Best Bike Hitch Mount for Family of 5: Allen Sports Hitch

Takes what you can throw at it…

My kids finally got old enough to all be riding bikes. Had to find some way to carry all those bikes and this hitch mount works great!

This particular version even locks so that no one runs off with the whole thing. Although, let me tell you…this thing is super sturdy because 5 bikes are HEAVY!

Links of the Week (7/13/2020)

Climbing and travel planning…who wouldn’t want to read these links?

“Don’t kill your husband, don’t kill yourself.”

“Don’t kill your husband, don’t kill yourself.”

“Don’t kill your husband, don’t kill yourself.”

This mantra looped in my head as I led out on some of the worst stone I’ve encountered in my 24 years of climbing.

I have my own mantra I use while climbing…luckily it was never this ☝️. Great story and makes me miss home.

Wild Kingdom: Katie Lambert Explores the Remote, Seldom-Visited Citadel

As a climber who doesn’t plan on breaking any records or even leading a 5.12 any time soon, I seek out the 5.10-and-under climbs at my local cliffs. I like climbs that don’t make me contemplate my mortality on every move, as I suspect most of us do as well. Still, the media so often focuses on the climbers ticking 5.15s—the Adam Ondras and Margo Hayeses—when so few of us attain these grades. Perhaps the climbers who make it possible for us to enjoy mellower climbs—our favorite 5.8, 5.9, and 5.10 sport routes—also deserve credit.

Amen to that!

The Mod Squad: The Tireless Climbers Establishing Moderate Sport Routes Around the Country

For my trip planning, I almost exclusively use Gaia GPS for researching, routing and tracking my adventures. I will go through some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way, along with some of the features of Gaia GPS.

I really enjoy Gaia GPS and subscribe to it for all of the MVUM (motor vehicle use maps) stuff. This is an article I’ll be referencing for a while.

So you want to map your adventure with Gaia GPS… — Explore4R

Thomas Frank’s productivity videos are watched by nearly 2 million subscribers. For every video, he writes scripts, collects b-roll and manages distribution so that every video is high quality and finds the right audience. Notion helps him and his growing team organize all these moving parts, freeing up more time for him to focus on the creative work.

Notion is one of those apps that I wanted to use but couldn’t find a use for….well that has ended for me. Notion has now replaced Noto, a note taking app that I was particularly enthralled with for a short period but it’s short comings started driving me crazy.

I’ll be writing about Notion more, but in the meantime you should check it out. (spoiler…I partly use it to plan trips in conjunction with Gaia maps)

Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.

Yeti 200X: The Perfect Power Station to Keep You Charged For the Weekend

Great for all your short, multi-day needs…

Goal Zero is known for it’s consumer friendly and quality solar solutions to gas generators.

I’ve been eying Goal Zero stuff for a while, and had even bought an older version of the Guide 10 Kit back in the day. As these power stations got more popular with the rise of overlanding and the #vanlife, my interested was renewed.

I really wanted to go for the Yeti 500x or even Yeti 1000…but I could not justify them for my budget…ie. my wife. 😂

As much as I dream about gearing up and knocking out a bunch of overloading trips with my family, my real world use case is still more along the lines of a long weekend trip.

Yeti 200X: Perfect for my family use cases.

In reality, I needed to be able to recharge phones, apple watches, and power some cool led light strips I bought for my car and/or campsite. The Yeti 200X actually fit the bill perfectly.

On my last camping trip, I was able to recharge phones, smart watches, headlamps, even my DSLR camera batteries for the whole weekend…and I only ever got down to 47% or so. I did buy the Goal Zero car charger, charging it for a quick jaunt to a nearby damn overlook.

Solar Panel to Go With It

image via Goal Zero

I also bought the Nomad 50 Solar Panel to go with the 200x. I wanted to buy the Nomad 100…but I wanted a solar panel that had a USB direct charger to it…and for some reason the Nomad 50 does and the Nomad 100 does not.

It can charge the Yeti 200X in about 5-10hours with full sunlight. Enough to top it off or bring it up throughout the day if you’re worried about it.

Highly recommend checking out this little powerhouse. You’re starting to see Goal Zero’s Yeti “X line” (as I call them) which has USB-C ports as well as USB-C power delivery for fast charging.

Check them all out here:

BioLite Camping Lites Follow-Up

Got to use these a bit…

A couple weeks ago I wrote about BioLite camp lights and all of the various options they have.

I took them with me on a recent camping trip and the SiteLite Minis were a huge hit with my family. We strung them inside of our big family sized REI tent and when it was raining in the later afternoon and evening on a couple of the days, I had the Minis powered by the Base Lantern XL that I got on sale over Memorial Day weekend.

Part of what I was trying to figure out was what all we would actually use and what would end up staying in the bin of camping gear. The minis and the baselantern worked great.

BioLite Headlamps

Before the trip, I broke down and bought my kids new rechargeable headlamps from BioLite too. I was tired of the batteries in their cheap headlamps running out and having to buy new batteries.

These were another hit with the family as my kids loved having their own headlamps …and I didn’t have to worry about them running out of juice since I could just recharge them from the BaseLantern XL.

Win win.

Overall Impressions

I like them.

They’re a super fun addition to the campsite, not completely necessary (except headlamps in my opinion) but they are nice to have.

I liked having the BaseLantern XL as that also serves as a powerbrick should I need to recharge basically anything…plus the light it puts off is great.

If you’re looking for a fun campsite addition to your gear box…I would recommend these lights for sure.

image via BioLite

Best LED Rope for the Outdoors? Luminoodle Basecamp

These things are so freakin cool…

I started researching outdoor lighting back when I stumbled across the Biolite Mini and I was planning my first real camping trip with my whole family.

I had actually book marked another led light string (from Lightforce that I’ll link here) that I purchased…but like most research I do on gadgets…I couldn’t stop. Somehow I stumbled across a top 10 list and the Luminoodle caught my eye.

This was actually a Kickstarter campaign back in 2015 and the company has continued to grow from the original product line.

The Basecamp version is 20 feet long, has a remote to control brightness and colors, and runs off of a 12v socket (or 12v battery pack…not all usb battery packs are 12v).

Let me tell you…1000 lumens of leds really lights up a campground.

Check them all out here (not affiliate links).

How to HANDLE the STRESS of MOVING your Family

Moving is one of the most stressful things in life…

Google “the most stressful things in life” and you get the below:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Major illness or injury
  • Job loss

It always blows my mind that moving is up there with things like divorce or job loss. But let me tell you, as someone who has moved his family a few times now…it’s true.

The Good and Bad of Living All Over the United States

An experience I wouldn’t trade…but…

It’s hard.

I just want to get that out in the open right away. If you come back here on Friday, I’m posting a video I made about handling the stress of moving your family.

Photo by Belle Co on

You can probably guess some of the good things though.

  • Living in a new area
  • Making new friends
  • Experiencing new parts of American culture
  • Traveling to places you may not have otherwise

Honestly, as a kid who was born and raised in California, I never thought that I’d live in states like Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Tennessee. If I hadn’t met my wife (from the east coast) I woudnt have spent as much time as I have in other states like Florida or New Jersey.

One of my favorite things about actually living around the US, is getting to learn about the different values that people have.

We are an incredibly diverse nation made up of almost countless experiences and backgrounds.

I love it!


Photo by Pixabay on

Right on dude!

In California, the vibe is different. The people and policies tend to be more liberal (for both better and worse in my opinion), health and wellness feels more front and center, and culturally it feels more like a melting pot with heavy influences of that surfer/outdoorsy vibe mixed with vibrant mexican culture.

I love California and I loved growing up there.

I miss it often…but honestly…I’m glad I don’t have to raise my kids there nowadays. There are things that are creeping in to the public school system that I am not a fan of. (I’ll leave it at that)

I wish I could give my family the same “live outside” lifestyle I had growing up in the Golden State…but I’ll make due.


Photo by Trisha Downing on Unsplash

Ya’ll come back now!

I had college room mates that were from Tennessee and Alabama and all I learned about the south was the accent and country music that I didn’t quite understand.

However, once I lived there, I started to get it. There really is a sense of southern hospitality that permeates through daily interactions with other people. You will hear sir and ma’am much more often than on the west coast, local food is more focused on flavor than “being organic” (southern bbq anyone?), and the summers are crazy hot…and humid.

Living in Tennessee was the first time I ever lived somewhere that I noticed the strong demographic differences of the locals. No getting around it…where I lived was primarily black and white. Not many other races or ethnicities to be found. (not in large numbers anyways)

This surprised me the most. I always thought that living in California I was used to the melting pot that is central and southern cali. However, living in the south was the first time I ever noticed it…and not (in my experience) in a negative way…I just noticed it. I’m not sure how else to put it.

Oh…and on Sundays…nothing is open before noon. It’s smack in the middle of the Bible Belt there. This was something I actually appreciated.

There was definitely a sense of pride amongst the friends I made that were from the area…they lived in Tennessee and they were proud of it!


Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Rugby, sailing, and crab cakes.

My college years were spent in Maryland so I wouldn’t say I experienced it as much as if I was working and living there.

However, I can say it felt very “New England” for lack of a more succinct descriptor. This was my first time living anywhere with 4 distinct seasons…which for a Cali kid…was quite novel. It felt like the people who lived there either worked in Washington D.C., were wealthier people who owned a sailboat, or were locals who had a local crabbing license that was passed down through 3 generations of their family. (those are apparently very hard to get)

Being such a small state, my friends and I were often on short road trips to other colleges that promised a party and cheap alcohol (like many college kids). And there seemed to be A LOT of good colleges in the reigon.

Overall, I would say that if sailing and seafood are your thing and you don’t want to venture all the way up to New England, this is a great place to be.


By Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA – Endless Mountains Landscape (1), CC BY 2.0,

Beautiful hills, gritty honesty, and long winters.

I’ve been living in PA for about a year now, and there are a couple things that surprised me.

First, was how straightforward the people tend to be. I guess I should have expected this, as my wife’s family is from Pittsburgh, PA and they are very much like this…but it is quite evident that most folks here aren’t afraid to tell you what they think without sugar coating it.

Second is how long winter lasts…and how long it feels. Even though I am only about a 6 hour drive from where I went to college in Maryland, the winter here is no joke and much harsher than I expected. Where I live averages about 100 inches of snow a year, it gets cold in November and stays cold till May, and everyone has a story of “that one year we got 60 inches of snow in 24 hours!”.

And the summers….O-M-G…the summers are amazing. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a summer as nice we have in northwestern Pennsylvania.

You will definitely get an outdoorsman vibe here too (more hardcore than the REI style of California). Hunting and fishing is big here and those from the state, are proud of the history that is part and parcel of this very hilly countryside.

The family culture here is sort of similar to what I experienced in Tennessee…but more reservedly so. It’s tough to put my finger on it. I feel like the people here don’t shy away from “the grind” and that if 4 people from the states I’ve named here got in a fight…the Pennsylvanian would come out on top.


While I haven’t lived in too many other states, I have spent a decent amount of time in other locations due to my work and extended family.

Places like New Jersey, New York, and Florida – to name some of the more common ones. And I enjoy aspects of each.

While my heart still belongs to my home state of California, I will say that I am a better person for the experiences I’ve had. Even as tough as it is to pick up and move every couple years, explaining to my kids why we have to move again, and the mountain load of work it takes to uproot a family of 5…I am glad to have this life.

It’s not always comfortable…but it forces me to examine what matters, what is truly important, and where I have yet to go.

As Socrates once said…

The unexamined life is not worth living.

You Want the Best Traveler’s Notebook? Start Here.

If you ever hunt for buried treasure…this is your notebook…

I jumped down this rabbit hole a while back and got lost in the sea of the “Traveler’s Notebook” community.

There is the “official” Traveler’s notebook from the Traveler’s Company based out of Japan, and then there are a bunch of others that have iterated off of their brand.

I had no idea that there were whole communities built around something so small…correction…something so complicated. I ended up with the smaller, blue version of the original that I use at work and then have the below larger version (from another company) for some personal journaling.

Check them out here and here.