Archive | March, 2013

Goal Zero’s Light-A-Life Solar Accessories: The Ultimate Way to Illuminate Adventures

When Goal Zero officially became one of the Simply Adventure trip sponsors, I was beside myself with excitement about powering the van through solar equipment. It is incredibly valuable to be able to charge my laptop and camera while I’m on the road, but my favorite piece of Goal Zero gear isn’t a heavy duty generator or sweet portable solar panel: it’s a small, simple LED light.

The Goal Zero Light-A-Life is a modestly sized solar lantern that we currently power from our Extreme 350 generator. These incredible 3-watt LED lights turned my dim van into a bright home. We use it when we’re cooking, lounging in the evenings, and on those frequent occasions when we’re frantically searching for something we lost in the van.

Niko uses the Goal Zero Light-A-Life to illuminate our kitchen space in the van while cooking at night.The Goal Zero Light-A-Life powers our van cooking adventures every night.

The first time I plugged in a Light-A-Life, I was blown away by how powerful they are. We used the van’s cabin lights on the first night of the trip, and once we finally opened up the Light-A-Life, it was like entering a whole new world.

We use two linked together in the van, but a single Light-A-Life easily lights up the main interior. You can link up to eight lights together. A small carabineer located on top of the Light-A-Life makes it easy to hang up no matter where you are.

The Goal Zero Light-A-LifeAnd they’re durable. Before realizing we needed a better way of securing them to the beams along the van roof, our Light-A-Lights took many hard falls while we were bumping up and down dirt roads in Joshua Tree. One dirt road was shaky enough to eventually dislodge the LED bulb from the lantern, but it was completely fine even after taking a tumble onto the floor. According to Goal Zero, they aren’t quite waterproof, but will still work even in a steady downpour.

The only thing I would change about the Light-A-Life LED solar lantern is making them comptabile with a Guide 10 battery pack. I’m no engineer, but since the Light-A-Life takes up so little energy, it seems like it should be able to be powered by something more accessible than a big ‘ole generator. We lugged ours out to a picnic table the other night, and the Extreme 350 is so heavy that it almost made taking the lights out too much of a chore.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Light-A-Life LED laterns to anyone with a Goal Zero solar set-up – and retailing at $39.99, they’re surprisingly affordable. They’re the perfect accessory for your solar gear, and make life on the road so much more convenient. We use ours every day, and would be totally in the dark without it.

Dirtbag Beta: Review of the Hueco Rock Ranch

If you’re planning a trip to climb at Hueco Tanks, you basically have two options for lodging: camping inside the park, or staying at the American Alpine Club’s Hueco Rock Ranch. Of course, you could always rent a motel room closer to town, but let’s get real.

With the park campground often being entirely booked during peak bouldering season at Hueco Tanks, your best bet is to snag a campsite at the ranch. When I visited, the park was full, but the ranch had plenty of space.

The cost isn’t the cheapest, but the fees make up for it with free wi-fi, a spacious barn to cook and relax in, hot showers, and did I mention free wi-fi? The nightly rate is normally $10, but if you are an American Alpine Club or Access Fund member, you get a discounted price of $7/night.To the Hueco Rock Ranch!

There are also a few rooms available in the main house area, but this beta is intended for dirtbags, and I doubt any of y’all are trying to get fancy.

The campsites are well laid out, and marked with numbered stones. If you’re setting up a tent, make sure you really secure it to the ground. The desert is notorious for freakishly windy weather. Car camping is also allowed, and I’d recommend it during the winter season if you aren’t experienced with cold weather camping.

Since you’re surrounded by fellow climbers, it’s safe to leave your gear out at the Hueco Rock Ranch. Many folks left their food tubs next to their tents during the day, and we left our crash pads sitting next to the van each night.A panoramic view of our 'camp' spot at Hueco Rock Ranch near Hueco Tanks State Park.

The real attraction at the ranch is the recently renovated barn where climbers gather each evening. There are a few couches spread out, a big picnic-type table, and a sizeable kitchen to cook in. The barn has plenty of plugs, and the wi-fi is decent (but don’t bother trying to watch any climbing videos on most days). You’ll also find a library of random books, a foos ball table, and three full bathrooms in the ranch. In my opinion, the barn is what makes Hueco Rock Ranch worth the money.

Here are a few more tips for staying at the Hueco Rock Ranch:

Important Shower Beta: Do NOT use the rightmost shower. I repeat, do not use the rightmost shower unless you want to feel like you’re getting peed on. That was the first mistake I made. The second mistake? Not realizing that the hot/cold sides are switched on the shower knob. Folks, the ‘cold’ side is hot, and the ‘hot’ side is cold. You’re welcome.

Feeling hungry? The closest grocery store is Vista Mercado, a funky little Mexican market where you are highly encouraged to give yourself a taste of local food. For the best and cheapest tacos near Hueco Tanks, stop by El Pasito Meat Market. It sits inside a little gas station-type market, but it’s delicious.

Looking for ways to get into Hueco Tanks without a reservation? There’s a blog post for that! 

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