some ski racks or bike racks too this set up might be right for but I just haven’t been impressed with it.

Jetboil Flash Cooking System

Jetboil Flash Cooking System My Review

Jetboil Zip Review

I was on the fence about this purchase. I picked one of these up at an REI membership sales event. Generally, my criteria for buying gear revolves around the functionality and durability. I didn’t have many concerns about the durability of the Jetboil Zip (more about that later) but I was really struggling with the functionality of it. I ultimately bought it for when I go SCUBA diving. At many dive sites do not have access to hot or boiling water. Primarily, I’m a coffee snob and travel with an Aeropress. My initial thought was I would be able to boil water and make good coffee to enjoy in between dives. I’ve found that during colder dives I can heat up some water with the Jetboil, dump it on my wetsuit and it helps warm things up before I hop in the water. I’ve started throwing the JetBoil in the truck when I go skiing and have expanded its usage out to other activities,(mostly so I can make coffee). Until recently, outside of boiling water it wasn’t very useful. I recently picked up an attachment for it that allows for the use of a standard pot or pan. Until I got this attachment the only thing I could put over the burner was the Jetboil cooking cup that attached directly to the burner. The attachment is also made by Jetboil and attaches the same way the cooking cup does.

I’ve been camping and adventuring for well over 20 years. I’ve used a wide variety of stoves, both in terms of brand and style. In that time I’ve never managed to melt a stove. I’ve managed to set picnic tables on fire with poorly primed white gas stoves but that didn’t negatively impact the stove. The Jetboil has a pice of plastic around the burner and I’m not sure how this happened other than it was very windy but that piece of plastic melted. The burner still works but due to the plastic melting it no longer breaks down to fit back in cooking cup. I reached out to Jetboil, explained the situation and was told I could purchase a new burner for $50 minus a few bucks that basically covered the shipping. I was disappointed in this outcome and it has made me look at other stove brands. Durability is a major criteria for me and this stove does have the durability I would expect from a product like this.

Water boils really fast in this thing and I like how compact it can get but due to the low functionality and what I perceived as poor customer service and craftsmanship I would not recommend this product to my friends. A stove should be able to withstand heat, it makes a hot flame that you can cook with and it should be able to do this without melting. My experience is that this stove critically fails (maybe I got a lemon 🤷🏼‍♂️), since I’m not sure why the plastic melted I’m not going to be using it anymore because the stove broke during the operation it was intended for. I have no guarantee it won’t have further critical failure and the response I received from Jetboil didn’t give me any extra confidence in their product. If I could do it over again I would pass on this purchase and go with a different product.

RTIC Coolers Medium Duffel

RTIC Coolers Medium Duffel My Review

Great weekend duffle!

The Rtic medium sized duffle is another product I just fell in love with it. I like it so much that I got one for my dad for his upcoming birthday. All of the Rtic duffels are at a great price point right now when purchased directly from Rtic. I’m not going to go into too many details about why Rtic has such great pricing but go ahead and google Yeti lawsuits…

Anyway, back to the duffle bag, the bag is really durable and can be carried in a variety of ways. It has all sorts of loops to clip things too and is water resistant. Where I wouldn’t throw it in the ocean or take it on a boat expecting it hold up like a traditional dry bag, I’m not worried about it being in the back of my truck and getting caught in some unexpected rain. Rtic boasts the bag being puncture resistant, where I haven’t put this to the test yet, in looking at the bag I can see it holding up well to all sorts of adventures.

The bag comes in three sizes, small (40L), medium (70L) and large (140L). The medium seems to be good for a weekend trip’s worth of stuff. I prefer the tan color but they come in a grey (what I got for my dad) and kanati camo. The kanati camo has a pretty realistic look but I’m not a fan of it and think the design team should have given that option a hard a pass.

Zippo Classic High Polish Chrome Lighter

Zippo Classic High Polish Chrome Lighter My Review

Light my 🔥

I have a since of nostalgia about a classic zippo lighter. I don’t go in for all the different designs or ones that are branded with a giant logo. I like to keep it simple, there is something about a simple polished zippo lighter that I enjoy. If could be that my grandfather carried one through both the European and Pacific theaters of WWII. At times, when criticized for not having some sort of torch lighter, I often rebuttal with, if it was good enough for my grandfather while fighting Nazis then its good enough for me.
I use my zippo for everything, from lighting camp fires, to burning the occasional cigar, fusing rope and any everyday need that may arise. It been an invaluable tool that I’ve made as part of my EDC. The one I carry with me was purchased as gift and where its held up well it definitely has some added character to it now. The click of the lid is fun and with some practice and good finger dexterity you can do all sorts of entertaining tricks with it. Where I wouldn’t change out my zippo as part of my EDC it does have some draw back.
I would never rely on a Zippo as part of an emergency kit. One of the benefits of a Zippo is they are refillable but the fuel can dry out and if you aren’t good about refilling it on a regular basis then you may be out of luck. For an emergency kit, bug out bag or something to just keep in a glove box you can’t beat a regular Bic lighter. They hold up well, take up less spaces than matches, and always seem to work.
Overall Zippos are great lighters and have withstood the test of time. They re simple, fuel and other replacement parts are readily available and I’ve never seen one malfunction to the point of failure like I have with high end torch lighters. They’re fun, they’re a great piece of Americana and make gifts.

Cali Raised LED Side Projecting LED Pods

Cali Raised LED Side Projecting LED Pods My Review

Great way to avoid the gaudy cross windshield light-bar

I am a huge fan of these lights. I’m really excited about this trend of giant LED light bars on trucks right now. These pods or ditch lights from Cali Raised LED are low profile and easily mount to the hood of a Tacoma or Tundra giving good light coverage to areas headlights usually don’t cover. They have LEDs pointing forward as well as on an angle on the side of the pod. This helps light up blind turns and winding roads. Plus, since they sit on the hood of the car at the base of the windshield, its harder to get them covered in mud and obstruct their usage.

They were easy to install and Cali Raised does a great job of giving install directions as well as customer support. You may be able to find cheaper products on amazon or elsewhere but I think the support you get from Cali Raised is worth the extra money.

If you are looking to add some extra lighting to your vehicle to light up dark trails, annoy your friends or illuminate a campsite I totally recommend these lights. I can’t say enough good things about the ease of use and install on these. I’m an avid DIYer but am not a car guy and I had them up and running from unboxing in about 2 hours with doing all the wiring myself.

Blue Coolers 80 Liter Ark Series

Blue Coolers 80 Liter Ark Series My Review

Keep it on ice with Blue Coolers

Being a grad student I had a hard time jumping on the rotomolded insulated cooler train. Even with the smaller coolers I always felt the price point was just too high and couldn’t justify the purchase. I always thought, I’ve spent almost 20 years doing all different kinds of camping with the Boy Scouts, car camping, back country backpacking, weeks at camp living out of ancient Baker Tents, and we never had any fancy coolers, we survived with a faded falling apart Coleman so why give into the trendy crowd.

As I heard more and more about the rotomolded cooler craze I kept looking at the top name brands and even some that were store specific brands. I just couldn’t get over the price point. Then I came across Blue Coolers. After a bit of research I was sold. I picked up a bundle via Blue Cooler’s website. I got a 50L, 25L, 2 32oz insulated tumblers and a trucker hat (I love truckers hats) all for cheaper than the top brands 45L cooler. One of the things that made this purchase more palatable was that not only was the price point much lower but I could break up the total cost over 4 payments and the coolers would ship immediately with free 2 day shipping. The price on these is lower not because of lack of quality (at least from what I can tell) but from cutting back on marketing/sponsorships, Blue Coolers basically does all of its marketing via word of mouth. Plus these coolers are sold from the Blue Cooler website and ship directly to customers, by not utilizing retailers this cuts out the middleman cost.

I’ll admit I’ve worn through the trucker with some nice sweat rings but everything else has held up great. The tumblers do a great job of keeping drinks cool and I’ve seen the light with the rotomolded coolers. They hold ice well and keep things cold even when in the back of my black truck bed in 105 degree heat. I recently took them on a trip to an area on the Nevada side of Death Valley, during the trip shade for my truck was limited and during the day we were anywhere from 100-105 degrees. Even being in and out of the coolers all day I was very impressed. I didn’t worry about food spoiling and my water bottles were always cold. Until this trip I liked the Blue Coolers, after this trip I became a real fan of them.

The coolers have all the regular standard features of other similar coolers. They have a built in bottle opener, strong padded rope handles, and lockable lids. The skid proof feet are really skid proof, once in my truck bed the coolers don’t move around. Blue coolers claim the coolers are bear proof but I haven’t been able to test that claim yet. The only downfalls of these coolers are the limited options. They come in either white or blue and only have 3 sizes (80L, 50L, 25L). They are also heavy, empty the 50L model weighs in at 32lbs. When the cooler is full, its a beast to get in and out of the back of my truck with one person. I have alsofound that if I pack the cooler with food & drinks that are already cold it helps make the ice last longer and if you can limit constant in & out to just keeping the lid closed they will be at peak performance. ”Cold” is really the absence of heat so the more you can limit warmth to the inside of the cooler the better they will do.

Overall, I’m a fan of these coolers. They aren’t going on any backpacking trips anytime soon but for adventures where you won’t be far from a vehicle, if you are about the van life or planning a backyard BBQ this is the cooler for you 🤙🏼

RTIC 30oz Tumbler

RTIC 30oz Tumbler My Review

Get it before its gone!

God I love the Rtic stuff. When this liquidation sales ends I think I’m going cry. I’ve been leaving a 30oz tumbler in my truck filled with ice in 90 degree heat and its been keeping water cool for me. I mostly just leave it in my truck and whenever I hit a coffee chop get it refilled with ice and water. It cuts down on plastic waste and keeps beverages cold in hot temps. It apparently keeps things hot also but who wants a hot beverage when its 90 degrees and inside of your truck is 105. These are selling directly from Rtic for around $10. They are made in the same factory as a Yeti and I believe are virtually the same specs, they even come with a sticker.
Before the liquidation they were about triple the price, once Rtic does a redesign who knows what the price point will be. I’ve picked a few in a variety of colors. I use mine daily and the others are in a closet waiting to be given away as birthday and Christmas presents. These are great tumblers, high quality and
for now at an amazing price. Plus, unlike all my glass and ceramic cups these don’t shatter when I drop them... Not that that’s a regular issue in my life...

RTIC 26oz Water Bottle

RTIC 26oz Water Bottle My Review

Take ADVANTAGE of Rtic!

I am all about the Rtic stuff right now. So much so I bought a case of the 26oz water bottles to give out as gifts.

So Rtic basically ripped off Yeti and as part of a settlement deal Rtic has to liquidate their product lines 🤷🏼‍♂️. I’m sure you can find more details online somewhere but basically all the Rtic products are significantly reduced in price and are high quality. From coffee mugs to water bottles I’ve loaded up on Rtic products.

The only downfall is if you have any issues the customer service SUCKS but otherwise I’ve been impressed and totally recomend the 26oz water bottles.

Victorinox Swiss Army Pioneer Multi-Tool Pocket Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Pioneer Multi-Tool Pocket Knife My Review

For the modern day MaCGyver

I love this pocket knife. I can’t begin to tell you how many different pocket knives I’ve had over the years. The Swiss Army Pioneer has become my EDC go too. It covers everything from being able to cut cheesecake, open beer bottles, drive screws and poke my friends. They come in a variety of colors and have a slim profile that make carrying one in a pocket not an issue.
The drawbacks are the blade doesn’t lock and admittedly, with similar knives I’ve had them close on my finger before. I don’t use it for anythings super heavy duty and try to mindful of what and how I’m cutting things. The flathead and Phillips screw driver heads are invaluable and what I use most. Having a built in bottle opener cuts down on having one on my key ring, although it seems that every and anything now comes with a bottle opener built in.
Despite being limited in tools compared to products like a Leatherman, the slim design and focused incorporated tools can more than handle most simple tasks and being a Swiss Army knife it usually goes unnoticed, although I wouldn’t try to sneak it past TSA.

Final Straw 2.0

Final Straw 2.0 My Review

Sometimes its OK to suck

I have a lot of conservative friends who lost their minds when California banned the usage of plastic straws. This really made me laugh and set the stage for my original final straw pick up. Being the forever Boy Scout and a Master SCUBA diver I try to have a low impact on the environment but have also seen first hand all the trash that ends up in our oceans and water ways. When I came across final straw on Kickstarter and saw the “Suck Responsibly” catch phrase and marketing video I couldn’t give them my money fast enough.

When my straws came months later (maybe even a year), I had already seen similar reusable straws for much cheaper. Like could have gotten 3-4 straws for the price of one but I enjoy supporting small business and start ups. Final Straw did a great job of making a connection to an issue for me, also, I may have matched with one of the founders on a dating app shortly before the company really took off (we never went out).

Despite never getting a date, I’ve been impressed with these straws. Not only do they help me cut down on the waste I produce but the novelty from whipping one out and letting it flip together in a dramatic fashion is still incredibly satisfying.

At the end of the day this is a straw that you drink through. It folds up into a little case that makes it easy to carry around & I’ve made mine a regular piece of my EDC trinkets. The outside of the straw is four polished metal sections and the piece that you drink through is made of a soft food grade silicon. When the straw has been deployed in the most dramatic fashion possible and placed in a drink it does what it is suppose to do. They only issue I have with this is the cleaning. It comes with a cleaning brush and you can throw it in the dishwasher but ever once in awhile I’ll catch a little left over taste from my previous drink and when I’m not vigilant about cleaning it a little funk from the space between the metal sections and silicon tube will build up.

I’m glad I picked mine up. I feel good about using them, they are more comfortable to use than solid plastic reusable straws and fit into most of the lids on my reusable cups. Sometimes they are a little short for larger cups but given the smaller size the trade off is they are easy to carry around in a pocket or bag so there really isn’t an excuse to not use them.

RATS Medical Gen 2 Tourniquet

RATS Medical Gen 2 Tourniquet My Review

RATs and CATs, not another Tom & Jerry feud

A few years ago, after a horrific event, in trying to understand how something like that could happen, I found myself reading not about the motivation of the perpetrator or the rhetoric associated with policy and changing laws. Instead, I found myself reading about the actions of the heroes that emerged that evening. I read about a man who broke into and stole a truck in order to transport wounded to a local emergency room and I read several accounts of different bystanders administering first aid to other victims of this horrible tragedy. In the applied first aid, one common theme kept coming up and that was of people removing their belts to use as tourniquets to control bleeding, this quick thinking saved lives. It also trigged the Eagle Scout part of brain that forces me to be prepared for all occasions.

Where I watched friends go out and purchase firearms, sign up for courses related to self defense and a host of other things that would not have a made a difference in the events that occurred that evening, I asked myself a broad question. How was I prepared if I ever found myself in that nightmare? The answer was I wasn’t, at least not to a level that would not requiring channeling MacGyver.

I always carry a small first aid kit. Between earring the first aid merit badge as a young lad and being trained in Search & Rescue I’ve always had one on me or near by, but it wasn’t meant to treat to anything serious, at least nothing that resembled a battle field. In my big first aid kit that generally stays in the truck while I’m out adventuring is a traditional combat application tourniquet or “CAT”. These are windlass tourniquets where pressure is applied through the turning of the windlass (its a bar you spin around) to limit blood loss. These are incredibly effective, however, they pose several problems when trying to integrate into some sort of everyday carry. They are awkward, draw attention and so are so cheap that when trying to use them the windlass will break. Also, the primarily sized for adults.

In researching various tourniquets I came across a rather innovative design. The Rapid Application Tourniquet or “RAT”. They were designed by someone with extensive combat experience, apply much faster than the windless style, are easier to carry around and can serve a variety of functions given their design making it very functional. Two other important factors I did not realize would be a main selling point is that with their design they work on adults, children AND pets.

I’ve picked up a few, as they are not that expensive and don’t take up much room in a bag or glove box. Being a grad student I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping one in my school backpack, I always have one out at the gun range or place where safety is a concern, I even take one under with me while scuba diving. Where I hope to never be in that nightmare scenario, accidents happen everyday and I feel a little better prepared knowing I have my “RAT” available if I ever need it.

As a point of disclosure, I teach trainings on self defense and how to navigate an active shooter scenario. After the events in El Paso, I became a distributor to sell RATs. I did this because during my trainings I get asked about them and I decided it would better to have some on hand to sell and just get them in the hands of people who wish to be better prepared. ya

Salomon SpeedCross 4 Trail Running Shoe - Men's

Salomon SpeedCross 4 Trail Running Shoe - Men's My Review

Where this might be a little over dramatic, when my last pair arrived in the mail I hopped on the Gram and posted the following.
“I’ve been told that you don’t really know what love is until you have kids of your own. Really 🤷🏼‍♂️??? Have you ever opened up a box of @salomonrunning shoes & just basked in the wonderfulness while your heart filled with love & joy? Then the amazing bond that forms when you put them on for the first time #incredible“
In all seriousness I love these shoes. I’m actually wearing a pair of the blue ones right now. I’ve picked up a couple pairs of these and have a pair dedicated to trail running as well as a pair for everyday use. I even wear them when I compete in USPSA competitions. The gripping on them is amazing providing great stability during movement and the quick lace system makes for an easy on and off. Every once in awhile they‘ll catch on carpet or squick loudly on linoleum floors giving away my postions. They can be a bit pricey but I’ve found if I shop around online I’ll catch a smokin deal. Running, adventuring or everday use these have become my go to shoes.

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