Chill out and recharge with these travel gear and gadgets
We are always on the hunt for lightweight, handy gear and gadgets to make our travels a breeze.
This summer on a backcountry canoeing/camping trip to British Columbia’s beautiful Slocan Lake, we tested out a few new items to see if they’ll be worth packing next time.
Cosmic Solar Charger – Yes, you’re supposed to be truly off the grid when you’re camping, but you may need to charge your e-book or keep your phone juiced for photo ops. We tried out the Cosmic Solar Charger and we were impressed. The solar-charged lithium polymer battery backup also has a flashlight – perfect for those inevitable midnight ambles through the woods to the biffy. It’s foldable, slim and feather light (26 cm by 15 cm and 1.5 cm thick), making it easily stowable in a side pocket of your backpack. We tested it on both an e-reader and a smart phone. A nearly depleted e-book and phone were at 100 per cent within a couple of hours thanks to the 2.1-amp power. There are a number of choices in the portable solar power realm, and some with more power – up to 25000 mAH. But for the $50 price tag, the Cosmic did the job.
RXBar – This new-ish protein bar has a simple ingredient list and it’s delicious. It became the quick and nutritious go-to snack on our trip, especially when you’re pushing through to your next campsite. It has neither the lengthy list of ingredients nor that strange chemical taste found on some other protein bars. Among the six flavours available in Canada, each has only three ingredients, clearly marked on the front of the package. My favourites: Chocolate Sea Salt (made from three egg whites, six almonds, four cashews, two dates and peanut butter – egg whites, 14 nuts, dates). If you don’t have time to make your own protein bars, you can stash a bunch of these in your pack for a satisfying snack. They are also gluten-, soy- and dairy-free. Available at major Canadian grocery stores, as well as MEC and London Drugs. The price is around $3 a bar.
Chillax Travel Hammock – We’ve been carting around an old-school rope hammock because it’s lightweight and stows away easily. But we don’t love it. So after we had a chance to borrow our camping buddies’ Chillax hammocks (they own a single and a double), we decided to make a beeline to buy these when we got back to civilization. Made of durable parachute silk, they pack up small in a handy sack that’s secured to the hammock so you won’t misplace it. The little sack also doubles as place to stow your keys or phone, or maybe a can of beer. These hammocks are roomy and super comfortable. You could even sleep in one overnight. It comes with a sturdy SmartHook system made of glass fibre, which means you don’t need to know any fancy knots to affix it to a tree. It also does double duty as a beach or picnic blanket. Available on amazon.ca and Costco for around $60.
Dine, drink and be entertained at an old-school fall harvest
Back in the day, western farmers didn’t have much time for a relaxing dinner and drinks come harvest time. It was all work and no play, until the harvest was done. But a fun and modern twist on bringing in the barley harvest is happening on Sept. 15.
Eau Claire Distillery, Alberta’s first craft distillery located in Turner Valley, invites guests to channel their inner pioneer and lend a hand harvesting and threshing barley just like they did 100 years ago – by horse and wagon. The product of your efforts will go into the next batch five years out of Eau Claire’s whisky.
The day begins at 12:30 p.m. as you learn how to thresh by hand the seven-acre barley crop that grows behind the Turner Valley distillery. This is light, hands-on work and your efforts will be rewarded with a light lunch and samples of Eau Claire’s spirits. David Farran, owner and proprietor of the distillery, says the fall harvest dinner is the wrap-up event for their outdoor dinner series that went on all summer. With the newly-acquired seven acres out back, they’ve got more room to host guests. There will be 15 to 20 draught horses driven by teamsters and “we’ll be putting pitchforks in guests’ hands to make them a part of it. We want it to be very participatory,” says Farran. Guests can also check out the botanical garden where Eau Claire grows juniper, coriander and apples, some of the various plants that go into their lineup of spirits.
The harvest part of the day ends around 4 p.m. with the option to stay on for the harvest dinner prepared by Calgary chef Judy Wood. The dinner includes craft cocktails and live music. Wood’s menu features Alberta-grown and raised foods, such as beef, roasted chicken corn on the cob and harvest vegetables. Dessert will be ice cream made on a horse-powered treadmill. (We are not making this up!)
“Harvest time by mid-September is the peak of good that comes out of Alberta,” says Wood.
Taste and learn about whisky in the mountains: The Banff Whisky Experience is your chance to learn about and sample some of Canada’s and the world’s best brown spirits in the Rocky Mountains. The event happens Sept. 13 and 14 at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Fifteen master classes will be led by industry experts from more than 60 distilleries, including Banff’s Park Distillery, as well as others from Scotland. You’ll learn what pairs well with whiskies. The Grand Tasting on Sept. 14 is the signature event with food.
Tickets for both the Master Classes and the Grand Tasting are limited and can be found at www.banffwhiskyexperience.com. Hotel packages are also available.
Eden Valley Days celebrate Indigenous culture
Join the Stoney Nakoda Nation for a family friendly celebration of Indigenous culture from Sept. 27 to 29. It’s being held at the Eden Valley reserve about 20 minutes west of Longview.
The three-day event, part of Alberta Culture Days, features a long list of events each day. There will be cultural food tastings and demos, powwows, craft exhibition, pancake breakfasts a two-step dance party, pancake breakfasts and a traditional feast.
For details, check out the Facebook page.
Travel Like This editor Lisa Monforton is an award-winning Calgary-based travel writer. Follow @lisamonforton on Instagram and Twitter.