Jackson and I like our hiking and camping gear and we like it to last! I believe in the "buy once, cry once" philosophy and will pay a few dollars more for something that will last, especially if its made by an independent company in the USA. Check back here periodically for updated gear reviews. Have a question about some of our gear? Have a request that we test something out? Email us!
*Last Updated 06-Mar-11*
The question we get asked most often about Jackson's gear is "what kind of collar is that?" After testing collars from virtually every large and small manufacturer specializing in extra large dog collars, we have fallen in love with Blocky Dog collars. Jackson only wears Blocky Dog collars and leads. Rebecca, Proprietor of Blocky Dogs custom makes each collar by hand and they are built to last. I have little doubt that these collars can last for decades of hard wear. We have tested these collars in just about every situation imaginable and we are beyond impressed. Check out Jackson's photo gallery to see him sporting one of his five Blocky Dog collars, or visit their website to see more examples and order one for yourself! www.blockydogs.com
In many of our photos, you will notice Jackson wearing a dog pack. Due to bad joints and damage to just about every part of my body, I am not able to carry much weight without severe pain. Jackson carries much of our gear during many hikes and while camping, but due to the physically difficult tasks I ask him to do while hiking in slippery wet and ice covered terrain combined with his naturally top heavy state, we frequently leave the pack at home. We have easily put over 100 miles of wear on our Banzai Wolf Pack and it still looks new. We cannot recommend them enough and they are made to fit all dogs, from smaller breeds to dogs larger than Jackson. Check out Wolf Packs either in our photo gallery or on their website. Got a question? Give them a call, they are independently owned and operated and when you call, you will talk to a real person who will be able to help you. www.wolfpacks.com
All of Jackson's tags are made by Boomerang Tags. Boomerang tags have worn better than any other brand I have tried, including Red Dingo tags. They are well priced, made quickly, and shipped free! Boomerang Tags is independently owned and operated in the USA. www.boomerangtags.com
In some photos you might see a really big dog tag. The tag measures a little over 4" wide by 3" tall and is 3/16" thick stainless steel. I wanted Jackson to have a tag that people could actually see and I thought he could use some doggy bling. The tag was made by a very kind gentleman who refused to accept payment and instead asked that we give what he would normally charge to the rescue where we got Jackson. We happily did so and cannot thank him enough for his talent and generosity.
While most of my gear isn't of nearly as much interest to people as Jackson's gear, I do get a few questions. I will also list the gear I am currently using and gear we will be testing in the near future. If you have any questions or want more information, feel free to send us an email.
The question I get asked other than "what kind of dog is that" or "is that a polar bear", is most often is what kind of knife I carry. My knife can be seen in several photos and it is somewhat unique looking, not to mention downright large. I have never been much of a knife aficionado, but I know from experience that no tool is as widely adaptable as a good strong knife; this becomes especially true in a survival situation when tools and options are often limited. I also believe that for non combat purposes, a big knife can do everything that a small knife can, but a small knife cannot grow in size, which is why I carry a big block of steel with a sharp edge. After proving to Dan M. Certo that I have a natural ability to destroy practically anything, I asked that he make me a knife that would be as close to indestructible as possible (something that he specializes in) and would function as a camping, utility, and hunting knife, as well as a hatchet, crowbar, shovel, and ice axe. The steel also had to be something that could be submerged for long periods of time without rusting. After several weeks of planning and close to 50 email discussions regarding modifications to an existing design, Dan began work on my knife. The knife is hand forged from 1/4" thick CPMs30v steel and underwent triple thermo quenching, cryogenic treatment, and triple tempering for excellent strength and flexability. The knife has intergangible handles (organge or green) and titanium guard for weight reduction. The blade is approximately 11" long, 2" wide and 1/4" thick. Dan's knives are lifetime guaranteed against pretty much anything short of a phosphorous grenade or attack with a sledge hammer (his words), his service is beyond comparison, and I would trust his knives with my life (hence the reason I bought one!). The wait for one of Dan's knives is short in comparison with many other blade smiths of his caliber and more than worth it. Dan offers knives at various price points based on size, materials, and options, with his goal to make tools that are within reach of most deployed military personnel. I can't recommend Dan enough; he is a perfectionist with exceptional talent and customer service. Dan also donates several knives a year to deployed US military personnel through his Military Awards Program. Check out my knife in our photos or click here to see more info and detailed photos. You can also check Dan's website for more information about Relentless Knives www.relentlessknives.com.
After going through the a North Face boot which had excellent traction and comfort, but caused achilles tendon irritation, as well as trying out the overhyped and under engineered Zamberlan 760 Steep GT boot, I called REI for help. My needs were a bit complex. I needed a boot that had excellent anti roll support, excellent traction on slick wet surfaces (if such a thing exists), and a contoured heel area, that would support my foot, but ease pressure on my previously injured Achilles tendon. REI graciously took back the used Zamberlan boot and after some research on their end, suggested that I try the Salomon Quest 4D GTX.
As of October 2010, after approximately 75 trail miles, the Quest boots have done very well. The sole is much more gripping than almost all of the Vibram soles I have worn over the years. While, I’d still prefer more traction on wet smooth rock, I think I’d only find that in a water shoe which does not have near the support I need for hiking. The Salomon boot is extremely supportive, lightweight, and has tremendous anti roll stability. The boot feels like a sneaker, but stabilizes and supports like a backpacking boot. The only drawbacks I’ve found so far are that the tread does not come up the side of the outsole, so walking sideways on steep incline may be limited and there is also limited protection from thorns and sharp rocks on the sides of the boot. However, the breathability and flexibility is greatly increased due to these attributes as well. I don't know that these boots have the rigidity to support crampons, only time will tell. UPDATE: I ended up switching back to my North Face GTX boots for winter due to their rigidity and extra warmth. I am now wearing custom insoles that help with the tendon irritation, but I still feel some pain here and there. I plan to switch back to the Quests once the ice melts; they are far more comfortable for long hikes.
Other Noteworthy Gear Currently in Use
L.L. Bean 850 Ultralight Down Jacket - Best down jacket I've ever used, however it is extremely flammable (per L.L. Bean) and standing anywhere near a campfire is likely to produce burn holes through to the down from any ashes or ambers from the wind.
Mountain Hardware Mesa Pants
Craghoppers NosiLife Cargo Trousers - Great pants, but have weak zippers and the dry pouch isn't reliable.
Wilderness Tactical Products Original Instructor Belt
Brunton Elite Compass 15TDCL - Survived the wilderness and my wife washing and drying it!
Katadyn Pocket Water Filter - Simply awesome period.
Osprey Talon 33 backpack - I really like this pack, but I find most of the loops and accessory straps are either hard to reach or too small.
Julbo Sherpa Mountain Sunglasses - They work well for the price and are pretty durable.
Casio Pathfinder Atomic Solar Watch PAW1500GB-1
REI Quarter Dome T3 Plus Tent - Enough room for me, Jackson, a large pack, gear, and plenty of room to spare. I LOVE this tent.
Cabela's 3D Rectangle -30 Degree Sleeping Bag - Yes, its heavy and yes the zipper snags, but for car camping its nice and warm. Will it keep your warm at -30, no probably not, but it's still pretty darn warm and a great value.
A well stocked survival and first aid kit with items to numerous to mention - Has come in handy more times than I care to mention.
Thermarest Neoair Mattress - Upon seeing this for the first time my initial thought was "seriously, this flimsy thing is going to hold my weight?". Well, sure enough after several nights camping and getting stepped on by a 165 pound dog it is still holding strong. I don't know about the whole self inflating thing, but it doesn't take too many puffs to blow it up.
Osprey Aether 85 Pack - Tough as nails and versatile, just what I've come to expect from Osprey.
Gear Awaiting Testing
Sea to Summit Nylon Tarp / Poncho
Zamberlan 760 Steep GT Boots - Inexcusably poor traction on wet surfaces such as rocks and roots.
All leads that are not hands free
Mountain Hardware Flip 25 / 40 Sleeping Bag - It was light weight, it was a neat idea, but it wasnt nearly as warm as expected. Returned to L.L. Bean.