Welcome to our website. Anna and I review products we use while exploring the outdoors. We hope you find the site useful and enjoyable. Check back often for new content and updates. If you have questions about the site, comments, or would like us to review your product, feel free to email us at: Ken@GearTechReviews.com.
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Samyang 135mm f2 Lens
I’ll probably be talking about the Samyang 135mm f2 fixed prime lens for a while because this lens is simply amazing. I’m used to fast lenses having some chromatic abberation. I’ve had the Sigma 300mm f2.8 and it had a good bit of chromatic abberation at 2.8 and even stopped down. I’ve had the Nikon 180mm f2.8 and it had very disappointing CA, especially at 2.8. I have a Zeiss 80-200mm f4 converted to Nikon and it as well has some chromatic aberration. This Samyang however does not. And it’s a $500 lens brand new. Samyang has really achieved something special here.
Not only does the lens not suffer from CA but it’s also the sharpest lens I’ve ever used. Even at f2. In fact I only stop the lens down when I need more depth of field. The photo on the left is a pic I took of Anna. I’ve got so many pics from this lens, it’s just a matter of getting them all online. I’ve got so many pics because this is really the only lens I use anymore. It’s puts all of my other lenses to shame. The only downside is you’re stuck with manual focus. Sure I loose some shots because of this but the shots I nail I really nail. The only downside with the manual focus is that it doesn’t compare to the feel of my Zeiss 80-200mm f4. Samyang could take some pointers from old manual focus lenses like the Zeiss, or Nikons old 75-300mm. The Samyang has a small focus ring like newer AF lenses where manual focus wasn’t really the focus (no pun intended). Other than that, this lens is optically superior to anything I’ve used in the past. My full review will be up shortly.
Luray Cabin – Thursday, June 2nd, 2016
Last weekend Anna and I stayed at a beautiful cabin in Luray, Virginia. The cabin is managed by Anna’s father and is tucked right on the side of a mountain. The view from the cabin was incredible. I tried to get the best photos I could but they still don’t do the cabin justice. If you’re planning on being in the Luray area or even if you just want to find an amazing weekend getaway I highly recommend this spot. The cabin rents for $200 per night and is well worth the price. It can sleep at least 6 currently but even more if you get creative, as in the couch or tenting on the property. The river is about a 10 minute drive if you’re into fishing and kayaking like us. I managed to get some GoPro video of our Kayaking I might upload later. I also tried to get some GoPro video of the cabin from the air by tying it to helium balloons and letting them up with string. It didn’t work out because our string kept getting knotted and pulling the balloons down until they finally crashed and popped in the brush. If you’re wondering, the GoPro takes about 20 twelve-inch helium balloons to lift. I want to give this balloon idea more thought though. We’ll probably have more GoPro helium balloon videos shortly. Anyway, look at the amazing view from that cabin! Email me if you’d like info about how to book it.
Coleman Highline II 4 Person Tent – Monday, May 23rd, 2016
This week I’m reviewing the Coleman Highline II 4 person tent. I’ve been using this tent for a few months now and find it to be a great general purpose dome tent suitable for most camping needs. The spot I’ve setup in today has a dead tree I’m not too fond of so I’ve setup right next to the car and in-line with the tree.
Ideally I’d like to get a new camping spot but the park is closed for the day. I figure if the tree were to fall it would smash the car and not me. Hopefully. And sleeping in line with the tree gives you the best odds of it not landing on you. It’s not really leaning this way but you never know. It’s raining a lot so setting up on the parking pad has the added benefit of keeping me out of the mud. Anyway, I’ll have the full tent review up shortly. I’m liking this tent for its simplicity.
Ozark Trail 2 Person 4 Season Dome Tent – Monday, May 16th, 2016
This week I’ve been reviewing a new 4 season tent from Ozark Trail. This is from Walmarts line of camping gear and I must say, I’m pretty impressed. It’s not often you can find a 4 season tent able to handle the weight of snow for $50. That’s right, I picked up this tent from Walmart for only $50. Granted, it’s only a two person tent, but that’s kind of the point since it’s made for backpacking. The only downside I’ve found so far is it can get a bit warm and stuffy inside. This is because the rainfly is massive! It fully envelopes the tent all the way to the ground, as it should for snow and heavy rain. I’d suggest other tents for dry summer camping but if you’re going to be out in the rain this tent is great. I have nothing yet to say about the tents snow worthiness since it’s May.
Camping for the summer – Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
I’m back to camping for the summer. I’ve actually been camping for the past month but so tired after work that I usually just go back to the tent and sleep. Well, not entirely, I’ve actually gotten some great deer photos. At least I think they are great. They may be average. Here’s a shot of a deer I took a few weeks ago: Deer on the Perkiomen Trail. I’ve been doing quite a bit of nature photography after work just before sunset and a bit after. I’ve been using the Samyang 135mm f2 because it has the range I need paired with exceptional low light capabilities. This is also the sharpest lens I’ve ever used. Sharper than any Nikon I’ve used and I hear it’s even sharper than the Zeis 135mm f2. That’s really impressive. It’s manual so I do loose some shots but the ones I nail I really nail. I’ll be putting up a review of that lens shortly. Here’s another shot from the Samyang 135 f2 of a few baby geese from the Bear Branch Nature Center in Carroll County Maryland I took last week: Baby Geese Some other things I’ll be reviewing include my new Coleman single burner stove and a new 4 person tent of mine, also by Coleman. This tent handled a crazy thunderstorm lastnight easily. The storm was so bad I almost braved getting soaked to go sleep in the car. I was a tad worried of getting struck by lightening or having a tree fall on me. The tent did amazingly well though. No water inside at all. I believe this is due to Coleman’s WeatherTech technology. More on that in the review. By the way, I tore my ACL and had to have it reconstructed. That’s the reason for the bionic leg in the photo to the left.
Leopold BX-1 Mckenzie 8×42 Binoculars – Saturday, March 26th, 2016
After six months of using Leupolds BX-1 Mckenzie binoculars I think it’s safe to say they will always keep a place in my gear bag. Well, until something sharper, lighter, and better comes out in the same price range. If that happens they’ll probably be made by Leupold as well. I find myself always reaching for these binoculars when I need a decent lightweight pair for scouting wildlife to photograph. The images are so crisp and contrasty. Looking through the binoculars is much more pleasurable than looking through my much more expensive 300mm camera lens, and 300(1.5)/50 is 9x for anyone is interested. Granted my camera lens is not wide open while viewing so the images are going to be darker anyway but I often find myself resolving critters with these binoculars that I can’t see when I pick up the camera to photograph them. To me that equals very sharp optics in these $160 binoculars. I highly recommend them. Click the photo to the left for a more detailed review.
Updates for the fall camping season – Monday, October 12th, 2015
Fall is here, even though it’s still pretty hot on the East Coast. We’ve got a variety of new products to review including the Trek Marlin 6 mountain bike for getting deep into foot-powered off-road adventures, The Sigma 300mm 2.8 lens for wildlife photography (Image to the left shot with this lens the other day), a new powerpack by Honycomb which should keep your cell phone going for days, and an adjustable arm for the GoPro which allows you to grab on to and shoot video from almost anything. As usual the fall season has me excited for the fishing, the camping, and the much needed cooler weather.
North Star Covers – Thursday, September 10, 2015
I recently began reviewing products for North Star Covers, a company that manufactures custom fit boat covers and other accessories. The first product I’ve been reviewing is the Boat Vent II. What’s great about a boat cover is that a good cover protects from moister, sunlight, and the environment. Unfortunetly a cover that keeps moisture out usually also keeps moisture in. The Boat Vent II is a well thoughout device that lets moisture escape from your boat without letting the rain back in. My initial tests of this product are very promissing. Review to come shortly.
Subaru Crosstrek – Thursday, August 13, 2015
My old Subaru had 300,000 miles on it and was in need of new shocks. Anna and I were on the way to the parts store when I decided instead to head to the dealership and make a trade. I traded up to a 2013 Subaru Crosstrek Limited and am very happy with it. This crossover reports the highest gas mileage of any AWD vehicle, and has plenty of room for all of our camping gear. If you’re in need of a new(er) vehicle I highly recommend the Crosstrek, or any Subaru for that matter. Great for getting off the grid.
Coleman 6 person fast pitch tent – Monday June 22, 2015
I’ve endured about two weeks of camping in the Coleman 6 person fast pitch tent and I don’t really have many complaints. This tent has a screened-in porch which I could do without. Before purchasing a tent with a screened-in porch you should ask yourself if the added time of unzipping two doors every time is worth having a screened-in porch. For me I’d rather just sit in the tent with the window covers unzipped. The zipper for the porch screen is also difficult to open one handed because you need your other hand to appose the upward force of pulling. This makes entering the tent while carrying gear next to impossible. Other than this minor inconvenience the tent has been great; a few thunderstorms have come through the past two weeks and I’ve stayed completely dry.
Movo Camera vest for nature photography – Sunday June 14th, 2015
With all the camping I do I also shoot a lot of nature pics. I’ve tried a lot of long prime lenses for far off shots as well as bird photography but I really prefer getting up close and personal with larger animals, like deer. I’ve been looking for an option to carry the Nikon 70-200mm lens as well as another camera with the 18-105 VR lens in case I want wider shots. While researching vests which would allow me to carry two cameras I came across the Movo camera vest for $40. I’ve never used a camera vest before and didn’t quite know what to expect. Cotton Carrier vest are the standard in this range of products but their vest are close to $200. I decided to buy the Movo vest on Ebay and hope for the best. The vest arrived a few days later so Anna and I took it on a hike. I don’t yet have a second camera for the side holster but it made carrying my camera with the Nikon 70-200mm VR a breeze. You simply attach the supplied adapters to the tripod threads on your camera (or lens if it has one) and slide into place. To remove the camera you simply rotate your gear sideways and pull straight up. There are also safety straps incase something fails. The only problem I have with the safety straps is that the shoulder straps they attached to get velcro’d to the back of the vest. That means everything is held together with velcro and if it fails you’re SOL. I would prefer them to be stitched to the back instead of velcro’d. I might actually make this modification myself. I’m curious if the Cotton Carrier is designed the same way.
Camping instead of renting – Saturday June 13th, 2015
It’s the middle of June and I’ve been camping since the end of April, a little over a month and a half. My lease was up the end of April and I decided to camp for a week while looking for another apartment. A week turned into a month and now I’m seriously considering camping the entire summer. Everyone at work thinks I’m crazy for camping this long but to me it’s second nature. I’m also saving a ton of money not having to pay rent somewhere. I purchased a Coleman 6 person fast-pitch dome tent thinking it would be easier to setup and break down than my carriage style tent. My first night setting it up was in the dark and in the middle of a thunderstorm so it probably took me a lot longer than it should have. I’ll have a review of the tent as well as Coleman’s Fast-Pitch technology shortly. I think they must have two variations of the technology because mine looks nothing like a video I saw online for a larger tent. A co-worker also gave me a portable air conditioner for these hot summer nights. I’ve been using the ice-cooler and fan method up until now.
Overall I’m really enjoying living out in nature. It does take a lot more preparation (especially when you have to go to work everyday) than renting an apartment, but not having a lease or mortgage is a great way to save money. It’s also giving me the opportunity to review many more camping products than when I was only camping on the weekends.
Bird watching and astronomy – Monday March 30th, 2015
Two things I love to do while camping are bird watching during the day and star gazing at night. I have a pair of 10×42 waterproof binoculars from Field & Stream which have served me well for both purposes so far, however; I caught the magnification bug and wanted more power. I bought a pair of 15×70 binoculars by Celestron for $120. They are the Calvary edition and are both waterproof and fog proof. Having 70mm lenses they are a bit on the large size but still easily manageable handheld. They also have the screw for a tripod adapter if you’d like to use a tripod. Anna loves these binoculars, as you can see in the photo. They certainly get you closer to the action, the birds, and the stars at night. Naturally, after using them for about a week I started wondering how large I could go. Lucky for me, Celestron also makes a pair of 25×100 binoculars. I purchased them for about $200 from B&H photo. They came about a day later since I live so close to New York. I must say, I found the largest pair of binoculars I would ever consider using. These boarder on the edge of absurd for handheld use. I definitely recommend a sturdy binocular tripod (the tripod with counterweights and an arm, allowing you to look straight up without the tripod in the way) if you’re going to use them for any amount of time. Each eyepiece focuses independently as well, which is fine while on a tripod but cumbersome if you’re trying to use them handheld. That being said, they’ve opened up a whole new world for astronomical viewing will camping. They’re basically two telescopes bound together. I should have reviews of both the Celestron 15×70 binoculars and the 25×100 Celestron Binoculars up shortly.
Last day in Hawaii – Saturday March 28th, 2015
This is my last day here in Hawaii. I’ve got a lot of good video from the GoPro. Anna says I look unhappy in this photo, certainly not but looks that way I suppose. Here is some GoPro video I shot snorkeling at Haunama Bay: GoPro at Haunama Bay. I’ve found the Gopro head strap not ideal for snorkeling with the GoPro because the placement causes the camera to be out of the water for some of the time. The head strap was perfect for diving though. I should have that video up when I get back to PA. I got the best snorkeling shots by taking off the strap and just holding the camera in my hand.
Hiking and Diving in Hawaii with GoPro – Wednesday March 25th, 2015
I’ve been in Hawaii the past few days. The weather, friends, and family, have all been great to see. I picked up the basic GoPro which can record up to 1080p for $129. It was an easy choice because I don’t need wifi or the other options of the models between this GoPro and the GoPro Hero 4 which sells for $500 and has the benefit of shooting in 4k. I’ve noticed the video at its highest setting (1080p at 30fps) looks a bit choppy when I walk. The next option is 720p at 60fps. I’ll give that a try on the Maunawili falls hike to see if it cuts out the choppiness. Today I’m taking it on a reef dive. I snorkeled Kailua and Eternity Beach with it using the chest strap. I’m not sure the chest strap will be the best option for diving since the view would be locked straight down wile swimming horizontal. I also picked up the head strap so I might try that instead. With the head strap the camera will point wherever I look which might make more sense, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my mask.
The Search For Deer – Tuesday March 3rd, 2015
Spring is almost here, even though it’s freezing outside. Over the next few weeks I’ll be spending the early morning hours in the woods looking for deer to photograph. In Maryland I had a nice spot for this but now that I’m in a suburb of Philadelphia I have to find new deer hangout spots. There’s a spot by the apartment where I’m constantly seeing a buck and 3 or 4 females. Photographing deer up close is no easy task and takes camouflage, timing, luck, and the right wind conditions. This new laundry detergent doesn’t help, I’ll probably need to wash everything a few times with a scent remover. If things go well, or even if they go not so well, I might add a little section to the site covering my search for great deer pics, or mundane run-of-the-mill deer pics, I’ll be happy with either. I’ll be using the Nikon D90 with the 300mm f4 Nikon lens. – Update (May 21st 2016) – I’ve found the perfect spot for photographing deer. Every night I see at least 10 deer and have gotten some great pics. I’m no longer using the 300mm f4. I’m actually getting close enough to start using my 135mm f2, which is great because I’m always catching these deer when light levels are low.
Electric Heaters for Winter Camping – Sunday January 4th, 2015
Like bears hibernating, winter is kind of an off season for Anna and I. We live in the North East where camping in the winter is usually a miserable experience at best. Winter does offer snowboarding, skiing, and hot chocolate, but this winter has been more rain than anything else. Since the slopes aren’t ready for us there is luckily another option for keeping us warm at camp, the electric space heater. We have to find a campsite with electricity, but if we do it offers a great option for keeping us warm on cold winter nights. I don’t really enjoy the sound of loud electric fan style heaters while I’m trying to sleep. A much better option is the radiant oil filled styled heaters like this heater at the HomeDepot. These heaters take longer to heat an area but are completely silent. It’s important to keep these heaters away from tent fabric, but that goes for any heater. I’m surprised most camping stores offer only propane heating options which can’t be used in tents. If you want to camp during the winter months and can’t find electricity there is always the hot rock from the campfire option, but I prefer constant radiant heat from a heater. I also like to drape a canvas tarp over the tent so the heat stays trapped, not as much of an issue with a good 4-season tent but every bit of heat loss matters.
Quarrow 70 Lumen Head Lamp – Tuesday August 26th, 2014
This head lamp is bright, well made, and a bargain at $16. Even better though, it’s on sale this week at BassProShops for $10. Check it out here: Quarrow 70 Lumen Head Lamp. My page reads $16 but if you click it you’ll see it’s $10 this week at BassPro. I have so many head lamps that friends wonder why I’m always buying them. It’s not only that I have this review site but also that extra head lamps really come in handy because I can put one everywhere I might be; the car, multiple backpacks, multiple rooms, I just always seem to have one nearby when needed. This particular head lamp is great because of it’s overhead strap and 70 lumen output, features you usually only get with more expensive head lamps.
Shenandoah National Park – Friday August 22nd, 2014
This weekend we’re heading to Shenandoah for camping and to explore the many caverns in the area. The park is about a 3 hour drive from us. With all of these road trips I really want to add a CB radio to the Subaru but Anna keeps telling me they belong on trucks. I’m sure it might look odd but I don’t mind. Since the Subaru is all wheel drive maybe I’d fit in on channel 4. I’ve been places in that thing where a jeep would have been stuck or flipped over.
Tick Season – Tuesday May 6th, 2014
Spring is here and we’ve all caught the camping bug (no pun intended). With lyme disease in the back of our minds, Anna and I are always looking for natural yet effective bug and tick repellants. Even with diligent tick checks you never know when a tiny deer tick might slip by and make a meal of your head, or other less noticeable area.
One product offering a natural solution is Badger’s Anti-Bug Sunscreen. The lotion offers bug protection with the added benefit of sun protection. Instead of artificial chemicals like DEET, Badger uses essential oils such as citronella and cedar to ward off pesky insects.
Grab a tube before your next camping trip or outing. If not Anti-Bug Sunscreen, at least take some kind of repellent. Tick borne illnesses like lyme disease can be life changing, and not in a good way. Luckily with the proper repellents, self and two person tick checks, and proper clothing, you can drop your chances of contracting a tick borne illness dramatically.
FM 21-76 Field Manual – Friday May 2nd, 2014
In the coming weeks Anna and I are going to be selecting chapters from the Army’s FM 21-76 Field Manual to showcase while out in the woods. We’ll have a series of youtube videos demonstrating the techniques outlined, or more specifically, our interpretation and best attempt at the techniques outlined in the FM 21-76. It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully spark ideas for your next camping trip with the kids.
Goal Zero Switch – Friday April 25th, 2014
[Update – I’ve noticed the Goal Zero Switch won’t charge from a cars usb plug. I’ve had this problem before with certain devices not allowing a charge from a cars usb plug. This could become a problem wile traveling. It’s possible only my copy is bad, I’m not really sure.]
I’ve recently purchased the Goal Zero Switch rechargeable battery pack for use with our Goal Zero 7 solar panel. I’ll have the review up shortly. Overall the device seems to be working nicely. It won’t fully charge my Samsung Galaxy S4 but will bring it from zero to about fifty percent battery life on one charge. You can also charge the unit from any usb port. This review will likely have a video component as I’m in the process of adding video reviews to many of our reviews.
New Gear – Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Warm weather is finally here in the East. We’ve got a lot of new gear to review on our next camping trip, plus a few pieces of gear on our wish list to showcase. Anna has a few new things for her birthday to review but she doesn’t know it yet. I’m sure I do too since our birthdays fall on the same day and the outdoors is what we do.
Codorus State Park – Monday, October 21st, 2013
Over the weekend Anna and I camped at Codorus State Park in Pennsylvania. It’s a 3500 acre park complete with a huge lake, hunting, hiking trails, and camping areas. We setup in a great location; close to the bathrooms, close to the lake, and yet still in the woods. We Kayaked all day Saturday and made smores by the campfire at night. It was Anna’s first time in a Kayak so she was pretty sore the next day.
We tried out a new Coleman air mattress over the weekend (review to come shortly), which held up nicely. The nights were pretty cold though, dipping into the 30’s. We’ll have to pick up a good 4-season tent and heating options if we want to camp anymore this year.
Here’s a pic of our little setup: Ken & Anna’s Campsite at Codorus.
And a pic of us after getting our fire started: By the campfire at Codorus.