Gear Test: Backpack Chair, Hot Water on Demand, and TravelJohn

January 6, 2004
Filed under Camp Furniture, Camping Gear, Misc. Camping Gear, Water & Hydration

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The Backpack Chair by Blue Ridge Chair Works (877/218-1731; blueridgechair.com) in Asheville, North Carolina, looks like most other traditional models of folding wood-framed/canvas sling-seat camping chairs. But this one is different. It earns its keep.

Attached onto the back of the ash hardwood frame is a section of canvas with two smaller pockets and one large pouch — big enough to carry light picnic supplies, a small throw blanket, sack of munchies, camera — you name it! All this folds into a framework that can be carried on one’s back using adjustable, 2-inch-wide shoulder straps. The chair’s ash frame is finished in Danish oil and is indeed built with “Southern Appalachian craftsmanship” to quote the company’s brochure.

The Backpack Chair comes in forest green or navy blue, and retails for $149. The Backpack Chair family includes the Blue Ridge Chair (with shoulder sling) and the Sling Recliner. Complementing the company’s line of folding camp chairs are two camping tables.

A nearly 300-pound load (I am 6 feet, 7 inches tall) in this chair did not cause it to moan or wiggle. It was very comfortable and could be adjusted to several positions. If you want a camp chair that is more than a pad on the ground or a metal-tube contraption that looks like a television antenna having a seizure, this is the chair for you — it’s classy, comfortable and convenient.

— Tom Watson

Looking for a quick way to warm water for washing hands or dishes? Dying for a hot shower after a dusty day on the trail? If so, Hot Water On Demand from The Coleman Company (800/835-3278; coleman.com) is ready to deliver.

A portable heater intended to transform cold water to hot in an instant, the unit runs on disposable 16.4-ounce propane canisters and a rechargeable battery. Water is transferred from a small pump at the end of a flexible hose to a heat exchanger and is then dispelled from a swing-away faucet. According to Coleman, the unit heats water in less than 10 seconds. This fall I tested the outfit at home as well as during an elk hunting trip in the mountains of Montana. Here’s what I found.

The speed at which Hot Water On Demand heats water is truly amazing. In my at-home tests, water temperature increased from 63 degrees (F) to 138 degrees in 10 seconds, achieving a maximum temperature of nearly 150 degrees after a few more seconds. In camp, I attached the optional spray head ($10) and took a wonderfully comfortable shower in a makeshift enclosure with an outside air temperature of approximately 25 degrees.

Hot Water On Demand is also a breeze to operate. Submerge the pump in water or attach it to a collapsible water container (supplied with the unit). Turn the adjustment knob and the burner ignites itself. Adjust for desired temperature and you’re in hot water. Suggested retail for the unit is $180. If portability is a concern, you’ll be happy to hear that the Hot Water On Demand weighs just 22 pounds empty.

— Jack Ballard

It’s a rainy night and you don’t want to leave your tent, but have to go and you can’t wait till morning. What’s the solution? you’re out in the middle of nowhere — either on foot, in a car or on a boat — and your bladder starts pressuring you, what do you do? There’s always the hide-behind-the-bush technique if you’re on the trail, but for women this can be a challenge. For those resorting to coffee cans and other sorts of containers, there’s always the unsavory task of containment and disposal without spills. In such situations, I know I have often thought that there must be a better way.

Well, here’s a product that’s becoming popular with some of our staff members on the go. The TravelJohn Disposable Personal Urinal is designed for use by men, women and children when a restroom isn’t handy.

It is amazingly easy — yes, even for women — to use while in a standing position and probably a lot more sanitary than most public toilet seats. My friends and I have used it aboard my boat with no problem. In fact, it can be reused until full, within a certain time period.

The way it works is via the patented Liqsorb pouch inside an outer bag, which is fitted with a spill guard that can be held against the body. The absorbent pouch starts to solidify, almost on contact, into a sanitized, nontoxic, spillproof gel that is completely odorless, leakproof, biode-gradable and safe to throw out with the trash. The TravelJohn is available in packs of three for $5.99 and is becoming widely available. But for more information you can call 888/518-8389 or visit traveljohn.com.

— Rebecca Stone


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