2014 the Year in Numbers

Another yummy gourmet meal in a bag.

Another yummy gourmet meal in a bag.

Every year we have a little get together and go through our website numbers to see what’s driving traffic to the explorer’s lens. Twenty fourteen was a good year for the site; all-time monthly highs, record number of visitors, and views. Thank you for the support!!!

We’ve always wanted to do a year-end site review but figured most folks are not interested in that sort of thing. But… as I was looking at the site’s numbers I got to thinking about ‘our numbers’ in 2014.

Here’s a little about the site and what 2014 looks like in our rearview mirror:

the explorer’s lens site statistics

Users – 5,600

Views – 8,900

Spam messages received – 92,777

Time needed to read spam – 24 days

Top three articles – 4,484 views

    Ten Must See Attractions in Glacier National Park – 2,026
    Hiking Jasper’s Skyline Trail – 1,441
    Ten Free Things to do in Jasper National Park – 1,017


Summit attempts – 6 (5 successful)

    Haleakalā (Maui)
    Sulphur Mountain (Alberta)
    Kristínartindar (Iceland)
    Hrútsfjallstindar (Iceland)
    Clements Mountain (Montana)
    Pollock Mountain (Montana) – Weather forced us off the mountain

Days on a glacier – 4

Crevasses fallen into – 3

National Parks

Number of Park visits – 7

    Haleakalā (Maui)
    Banff (Alberta)
    Þingvellir (Iceland)
    Vatnajökull (Iceland)
    Jasper (Alberta)
    Glacier (Montana)


Miles flown – 38,810

Airlines used – 4

    Air ‘we’re not happy ’til your not happy’ Canada
    Icelandic Air

Time spent in airports – 1 day 2 hours 33 minutes

Continents visited – 3

Countries visited – 4

Roughing it

Kilometers hiked – lost track at 300+

Meals eaten from a bag – 27

Nights spent in a tent – 12

Times drenched, chilled to the bone thinking ‘why are we doing this?’ – 3.5

Bears sighted – Too many to count

Most important number

Regrets – 0

Thanks again for a wonderful year and looking for to the adventures 2015 has to offer.

Posted in rambles, rants, and raves, top ten lists Tagged |

Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Adventurers

It’s the most frustrating time of the year, especially if you’ve got an adventurer – traveller, trekker, backpacker, climber – on your secret santa list. How are you supposed to relate let alone shop for someone who takes great pride in their ability to wear the same clothes for days, eat “gourmet” meals from bags, and delights in sleeping in a tent while claiming ‘it was the best time of my life’?

What adventurers really want

True, adventure-types are hard to buy gifts for but if you follow three simple fundamentals you can put the ‘fun’ back into the fundamentals and the ‘merry’ back into your Christmas festivities. For the adventurer on your list gifts must be:

As well intended as your gift is, if it doesn’t serve a purpose it will not get used. If the item serves more than one purpose the higher the likelihood of your gift being well received.
Ideally your gift should be lightweight and small. The lighter and smaller the better as these items are often carried over great distances.
These people are nomadic souls often finding themselves in the middle of nowhere so your gift needs to be reliable as their safety and well-being may depend on it.

So with Kris Kringle’s arrival imminent Cameo and I have put together a list of gift ideas that match the criteria above – and fit a variety of budgets – that every adventurer would love to find in their stocking or under the tree:

Leatherman Skeletool

Gone are the days of a multi-tool being a heavy chunk of stainless steel with a blade and pliers. Current models are scalable (ie add-on attachments) with sleek skeleton frames inlaid with carbon fibre to improve handling and reduce weight leaving nothing but MacGyver’n goodness.

Leatherman, SOG, and Gerber are leaders in this field. We’ve been using Leatherman products for years and the Skeletool CX is our current favourite.

Nalgene water bottle

There are a number of hydration systems on the market but nothing beats the simplicity of a Nalgene bottle. Cheap, reliable, and unlike hydration bladders, bottles are capable of multitasking – measuring cup, drink mixer, dry storage, PUD (wait for it… you’ll find out), and hot water bottle.

Look for hard plastic BPA free models with ‘widemouth’ MSR compatible tops (allows the bottle to be connected to an approved filtration device).

Buff Headwear

Every traveller should have this item as a Buff checks all three ‘adventure criteria’ off in spades.

It’s a scarf, a beanie, a bandana, a face mask, a sweatband, a wash cloth, a sling… you get the picture. It’s also lightweight and packs down to almost nothing when not in use.

A number of colours, styles, and options – merino wool, fleece, dry-tech – are available.

Outdoor Research Stuff Sack

All this loot has to go somewhere! Compression sacks are great for ensuring every ounce of gear will fit into a backpack.

We find them handy for our down sleep bags. The sack compresses the bag into a smaller packing size while offering improved water repellency keeping our gear dry.

Depending on type sack, they can also be used to haul water, used as a lightweight summit bag, a snow stake to secure a tent, and even a pillow.


Let there be light… From alpine starts to mid-night pee breaks every adventurer appreciates a headlamp.

The most recent additions to these lamps feature USB rechargeable batteries.

We couldn’t find an Amazon Associate with a reasonable offering so we’d recommend visiting your local outdoor retailer. We’ve used a number of Petzl and Black Diamond brands and would recommend either company.

MSR Mugmate

How you bean man? Adventure is fuelled by coffee… Sometimes chocolate… And most definitely beer… But mostly coffee!

If your adventurer also happens to be a caffeine addict – high probability – an MSR Mugmate is a no brainer; a simple reliable guaranteed cup of coffee in the morning.

Maps and Guidebooks

There are two ways to get lost – Not knowing where you are, and not knowing where you are going. Having a map and/or a guidebook makes being lost look prettier!

National Geographic and Gem Trek (Canada) make excellent maps for most National Parks. Check with your local retailers or online for the best selection(s).

In our opinion National Geographic and Lonely Planet are publishing the best guidebooks currently. Lonely Planet books are also available electronically for various readers (ie Kindle, iPad, etc.).

Optimus Long Spoon

My what a long spoon you have… All the better NOT to get food on my hands!

If you’re giftee is the backcountry type they’ve probably eaten a “gourmet meal” from a just-add-water pouch. Stirring the meal with a normal sized utensil results in a serious trail condition called gooeyknucklitis, the inflammation of the hands resulting in them getting covering in macarroni cheese powder. Solution: Longer spoon!

Julbo Sherpa Galcier Glasses

If the adventurer on your list is heading into alpine environs for extented periods of time, particularly glaciated terrain they need glacier glasses to protect their peepers. Julbo is the gold standard and I love my Sherpa’s classic mountaineering look. Purpose built for the mountains they bring out everyone’s inner Edmund Hillary.

Go Girl Personal Urinary Device

Ladies, you too can stand for number one – Do you know someone who’s being singled out because they have to sit down to pee? Are they tired of watching ‘the boys’ write their names’ in the snow? If so this one’s for all the lady adventurers.

You Go Girls!

If you were wondering what a PUD is; now you know.

Gift Certificates

Really… All those GREAT gift ideas listed above and you’re still at a loss? Good thing there’s always the heart warming gift of a cold hard gift certificate.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The fine print

Links associated with products will open our Amazon affiliate site where purchases can be made.

the explorer’s lens makes a small commission from each sale.  These sales help with the costs associated with maintaining theexplorerslens.com.

As always, your support is truly appreciated. Thank you.

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Jasper Dark Skies – The Learning Curve

image of pyramid mountain and the big dipper - jasper national park, ab

Our humble attempt at capturing Jasper’s Dark Skies – Pyramid Mountain, Jasper National Park AB ©theexplorerslens.com

For the past three years Jasper National Park has celebrated it’s dark side showcasing the celestial bodies above it’s rugged and scenic landscapes. Most of the time we’re already tucked into bed too tired from riding, hiking, or climbing by the time the star-studded spectical illuminates the Park.

Photographically speaking

Having spent many years behind a camera it’s shameful to admit I know nothing about taking photographs at night – seeing the image above some may say I still know nothing about taking photographs at night – fair enough. But playing with light is what I do, so sticking with the fundamentals of photography produced the image above.

Still lots to learn and I’m in awe of those whom have mastered this nocturnal art form.

Jasper’s Dark sky festival

Designated as a ‘dark sky preserve’ in 2011, Jasper is home to an annual star-studded festival of sorts every October.

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