Solar Backpack Reviews for 2015

As we become more and more connected, it is harder to leave behind our electronic devices, even we are immersed in nature’s splendor. The following are my picks for what to look for in a solar backpack and several good choices in what to get depending on what you need it for.

Reasons to Buy a Solar Backpack

solar backpack for bikingSolar panels get better and better every year and they have finally gotten to a point where you can add solar panels to your backpack and as long as you are outside in the sun, keep your phone and other wearable electronics fully charged.

Who doesn’t want to help out Mother Nature? You have to use this a good bit to offset the initial carbon footprint cost of manufacturing this item, but as long as this is a well used item by you, you can count on free energy from the sun without causing any harm. Enjoy nature and help preserve it at the same time while staying connected off the grid.

More and more jobs require people to be outside for the jobs with devices that require power. Battery packs are a must in these situations, but including a way to charge keep these devices and battery packs charged gives you one less thing you have to worry about.

Do a lot of biking or hiking and want to make sure all your electronic devices stay charged? You are already out in the sun with a backpack, might as well use all that free energy beaming down on your pack. Do you need to keep a tablet, phone, GPS, flashlight, radio, digital camera, GoPro or one of hundreds of other electrical devices?

What to Look for in a Solar Backpack

I recommend a backpack that includes at least a 10000mAh battery pack with it. A 1000mAh is the ideal weight, not too heavy and beefy enough to charge your phone several times or your iPad a couple of times. A typical smart phone will have a 1440mAh – 2200mAh battery. Directly charging from the solar panel works but makes things more difficult then it needs to be. The battery pack will ensure that a charge is ready when you are. If it does not include one, you should buy one at least this size and make sure it is a dual port charger.

You are going to want to pair the 10000mAh power pack with at least a 7W solar panel. 7W is enough to fully charge the battery pack with a full day of sun (7-9 hours). The more wattages you go though, the quicker you can recharge and the more items you can charge. Once you go over 15W though, the price and size start getting past what you can comfortably fit on your back.

The panels should get a good amount of sun from just being on your back during a normal hike or bike ride as long as the sun is out. If you do plan on stopping for a little bit, it is worth it to make sure you lay your backpack flat on the ground so that the solar panels are at a 45 degree angle to the sun’s rays. You should periodically wipe your solar panels off with a microfiber cloth. The panels will pick up dirt and it is good to keep them wiped down to prevent pitting and degradation. If your backpack does not include a microfiber cloth, it would be worth picking one up and making sure to keep it in your backpack.

You are also going to want to make sure everything is at least water resistant if not water proof since this is designed to be outdoors and nobody wants to have to go find shelter every time there is a light rain. Protection from dirt and shock is also another good thing to look for.

Already Have a Backpack?

Already have a backpack you really like and just want to add some bare bones solar charging without having to get a separate backpack? You do have the option to just get separate charging panels and attach them to your existing backpack. Unless you are in the market for a new backpack, this is really the way to go.

The following two items are my two choices if you just want to add solar to an existing backpack. The first is a small clip on battery pack with a solar panel on its face. This will not provide a whole lot of solar charging though. The second option is if you want to add real charging capabilities to your backpack with full size solar panels, but it is a bit more expensive.

Levin Dual USB Port 5000mAh Portable Solar Panel Charger – $24 

Levin Dual USB Port 5000mAh Portable Solar Panel ChargerThe best thing about this is its cheap! So cheap that it is worth it almost just worth it for it being a 5000mAh battery pack. For $25 you could easily buy this in addition to getting a full solar backpack and just hook it on for a little more peace of mind. The worst thing about this attachable mini charger is the same thing that makes it awesome, since it is so small, it can take up to several days of being in the sun to fully charge the battery pack. It can be charged manually though before your trip, so this makes a good emergency battery backup that you simply hook to your backpack and forget about. The battery pack has enough juice to charge a smart phone back up to full twice, maybe three times if its a small phone.

Levin Dual USB Port 5000mAh Portable Solar Panel Charger-2The small size of this charger makes it great for bringing to sports or to the beach and just leaving it on the ground while you enjoy the outdoors and get some free charging for your battery pack. Keep in mind that this is rain resistant and not water proof. A light rain is fine, but if you drop this in the ocean, you will need to dry it out immediately.

  • 5000mAH and dual 1A USB ports
  • Compact at 5 1/2 x 2 7/8 x 1/2 inches and 5.3 oz
  • Built in flashlight
  • Rugged case that is water resistant and shockproof
  • Included micro USB charging cable, carabiner clip and regular + lightning Apple adapter heads

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

Best Solar Backpacks Under $75

VIVO Solar Bag 2.4W Solar Panel and 1600 mAh Battery – $50 

VIVO Solar Bag 2.4W Solar Panel and 1600 mAh BatteryThis is exactly the bag you think you would get for $50. The solar panel and battery are really just powerful enough to give you enough juice for emergencies or if you just want to make sure you always have the option to get some power to your phone or device. The solar charging is basically enough to keep your phone at the same level if you do not use it, which is really not a bad thing to have in a backpack.

Besides the solar panels, this is a standard 18″ backpack and would make a fun gift for a middle or high school kid. This is a decent option for an EDC (Every Day Carry) bag as it is just the right size for all the basics.


  • 18″ Backpack
  • 2.4W Solar Panel
  • 1600 mah lithium ion battery and 7 adapters

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

ECEEN Solar Powered Hiking Daypack – $70 

ECEEN Solar Powered Hiking DaypackThis is the highest rated solar powered daypack on Amazon, and it is easy to see why. Though a good bit under-powered compared to some of the other models for a similar price, this has the perfect feature set to be used as a small hiking, travel daypack or for light biking. It folds up into a convenient carry pouch that takes up very little room or weight in your main backback, suit case or briefcase. You could also use it on your lunch break or while commuting to work. Check out the photo below to see how small this thing gets! At 1.06 pounds this is great pack for minimalists.

ECEEN Solar Powered Hiking Daypack - fold up

This pack is made from rip and water resistant fabric, making this a light and durable pack. Common tear points are reinforced so this thing is built to last you many years of daily use.

The included solar charger is removable and foldable allowing you to choose if you want to use it or leave it at home. 3.25W is about half the wattage of a standard charger, but this is plenty considering this is only meant to be used for a couple hours at a time and then neatly put away. It is half the wattage but 1/3 the size since they use high efficiency solar cells. You sacrifice power for weight and size in this case. The solar cells are in a protective anti-scratch coating sewn into PVC fabric to make these durable for outdoor use.

Like most things in this back, the 2000mAh battery pack is less powerful than what you can get in some other packs but it is slim and waterproof and will give you a single charge to your phone or similar device. Once again you are trading off compactness and weight for power


  • Lightweight – 1.06 lbs
  • Roomy – 33 Liters
  • Unfolded – 19x13x8.2 inches VERSUS Folded: 7.5×7.5×3 inches
  • 3.25W solar charger
  • 2000mAh battery pack

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

Best Solar Backpacks Under $100

EnerPlex Packr Commuter Solar Powered Backpack – $80 

EnerPlex Packr Commuter Solar Powered BackpackThis one is designed specifically for your work commuter (think bus, train, walking and not biking commuting). It has padded interior sleeves for your laptop with a charging pass-through. Lots of interior compartments and two external pockets for water bottles. Plenty of room for you business supplies such as pens, cards and notepads.

The shoulder straps on this are not nearly as adjustable as a backpack designed for hiking or biking, but you will also not have it on your shoulders all day, so it is a fair tradeoff.

EnerPlex Packr Commuter Solar Powered Backpack-openThis bag is perfect for business commuters that get a fair bit of sun on their commute and are not always near a power outlet.


  • Padded interior laptop sleeve with charging pass-through
  • Interior compartments with several pockets and charging pass-through
  • 2 external zippered pockets for water bottles
  • Business supply compartments for pens, business cards, and more
  • Padded, adjustable shoulder straps

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

SolarGoPack 5W Solar Cell and 12k mAh Battery Backpack – $100 

SolarGoPack 5W Solar Cell and 12k mAh Battery BackpackThis is a decent middle of the road backpack. Lots of pockets and compartments with a decent enough shoulder straps. Has a spot for a water bladder if you have your own hydration system already. 5W solar cells are a bit underpowered and the 12k mAh is a little more powerful than what usually comes with these. Some complaints on quality on this but customer service is very responsive with this company and they tend to take care of problems quickly. SolarGoPack 5W Solar Cell and 12k mAh Battery Backpack-backThis is the backpack you want if you are shooting for average. Works nicely for middle or high schoolers though.


  • 12000 mAh Power Pack
  • 5W solar cells
  • 35 Liter of inside space

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

Best Solar Backpacks Under $150

ECEEN Solar Bag with 7 watt panel and 10,000 mAh Battery – $120 

ECEEN Solar BagAnother quality bag from ECEEN. This thing is ultralight and ultra durable making it a great bag for everyday use. This thing is quite roomy as well, fitting a 17 inch laptop in the main pocket. Material is lightweight and water resistant including the solar panels and battery pack. Solar panel is flexible as well as being scratch resistant. 10000 mAh battery will charge your phone back to full 2-3 times. Dual outputs on the battery pack of 1A and 2A for charging your phone or tablet. Panels are power enough to charge up a normal phone from dead to full in 3 hours in full sunlight.

ECEEN Solar Bag-connectorComfortable and adjustable mesh straps means you will hardly notice this backpack on your back. Tons of pockets and compartments for all your needs.


  • 7 watt high efficiency panels
  • 10k mAh waterproof Li-Polymer Battery
  • 1.7 lbs
  • 21.3 x 8.7 x 15.4 inches

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

ECEEN Solar Powered Messenger Bag – $130 

ECEEN Solar Powered Messenger BagIf you are looking for a solar powered messenger bag, than this one is for you. 10W of solar power and 10k mAh power pack also means that this backpack will give you plenty of juice on the go.

This bag is made for carrying books and a laptop, not so much for hiking and biking. So, keep that in mind. Think going to school or a picnic not going for a hike in the woods. Interior is roomy enough to easily fit a 15″ laptop and includes an external side pocket for a water bottle. ECEEN Solar Powered Messenger Bag-backInside compartment is roomy and expands to fit a few large books and lots of odds and ends. Shoulder straps are comfortable but can be wearying if you load this thing up with a lot of weight.


  • 10W Solar Cell
  • Strong, durable canvas material
  • 36 liters of space
  • 10,000mAh power pack

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

Solar Backpacks with Hydration Packs

Solar backpacks that include hydration packs are the ultimate inconvenience. These include everything you want for a day trip, slack hiking or just walking around in the city. CamelBak, solar charging, battery pack and a comfortable backpack. A lot of these you can purchase at a cost cheaper than just getting a normal CamelBak. Solar + Hydration for cheaper than a CamelBak? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

For most of these backpacks I would suggest you wash out your hydration bladder several times before using it. Completely fill it with water and let it drain through the tubing 4 to 5 times at least. If not, the water will have a plasticy taste to it. After this you should clean your bladders with a Camelbak Antidote Cleaning Kit once a month or after several uses. If not, your tubing and bladder can get grungy and disgusting. Make sure to store the bladders completely dry as well, if not you can get mold in the tubing that can get hard to clean out.

Ivation 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration Backpack – $100 

Ivation 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration BackpackI really the features to price for this backpack. You can usually find this cheaper than just getting a similar quality CamelBak, so the addition of the solar charging is almost just a bonus. The bladder has a wide cap and makes it really easy to fill up. 1.8L is plenty of water to carry around without having to worry about running out and also not worry about too much water weight on your back. Tubing and bite valves are pretty simliar to what you would get with a CamelBack hydration pack, so no worries on that end.

The 7-watt solar panel clips on to the backpack in a 4 point attachment that makes it easy to detach if you do not need solar charging that day. The shoulder harness is lightweight mesh and does not chaff. It has several adjustment points and nice airflow, so this should be comfortable on your back all day. The solar panels are sturdy and the included battery pack is waterproof, allowing you to not worry even if you get caught in the rain. Stitching is solid and includes access holes for your hydration tubes as well as cables to your battery pack so you do not have to take out the battery while you keep your phone charged.

This is not a full sized backpack so its best if you only have a couple of things you need to carry or need a lightweight backpack for daily use. The included 10000mAh power pack is the perfect size for keeping multiple devices charged throughout the day. The zippered pockets on the side are prefect for storing your cords and other small items.


  • Ivation 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration Backpack-backRemovable 7W/6V Solar Panel Absorbs Sunlight While Biking, Hiking & Camping
  • Includes Waterproof 10,000mAh Emergency Power Bank/Backup Battery Stores Charge
  • 2 USB Charging Ports Simultaneously Charge 2 Mobile Devices Using USB Cable (1 Cable Included)
  • Backpack Features Large, Zippered Pockets for Storing 2 Phones Plus a Tablet
  • 1.8L Water Bladder Features Flexible Pipe for Drinking While Wearing Backpack

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

ECEEN 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration Backpack – $120 

ECEEN 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration BackpackThis backpack from ECEEN is super similar to the Ivation review directly above and pretty much has the exact same feature set but slightly better quality and $20 more expensive. If you have an extra $20 to spend, this is the one to go for. The color choices on this look pretty stylish and make for a good all around backpack to wear for any activity.

The 7W solar panels will fully charge the 10000mAh in 7 hours of full sun.  The battery pack has dual USB ports so you can charge two devices back up at the same time. Pack has 4 LED lights to indicate how charged it is. If you charge it up using an electrical outlet instead of the sun, it should take around 6-7 hours for a full charge.

Straps are all adjustable and include thick padding in the shoulder. Even full loaded this should not cause any strain on your shoulders. Back should get plenty of airflow so this pack should stay pretty cool and keep your back from getting too sweaty in the sun.

Hydration pack has a big mouth for easy filling and the tubing and bite make for easy drinking from your 1.8L bladder while using the backpack. Side pockets are convenient for storing cords and small items.


  • ECEEN 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration Backpack-backUltra-light coming in at 2.6 lbs with everything
  • Waterproof 10000mAh Power Battery Pack
  • 1.8L Hydration Pack with flexible drink tube
  • Adjustable straps

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

SunLabz 7W / 1.8L Hydration Pack – $68 

Solar Charger Backpack (7W) with 1.8L Hydration Pack and Ergonomic Carrying System by SunLabzThis pack usually goes for $130-$150 but is currently on sale for $68. This is basically identical in style to the last two packs but sells for $30 less. Pick this one up quickly while the sale lasts.

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

Solar Powered BugOut Bag

Voltaic Systems 10W Backpack – $390

Solar Powered BugOut BagWant the best of the best for your bugout bag? For $390 you can get the Voltaic Systems 10W Backpack. This thing is your go to bag for making sure you are ready for hurricane season. This backpack is expensive, but like purchasing a fancy car after doing a lot of research, it will be well worth the purchase.

Included solar panels (10W) and battery pack (20k mAh) are just beastly. The battery will full charge most 15″ laptops and smaller and will recharge it with 11 hours of sunlight. Will charge a 10″ tablet 1.7x times and will Solar Powered BugOut Bag-insiderecharge a tablet with 3.5 hours in the sun or 2.5 hours of tablet use per 1 hour in the sun. The amount of connectors you are given with this thing will allow you to charge all known Apple and Android devices as well as most DSLR and you can recharge the battery pack with the included DC connector (car).

This thing has a huge interior and plenty of room to fill this with all your bug out items so you are completely ready when SHTF.


  • Solar Powered BugOut Bag-electronicsBackpack is made from water and UV resistant fabric all while still being lightweight.
  • 1500 cubic inches of storage including a padded laptop sleeve and tons of pockets.
  • Solar system can be removed and used independently of the backpack.
  • 1 hour in the sun will charge an efficient laptop for 40 minutes of use and give you 2.5 hour of use from a large tablet.
  • 3 rugged solar panels with 10W peak output at 6V or 18V. Panels are coasted in a self healing urethane to withstand scratches as well as being waterproof and lightweight.
  • Battery system inclues a removeable 20,000mAh / 72 Wh battery with USB outputs of 5V/2a, 12V/3.5A and 19V/3A. Can also be charged from AC or DC.

==> Read More Reviews and Check Price on Amazon <==

Solar Backpacks to Avoid

Ivation 3W with 2 Builtin Speakers – $75 

Ivation 3W with 2 Builtin SpeakersThis thing is like the backpack version of the calculator watches kids in the 90s wore. It has a lot of functionality and seems like a good idea, but it really just does not pull off the concept. For $75 dollars you can get a much nicer backpack, more powerful panels and a bigger battery. Maybe you really want the speakers though? Which seems to be the only thing this backpack has going for it. Though, for $5 bucks you could probably get better speakers than are included on this.

3W is not a lot of solar charging. This would take you a full day of sun to give your phone a noticeable charge. The included 2200 mAh power bank is not enough to even give your phone a full charge. This bag is also cheaply made and most reviews show that it falls apart almost immediately. Save your money and buy something better.


Is it Better to Drain the Water from a Cooler?

Coleman-48-Quart-Chest-CoolerContinuing with our common camping questions, here is another one that will give you an almost 50/50 split when you poll your friends. As the hours and days pass, your cooler filled with ice slowly but surely gets replaced with water. Is it better to drain this water out or keep it? From a pure physics perspective, it is better to leave the water in unless it is making the items in the cooler soggy or you have to carry it around a lot and you want it lighter.

What Coleman Says

Don’t drain cold water – Water from just-melted ice keeps contents cold almost as well as ice and preserves the remaining ice much better than air space. Drain the water only when necessary for convenient removal of cooler contents or before adding more ice.

What Igloo Says

During use, it is not necessary to drain the cold water from recently melted ice unless it is causing contents to become soggy. The chilled water, combined with ice, more readily surrounds canned and bottled items and will often help keep contents colder more effectively than the remaining ice alone.

Why You Should Not Drain Out the Water

  • Water makes better contact with all your food items keeping everything bathed in coldness
  • The more cold water you have the more energy the outside environment must exert to warm up your food.
  • Once all the ice is melted the water continues to act a a heat sink

Is it Warmer to Sleep Naked in a Sleeping Bag?


You actually hear this question more often than you think you would, with it usually followed closely by the followup question if everyone should get naked and huddle for warmth as an effective warming secondary strategy. When you are camping in cold weather, is it actually warmer to sleep naked than to sleep with your clothes on? The short answer to this is only if the only clothes you have are damp or wet, if not, then probably not. Each person is slightly different and your exact conditions will be different, but unless you are an experienced camper, just go to sleep dressed in dry layers.

If you are anything like me, you will have to pee at least one time in the middle of the night. Trying to put all your clothes back on without leaving the warmth of your sleeping bag makes sleeping naked almost not worth it just for that reason.

One common mistake is placing your dry clothes next to your wet clothes within your backpack. In no time at all, your dry clothes are now your damp clothes.

There are exceptions to everything though. If you are doing high altitude camping with a really good sleeping bag, then you could actually be better off sleeping naked.

Reason to Sleep Naked in a Sleeping Bag

  • All your clothes are damp
  • You sweat a lot in your sleep and will soak your dry clothes
  • You have a sleeping bag that works best when you are naked
  • There is someone else in the sleeping bag with you

Reasons to NOT Sleep Naked in a Sleeping Bag

  • None of the reasons to sleep naked apply to you

What to Look for in a Winter Camping Tent

winter tent campingGoing camping in winter might sound like an amazing idea. There is the crisp snow all around you, endless snow games and the calming trek through the snow-laden trees. Such is the beauty of winter, a beauty that comes at a price. The biggest problem in winter camping lies in the same thing that makes it interesting, the frigid weather. While most people think of packing the warmest parka they can lay their hands on, your comfort lies in something bigger at night – your tent.

Knowing the basic things to consider when choosing your winter camping tent ensures that you stay warm and cozy all through the night. Since you want a balance between weight and functionality, it would be better if you understood the essentials of winter camping and all the tricks that you can use to cover up for your tent shortcomings without putting your life at risk.

Why a four season tent

The camping rule of thumb says that you pack nothing but a 4-season tent when going for winter camping. Unlike 3-season tents, 4-season pieces are designed to shed snow rather than letting it accumulate on the fabric hence preventing the tent from collapsing under the snow’s weight. Four season tents also have thicker walls that are amazing in giving the tent sheer structural and protective power. They provide extra insulation and protect you from the chilly wind of the winter.

What to look for

1. Warmth

The first thing to look for is the tent’s ability to shield you from the cold. You will need something with heavy fabric that keeps away the cold. 4-season tents are especially designed to cater for this. Other than just thinking about the tent walls, also consider your tent’s flooring. The floor should be both insulating, waterproof and versatile enough to endure the punishment from your heavy winter boots.

2. Tent’s capacity

The worst thing that could ever happen to you in winter is separation from your group. Keeping someone near you increases your chances of surviving. The help could be mutual, by sharing body heat, or physical by helping each other do something. Buying a tent that can accommodate three to four people will not only keep you close to the team but also let you use natural body heat to warm things up.

3. Tent quality

Even though you shouldn’t be camping in a blizzard, expecting it and carrying a tent that is strong enough to endure the gale could save your life. In most cases, you have to work with tents that have reinforcing aluminum poles, stakes and reinforced doors. This will not only keep the tent at one place but also allow you to open the tent doors in a considerably rough weather.

4. Ventilation

In as much as we are trying to keep the heat inside by using heavy walls, a poorly ventilated tent could be your very demise. Your body produces moisture. This moisture could easily condense and get the inside of the tent wet if it’s not vented out properly. Go for a tent with adjustable venting mechanism as this could give you control over the tent’s microclimate, just like you would use a window to control a house’s temperature.

5. Ease of access

Three or four people is quite a number. Fitting through one tiny door in a hurry could be impossible. Buying a tent with two doors makes things simpler. You can split doors for faster entry and exist. Better still, in case something blocks one entrance, you can always use the second to escape unscarred.

6. Portability

Even though this should be the last thing on your mind when choosing a winter tent, it won’t do you any harm to choose something that is easy to tot about. Consider how you will be transporting the tent before making your decision.

Your options

Any good 4-season tent will have all these capabilities in mind. If you don’t mind the bulk, you could even get something with bathtub floors and some space for storing dirty or wet gear. If you buy such a tent, consider getting a sled to tug it on if you will be going far away from the roads.
The other option would be a car tent. With the right car, you could convert the rear into a superb camping area. A pick-up truck or an SUV with a tailgate will work well with a Dac-Mid-Size truck tent. You will have the solid metal and chassis of your car to protect you from below and still have a tent over your head hence keeping the camping spirit alive.

Double wall or single wall

Double wall 4-season tents have two walls. They are stronger, bulkier and warmer. If you are headed to a cold place and intent to stay on one place for longer, you should consider carrying such a tent. They have better ventilation and are bigger hence are a perfect way of setting up the base camp or some common meeting place if you are camping as a group.

Single walls are amazing since they can be sufficiently warm and versatile. They are good enough for a small group or an individual. Compensating for the shortcomings by packing some warm clothing and a way to make some coffee or cocoa could be all you need to keep warm through the night.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, camping is all about using what nature has to make life better. You needn’t fully rely on your tent to keep warm. Choosing your camping site well, for instance on a protected place should keep off the wind making things warmer. If you will be camping in one place for long, you could consider pitching your tent in a trench. Just ensure that the spot you pick is leveled and you don’t stand the risk of being covered in snow overnight.

Knowing what you need out of a tent is the key to choosing the right thing for your winter camping needs. Coupling your desirable sharing options with the acceptable tent bulk will help you choose a winter tent that will be easy to move about and strong enough to protect you from the elements.

Birding Tips and Bird Watching

Protect the birds and their habitat.

  • To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, user caution when observing, photographing, and making sound or film recordings.
  • Limit your use of recordings and other methods to attract birds. Never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or to attract any species that is threatened, endangered, or is rare in your local area.
  • Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, use a blind or hide and take advantage of natural cover for extended observation, photography, filming or recording.
  • Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
  • Stay on roads, trails and paths, where they exist, and minimize habitat disturbance.

Respect the law, and the rights of others.

  • Do not enter private property without the owner’s explicit permission.
  • Follow all laws, rules and regulations governing the use of roads and public areas.
  • Practice common courtesy with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.

*Adapted from Amercian Birding Association’s Code of Ethics. Full text available at

The Ultimate Crossbow Guide!

Introduction to Crossbows

ancient-crossbow-300x190Crossbows are weapons similar to a bow that shoots projectiles, commonly known as quarrels or bolts. The weapon consists of bow mechanism mounted on a frame which is typically made of wood or, for modern crossbows, out of composite materials or plastics.

The crossbow has a long history, being used since the ancient times in warfare and siege operations across Europe and East Asia. The Middle Ages crossbow was known by many names derived from another similar weapon, the ballista.

What Is a Crossbow?

A crossbow consists of a bow which is mounted on a stick and a mechanism that holds the tensioned bow string. When shooting a crossbow, a vertical element is placed in the slot of the stick, to force the string mechanism into action. The rod is usually placed in a perpendicular position, creating a trigger. If the string is released, the projectile shoots. Other designs include a nut made of metal that holds the string at all times.

The main benefit of a crossbow when compared to a traditional bow is that the crossbowman can keep the weapon stringed for a longer time, thus enabling a better aim. The bow is made of composite wood, horn or sinews which are glued together in layers.

Modern materials include steel, plastics and other composite elements. The strings made of highly tensile elements, such as linen, sinew or hemp. In some areas, twisted mulberry root is used. Modern strings are made of special plastics or latex.

Some small crossbows can be drawn manually, but heavy crossbows need mechanical devices to be drawn properly. This is done with simple hooking mechanisms, together with a belt and a lever. Cord and pulley crank devices can also be employed for some crossbows.

Choosing a Crossbow and Common Types

It is important to understand and know the numerous types of modern crossbows when choosing one for leisure activities, hunting or sports. These weapons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, pulling mechanisms and most importantly, they have different calibers and shooting speeds. Here are some of the popular types of crossbows available:

Recurve Crossbows

crossbow-parts-recurveRecurve crossbows are crossbows that have the ends curving away from the user and they give more speed to the projectile.

Recurved crossbows are more strenuous on the materials and usually make more noise when shooting.

Compound Crossbows

crossbow-parts-compoundCompound crossbows have limbs far stiffer than the recurve crossbows and have a different cocking mechanism. Because of the stiffness of the limbs, the crossbow has pulleys that are attached to both limbs with one or more strings.

If the string is pulled, the pulleys act as a pulling mechanism, moving the limbs back to ensure more energy and higher velocity for the projectile.

These pulleys work by using the maximum amount of energy coming from the short draw length.

For more information, read our in-depth article on Compound vs. Recurve Crossbows.

Modern Crossbow Usage

In modern times, crossbows can be used for recreation, sports, hunting or for science purposes. Also, crossbows are used as weapons in various military use is still in place in some areas.

Oceanology and marine scientists use crossbows frequently to obtain tissue samples from whales or dolphins. These are specialized crossbows that use a special projectile that can hook into flesh and take blood samples or skin samples. A string is used to recover the sample from the water.

Modern archery also involves the use of performance crossbows which are highly regulated and made of very light materials. These crossbows can produce speeds of over 400 feet per second and can be extremely precise.

Legal Aspects Of Owning and Using a Crossbow

Because crossbows are lethal and similar to bows and firearms, they have a complex legal status. In the United Kingdom there is no license or registration required when owning a crossbow. However, they cannot be used by persons under 13 years of age without adult supervision.

Laws for owning and using crossbows in the US vary greatly by state. Buying and ownership is legal in all states but there are specific laws for hunting with crossbows. For instance, in Georgia it is illegal to use crossbows to hunt waterfowl, but it is legal to hunt any other animals. Also, Oregon has a full ban on hunting with crossbows.

In Australia, all pistol crossbows are strictly controlled by severe laws because of their small size and concealable nature. Normal crossbows can be bought and owned by any adult, but some states require sport or hunting club memberships.

Comparison Chart of Top Crossbows

The chart and crossbow reviews below will help you make an informative decision about what crossbow is best for you. Whether you look for a crossbow for leisure activities, hunting or sports, this guide will help you find the crossbow you are looking for.

These weapons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, pulling mechanisms and most importantly, they have different calibers and shooting speeds. We also give you crossbow reviews of the top 5 crossbows on the market today.

Length /
0 – 5
Excalibur Ibex SMF
Barnett Ghost 350
Barnett Wildcat C5
Barnett Quad 400
Barnett Penetrator
Barnett Jackal
Arrow Precision Blitz II
Arrow Precision Inferno
SA Sports Fever
Last Punch 150

Included in the chart are:

  • Crossbow picture
  • Crossbow brand and model (click to learn more, read crossbow reviews or to purchase)
  • Overall weight – Pounds
  • Overall length – Inches
  • FPS – Feet Per Second
  • Arrow length/Grain – The type of arrow recommended by the manufacturer to achieve the FPS speed mentioned in the chart.
  • Draw weight – Pounds
  • Price – These are approximate prices on  These change frequently based on availability, special promotions, and more.  But generally speaking: $ = under $150, $$ = $150 to $300, $$$ = $300 to $500, $$$$ = $500+
  • Rating – The average user rating on  This shows if people are satisfied with their purchase.

The Best Crossbows On The Market

My Top 5 Overall

Excalibur Axiom SMF Crossbow Kit (4.9/5)

Excalibur-Ibex-SMF-150x150The Excalibur Axiom SMF is a beautifully crafted crossbow that couples increased functionality with an appealing design. This crossbow weighs no more than 5.8 lbs, has a power stroke of 14.5 in, a draw weight of 175 pounds and it works with arrows 20-inches in length. Moreover, the overall length of Excalibur Axiom SMF is 37.5 inches, which makes it very compact and easy to transport.

What customers appreciate the most in their crossbow reviews is its increased accuracy, its light weight and the convenient price-quality ratio – the kit can be purchased for no more than $525.88, an affordable price tag given all the features and functions of this crossbow.

In addition to this, the crossbow is also very easy to assemble, especially since the kit comes with a comprehensive instructional DVD that teaches you how to do it, step by step. Last, but not least, this exquisite crossbow can produce arrow speeds that reach no less than 305 feet per second.

>> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and User Reviews on <<

Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow Package (4.7/5)

Barnett-Wildcat-C5-150x150The Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow is by far the bestselling product by Barnett, and for a good reason: it is lightweight because it is made from composite material, it has a crosswire cable and string system, it is easy to install and use and it comes with three 20-inch arrows. Made in the US, the Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow has a 4X32 mm scope, a draw weight of no less than 150 pounds and a power stroke of 13 inches.

The firing velocity of the Wildcat C5 Crossbow is of 320 feet per second, and the overall crossbow weighs 8.5 pounds. Last, but not least, the package also comes with strings that measure 37 inches in length. As customers claim in their crossbow reviews that the broadheads are very accurate and the crossbow is perfect for professional hunting sessions.

>> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and User Reviews on <<

Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package (4.3/5)

Barnett-Jackal-150x150The Barnett Jackal is a military-style crossbow that has a draw weight of 150 pounds, a 3.5 pound trigger pull and can shoot arrows at no less than 315 feet per second. This crossbow has an innovative and sleek design and it is designed exclusively for hunters. It has a power stroke of 12 inches and the arrows measure 20 inches in length.

The crossbow weighs 7.7 pounds and it has a series of useful other features, such as the HD camouflage, the AVI foot stirrup and bolt retainer or the synthetic cable system for easy manipulation. This package also comes with a 5-year limited warranty from the manufacturer, and it is certainly a great addition to the kit of every passionate hunter. Also, users state in their crossbow reviews that they are particularly pleased with the fact that this crossbow is lightweight, strong and adjustable at the same time.

>> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and User Reviews on <<

Barnett Ghost 350 CRT Crossbow Package (4.4/5)

Barnett-Ghost-350-150x150With a weight of no more than 7.6 pounds, the Barnett Ghost 350 CRT is one of the lightest bows manufactured by Barnett. The kit is made in the United States, and it comes with four arrows and rope cocking device along with whiplash cams and crosswire strings. Moreover, the kit also has a 5-year limited warranty from the manufacturer and it can fire bows at 350 feet per second.

With a draw weight of 175 pounds, and arrow length of 20 inches and a power stroke of 12 inches, the Ghost 350 CRT is a very popular choice amongst professional hunters who are looking for a state-of-the-art crossbow set.

>> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and User Reviews on <<

Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit (175-Pounds) (4.3/5)

Arrow-Precision-Inferno-Fury-150x150With a power stroke of 10.5 inch, a total length of 34.5 inches and a string length of 26.5 inches, the Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit is considered one of the most cost-effective kits of its kind available on the market.

The kit involves four bolts, 3 Red Dot Sight, extra string, a rope cocker and a padded sling. This crossbow kit is very compact and lightweight, mainly because of its compression fiberglass limps.

The key features of the popular Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit manufactured by Arrow Precision include the quick detach quiver, the 175-pound recurve crossbow or the adjustable scope mount.

The crossbow can launch arrows at a speed of 235 feet per second, it weighs 4.84 pounds and the body of the crossbow is made from aluminum coupled with lightweight composite material. As many customers claim in their crossbow reviews, this crossbow is powerful and accurate and it is the most suitable kit for deer hunting.

>> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and User Reviews on <<

Best in the $100 – $400 Range

#1 Barnett Jackal Crossbow  (4.5/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.7
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 36
  • FPS – 315
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 150
  • Best For: Beginners, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

#2 Arrow Precision Inferno Wildfire II  (4.7/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.3
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 39.5
  • FPS – 345
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/100
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 225
  • Best For: Beginners, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

#3 Arrow Precision Inferno Fury  (4.2/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 5.7
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 25.5
  • FPS – 260
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 18″/376
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 150
  • Best For: Beginners, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Best in the $400 – $700 Range

#1 Barnett Buck Commander  (4.3/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 8.1
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 36
  • FPS – 365
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 22″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 175
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

#2 Excalibur Axiom SMF  (4.8/5)

  • Excalibur Axiom SMF Crossbow KitWEIGHT (LBS) – 5.8
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 37.5
  • FPS – 305
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/350
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 175
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

#3 Barnett Ghost 350 CRT  (4.6/5)

  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.6
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 36
  • FPS – 350
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 175
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

Best in the $700 – $1000 Range

 #1 Barnett Ghost 410  (4.4/5)

  • Barnett Ghost 410 CRTWEIGHT (LBS) – 7.3
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 37.3
  • FPS – 410
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 22″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 185
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

#2 Excalibur Matrix 355  (4.9/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 5.4
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 35
  • FPS – 355
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 18″/350
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 240
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

#3 Barnett Vengeance  (3.9/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.3
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 38
  • FPS – 333
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/436
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 180
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • Review: Coming Soon…

Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and More Reviews

Daily Deals – July 22nd 2015 – Solar Powered Hiking Backpack, Camping Lantern and more

$50 – ECEEN Solar Powered Hiking Daypack 

ECEEN Solar Powered Hiking DaypacksThis extremely highly rated dayback is currently on sale on Amazon when you use promo code XRUIRX3A. This pack is usually on sale for $70, so $50 for a daypack is a great deal, one that is foldable and includes a 3.25 watt solar charger is just outstanding.

The backpack folds up into a little pouch, which makes it perfect for traveling in your luggage or trunk. It unfolds in seconds and is ready for use. The 3.25 watt charger is slow going but it will keep your phone or GoPro charged up nicely.

This is a great pack for slack hiking as well. Read our full review of this backpack and the best solar backpacks for 2015.

==> $50 on Amazon with coupon code XRUIRX3A<==

$7 – Newisland Universal Waterproof Phone Cases 

Newisland Universal Waterproof Phone CasesRain can happen anytime. I have learned from experience you always need to keep your phone in a ziploc page while camping. If you plan on being near water, the beach or just want something more secure then you really can not beat this waterproof phone case. It holds phones up to 6″ and locks as well as has a neck strap for easy usage.

The case normally retails for $30 on Amazon, so $7 is a pretty hefty discount.

==> $7 on Amazon with coupon code S3Z75N66 <==

$8 – TaoTronics Collapsible Camping Lantern 

TaoTronics Camping LanternThis collapsible lantern normally retails for $50 and is currently on sale for $8, which pretty much made this an instabuy for me. I normally just use a headlight for my night time illumination, but this lantern’s small size and huge battery life convinced me it was worth the extra 4.3oz in my pack.

Also works as a flashlight, SOS flash and shock/water resistant is just icing on the cake.

==> $8 on Amazon <==

Daily Deals – June 18th 2015 – YKS 3-Person Automatic Folding Tent with Double Layers, Windproof, Waterproof and UV-proof

$85 – YKS 3-Person Automatic Folding Tent 


Current on sale from Amazon from $129 to $85 if you use the coupon code ZN33WBBS at checkout. Reviews on this seem to be a bit questionable so buyer beware. For $85, for 3 people, this looks to be perfectly fine for a backyard or light camping trip.You can buy a larger, heavier grade for more money, but if you are on a budget and need a sturdy 3 person tent this should do nicely. Setup is expected to take 2-3 minutes due to the automatic folding feature.

  • 8 lbs
  • 3 people
  • 4.1 stars on Amazon from 9 reviews

YKS 3-Person Tent Deal – ZN33WBBS

$18 – Coleman 48-Quart Chest Cooler 


Great deal on this medium sized cooler. This is usually $40 on Amazon and you can get it for $18 from Kmart today! This cooler will hold right around 60 12oz cans or however much food would take up the same space as 60 12oz cans. No wheels so this will be a team lift using the sturdy side handles to get this cooler to its destination.

Coleman 48 qt Deal

$59 – Coleman 100 qt. Xtreme Wheeled Cooler with Tow Handle 

Coleman-100-qt.-Xtreme-1024x1024Need something bigger than the 48 qt Coleman? You are in luck! The 100qt version is currently on sale on Amazon. This cooler usually goes for an even $100 so act on this fast! This bad boy is perfect for throwing into the car for a camping trip. It will hold 160 cans if you are in a drinking mode or several days worth of food. This is rated to keep ice for up to 5 days in 90 degree temperature, so this should last you your whole trip easily. Big wheels and drain plug with a channel makes taking this to your destination and then cleaning it out a snap. Convenient drink holders in the lid make this perfect to pull up next to the camp fire and enjoy your night.

Coleman 100 qt Xtreme Deal

$40 – Northwest Territory Rocking Chair 

Northwest-Territory-Rocking-ChairWant to bring your own rocking chair out to you to the woods? You are in luck, this camping chair is $20 off today from Kmart and you can pick this up for $40. This chair normally sails for $82 on Amazon so this is a pretty sweet deal. This chair has a lot of phenomenal reviews and is one of those camp items that once you have one you will always immediately buy another since you do not want to go without it anymore.

Northwest Territory Rocking Chair Deal

$25 – Hammock – No Stand

Hammock-SelloutWootGet some rope, tie this to two trees and really elevate your camping experience. Nothing says relaxation like chilling in your hammock. You can pick up a hammock from Woot for $25 today. Keep in mind that this does not include a stand, but that should be just fine for a camping trip. This is a pretty heavy duty hammock so this really only makes sense for a day trip or if you can pull up right next to your camping site. This is not a hammock you would ever want to backpack anywhere.

Woot Fabric Hammock Deal

Wenzel Camping Tent Review – Are They Good Tents?

Wenzel Camping Tent
Wenzel Camping Tent

This is our Wenzel camping tent review. To go the Wenzel Camping Tent official website, click the link below.

Wenzel Camping Tent – Official Website

There are many tent manufacturers out there today, but when you buy a Wenzel camping tent, you’re getting a tent designed and built by a company who’s been producing outdoor gear since 1887.

Wenzel makes tents that range in size from a small 2-person “pup tent” to a massive 17’ x 14’, 10-person tent. They also produce a 10’ x 10’ canopy which makes a great sunshade in summer or a waterproof cover in the rainy season.

One feature that makes a Wenzel tent differ from other tents is the waterproof fabric. Their “Weather Armor” fabric is made of polyester and actually has a polyurethane coating to help it shed water.

Another thing you’ll find on a Wenzel camping tent is welded seams in the floor. Most tent manufacturers have sewn seams which create millions of small needle holes. These small holes eventually could allow water to seep in. Not so with the Wenzel tent.

What Makes The Wenzel Camping Tent So Popular?

Many campers choose to purchase a Wenzel camping tent for several reasons. As mentioned earlier, Wenzel has a long history of producing quality camping gear since 1887. They know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to tent design and construction.

Wenzel tents get great reviews from consumers. For example at, Wenzel tents receive 4 or more stars out of a potential 5 stars on every tent, on average. Why do they get high rankings? They’re well made and they hold up well under the wear and tear of camping.

Finally, Wenzel camping tents are popular because they’re affordable. Most of their tents are priced around the $100 mark. The larger, multi-room tents can cost over $200, but they’re still a good deal for a large tent.

These are a few of the reasons why the Wenzel camping tent is the preferred tent for thousands of campers today.

If you’d like to see all the Wenzel tents and where to find good deals on them, click the link below:

==========> Wenzel Tent Deals <==========

Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent Review – A Winner or a Dud?

kelty-grand-mesa-2-tent-reviewThis is our Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent Review. If you’re looking for the official Kelty Grand Mesa tent site, make sure you click the link below.

Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent – Official site

Your pack weighs 12 pounds. Your sleeping bag weighs 4.5 pounds. Your cook stove weighs 2.8 pounds. On and on it goes. Before you know it you’re lugging 80 pounds up a 7 mile trail to your favorite lake.

Backpacking gear needs to be as light as possible. Ounces count. Your tent is no exception. The lighter, the better, right?

The Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent weighs in at 4.5 pounds complete with poles, stakes, and rain fly.

It has a footprint size of 82” by 58”, and it’s 44“ tall – a little tight for two hikers, but plenty of room for one and his/her gear.

There are lighter tents than the Kelty Grand Mesa 2, but they cost twice or three times the price. This makes a good starter tent or for a hiker who only goes out a few times a season.

Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent Review – More Details

The Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent is a dome tent, meaning it’s got a low profile. This shape is particularly helpful if your tent is pitched in an area with windy conditions.

It’s also got internal pockets and clips for stowing away items you don’t want to lose track of.

Watch this short video highlighting some of the features on the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent:

Click here for good deals on the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent

Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent Review – What I Liked About it

The Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent is very easy to set up. It uses a system where all you do it assemble the two crossing poles, then clip the tent to them. Everything’s color-coded, too, so you can literally set it up in a few minutes.

Another feature I like is the zipper is very smooth and doesn’t jam. It feels like it’s heavy-duty and should last awhile.

Some tents are lacking when it comes to ventilation, but the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent has ample air-flow. The entire top half of the tent is screened, so it won’t ever feel stuffy or get that condensation that oftentimes collects overnight.

kelty-grand-mesa-2-rainfly-1024x1024Most tents come with a rain fly, but most are designed like a roof that covers just the top of the tent. The rain fly that comes with the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent completely covers the tent. This ensures a totally waterproof enclosure during those unexpected mountain showers.

Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent Review – What I Didn’t Like

The only complaint I’ve heard about the Kelty Grand Mesa tent is it’s a little snug for two larger people to comfortably sleep in.

At 82”, the length is fine, but being 58” wide, it doesn’t give you a lot of extra room. But two-man tents are notorious for being small for two, especially in backpacking tents.

Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent Review – Overall Thoughts

For the amount of money invested, the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent is an excellent tent. It’s light, easy to pitch, and has great ventilation. It also includes one of the best rain flies I’ve seen.

You can find better backpacking tents and shelters, but they’re going to cost $400 to $500, or more.

I’d say for the money, the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent is you’re best bet.

Click here for the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent

If you’re looking for a family-sized tent, check out our Coleman Red Canyon Tent Review.