Review: Helio Shower

The Helio Shower retails for about $99 at REI and my husband and I were able to pick one up at a REI garage sale for about $13. SCORE! 

For $13, I was was willing to take the gamble on whether this shower worked or not as all sales are final at these garage sales. Anyhow, here is my review on the shower based on the item we got at the sale:


  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Holds a lot of water
  • Foot pump is nice for continuous water pressure
  • Can place the shower anywhere = no gravity feed


  • Water pressure is not great (could be just our item as it was a return)
  • Not able to use hot water in this shower BUT I you could put warm water in it and it would be OK.
  • I feel like I am going to rip the handle on the shower after it is full

With that all being said, we have a cheap $15 or $20 solar camp shower (gravity fed) purchased off of amazon and it works great!! Unless you REALLY need a shower that is not gravity fed, the Helio is compact and lightweight but….I think a modified weed sprayer bottle would be cheaper. 

UPDATE 7/5/2017:

I have used the Helio at night in our little off-grid cabin to take a facecloth/sponge bath to clean up before bed when it is too cold outside to use my gravity fed solar shower and so far it has worked better than I anticipated. Turns out, i needed to close one of the valves on the foot pumo to get better pressure inside and love that when we leave the cabin, I can collapse the shower a d put it away or bring it outside for an outdoor sink to wash dishes. I still feel like the handle is flimsy (BUT it has not broke yet with 3 gallons of water in it…). 


Biolite Stove Review – 2 years post purchase

We have been using our BioLite stove with the grill attachment along with the cattle for about 1 to 2 years now and here are some of the things that I like and don’t like since using it:


  1. It’s very compact as the battery fits into the stove compartment and then they both slide into the kettle. So tailgating is made easy for someone who doesn’t have the space or lives in a compact area like San Francisco. For us, it makes it easy to pack up or just store out of wa when not in use.
  2. It is an all-in-one: a grill, battery recharger, and stove top.
  3. The battery and fan are self charging/propelling via kinetic energy from the fire, unlike the latest blue version out there.
  4. Small electronic devices like headlamps, and watches recharge quickly.
  5. Wood is free fuel. I have purchased the little Biolite wood pellets for when I just want to start a fire right away (yes i have been that lazy…I mean exhausted) or keep a fire going for a long time. I find the heat from the wood pellets is long lasting and more controlled, not mention I don’t have to keep throwing in twigs every 2 mins. I want to try BBQ wood chips to see if there is a big difference in flavors…..and I have seen them for cheap at stores.


  1. IF it rains…..say goodbye to breakfast, lunch and dinner. You need twigs/dry wood to start your fire and if you didn’t collect it before the downpour then you will be eating whatever doesn’t need to be cooked.
  2. Unable to sufficiently recharge larger devices like phones. My older Motorola smartphone recharged quite well with our Biolite; however, since I have upgraded to a Galaxy S5, a get a small burst of recharge (a whopping 1%) about every 5mins. I was reading that the newer phones will need more amps to recharge than older models. Just FYI.
  3. It is heavy for backpacking (33oz. = 2.06lbs) so I don’t recommend it for this activity. We use a Jetboil for backpacking and love it too but for different reasons.

In the end, I would recommend the Biolite for tailgating, car/base camping, or is you need something really compact that does it all. But if you are focused on backpacking, not feeding a fire, instantaneous ON and just reheating water for your dehydrated meals, I really enjoy my Jetboil.

How to recharge your electronic devices in the woods

Whenever we go camping or backpacking, we have a couple of different ways that we recharge our electronic devices. Depending on how much wattage you will need in order to recharge the device, will dictate which method.

For small devices like a headlamp or Garmin GPS watch, our Biolite Stove works just fine; however, my Samsung S5 needs more amps/wattage and unfortunately does not recharge well from the stove.

I would suggest getting a solar fold-able solar charger like the below picture from Amazon. I got a Ravpower charger that I think is no longer available yet this one is very similar:

My Ravpower charger is a 15W solar charger and recharges my S5 in 60-90mins in full sun.

I was really impressed with how quickly it recharged my phone!! 

Another charger that I don’t leave at home is my Jackery lipstick battery. I like this little lipstick battery versus some others for two reasons:

  1. It has a LED bar on the battery to show me how full or depleted the battery is.
  2. It is lighter than some others. My husband has an Anker lipstick battery and that thing is like lead = heavy.

All in all, while being out in the woods and decompressing from the responsibilities of life or just being an adult, it is nice and a luxury to recharge your devices via the sun, fire or a recharged battery. I know I really like being my Kindle along for a good read in my hammock or a late night movie on our tablet (Yes, I admit it 😦 I occasionally watch a movie while in the woods).

SAFELY enjoying the great Outdoors

Hi Everyone,

I am normally outdoors exercising (weather permitting) and it occurred to me the other day while trail running alone….and no one was on the trail, which is quite odd as it is usually frequented. I realized that there are some extra safety items that I need to get since I’m going out alone:

  1. Whistle – in case I don’t have the strength to yell or need to call attention to myself
  2. Mini first aid kit
    • I carry band-aids, antiseptic ointment, blister cream and Tylenol
  3. Water
  4. Gel or Energy Bar in case I go longer than anticipated
  5. Medical ID card or bracelet
Some items that I am thinking about getting however not really sure….
  1. Swiss Army Pocket Knife??
    • Maybe come in handy. I’ve also heard that someone protected himself against a mountain lion attack with his pocket knife, yet going up against a mountain lion with a tiny knife is a feat in itself…
  2. Pepper spray or some other sort of protection
    • Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this and think I would carry this if I was more of an urban runner
Any other suggestions? Or is this overkill?

Spending Fast…and Now that I’m Spending AGAIN

Since my Spending Fast, I’ve had some expenses for school that I have needed to take care of (i.e. immunizations, shoes and upgrading my software on my personal computer); nevertheless, I have been exercising more and enjoying the great weather outside. I couldn’t help but wander through REI and look at all the cool, efficient gadgets that are lighter, better, faster than what I have from my Wally world (Wal-mart) equipment. My head was spinning with excitement and the desire for wanting to upgrade.

Unfortunately, here’s what I realized with “allowing” myself to spend again:
I feel like I don’t have enough…
while on my Fast, I felt like I had everything that which I needed, I just needed to get creative and maybe re-purpose something.
You would think that I would have the opposite feeling of, “I have money and I can provide for myself.” So why would I feel the lack? The act of having to go out and get something screamed to me that “I don’t have it” and I’m missing it. Instead of, “You already have it. Get creative and make it work.”
The only thing that I have felt a little guilty on, which thankful for my mother she changed my perspective, has been buying new trailing running shoes and a hydration pack (both bought on clearance). I tried to make my husband’s hydration pack work for me; however, it only held a bladder, leaving me with no where to put house my keys, phone, and maybe an energy bar. And my hiking shoes are heavy while my running shoes…..well, you can see the white inner sole showing through the black outer sole that hits the pavement. I told my mother about this and her response to me was, “Valerie, it’s your health and wrecking your knees is not worth it to save some cash.” Well said!!!
As for the hydration pack, I did look on Craigslist (I would have changed the bladder/mouthpiece, etc.) but the piece was almost the same. I also spoke with my husband last night who has ran many marathons and leads PT (physical training) for his crew and told him about how I got light headed, vertigo and run was pounding while running yesterday. I never crave sports drinks and this time I did. He confirmed that I was dehydrated so the pack was a good thing to get. I HATE carrying junk while running and having the weight bounce against my back or hips. This is my first time using a pack so I will post a review on the Nathan HPL #020 (I got mine at REI for their 2012 close-out deal = over 25% less than I’ve tried running with water bottles, and not to say that it can be done; however, running for 1-2 hours or hiking 2+hrs……it’s nice to have something more comfortable. I also like the idea of having my hands free in case I slip and need to catch myself.
  1. “Needing” to go buy less gives you the sensation and satisfaction that you have everything that you need.
  2. And your health is worth it! Don’t sacrifice treating your body like a temple. This physical body is what moves your through this world.
P.S. I just watched a lecture by Scott Jurek (ultramarathon runner and fruitarian) on his tips for saving money on gear:
  • Buy on sale and stock up
  • If you are a women’s 8 (shoe size) then you are a men’s 6 — see if the men’s version works for you. Because the shoe size is so much smaller than what normal men go for, there may be a chance that there is overstock = save money
  • Use what works for you – if you are not racing, throw on a t-shirt and shorts and get out there.