Wednesday, August 6, 2014

BAD Gear: Chaco Z2 Z/2

It's been a while since I reviewed a personal item. So today I will review my favourite pair of sandals: Chaco Z2. In fact I've given up on other types of sandals or outdoor hi-venting shoe including Keens. I'll go into that later. I won't even talk about Crocs. pphhhhhh

I bought this pair of sandals in 2011 and its still going strong. The webbing straps are just now starting to fray at the edges (nothing a lighter couldn't fix). I've just re-soled them with another set of Vibrams, thereby saving money on a new pair of sandals and supporting a local cobbler (oh yeah, I'm probably being environmentally friendly be recycling, reusing, and reducing).

I paid $95 for a pair of these back in 2011 at VPO . I had them resoled including labour was about $50.

The original Z2 soles are Vibrams and feature a deep lug grip. The foot-bed is contoured and provides support for those with pronation. I wear custom orthotics in work boots and exercise sneakers, but for sandals I was very hard-pressed to find anything remotely supporting my bad genetics...until I discovered Chaco Z2's.

There are different models of Chacos ranging from Z1 (open toe) to Fathom (traditional) to Updraft (raised heels for the short guy). I chose the Z2 because I found I needed the stability and forefoot control the wrap-around toe loop gives me. It also features custom adjustment webbing straps that dries fast and maintains a consistent fit.

I've travelled all over the tropical and desert world with this pair and it is a very reliable and rugged. The original out-sole was a Vibram TC-1 rubber which featured a 4-5mm lug depth and was high traction (including wet) and self-cleaning as well as being non-marking. The grip is exactly what is needed from difficult trekking to multi-sport. Because of its thinness, the feedback is communicative about grip and geometry of terrain thereby prevents slipping and tripping. I find that these soles are a better compromise between performance and comfort than Keens.

The new soles also being Vibram, I am expecting the same type of performance I have with my previous soles. There was a requirement to fill in some areas at the heel where I had worn right through the outsole and into the mid-sole. All in all I haven't noticed any performance degradation in my testing of wet traction, and long'ish hikes.

The new soles seem to be performing just fine, and although the out-sole lugs are differently shapes, I am still quite happy with them.

Now the reasons I really like this as compared to other sport sandals, is because I have options for quick in and out. I don't have to utilize all the straps, I don't even need to put my toe in.

I've tried wearing Keens, and although they are a great sandal/shoe, I find that when wet, there's too much friction. Also the webbing starts to stink. And I don't like to whole covered toes thing. Keens do fulfil another type of market, but for what I do, the Chaco's are just fine. Also, Keens, don't offer me that contoured foot-bed, and I found my feet tired and ached due to lack of support for pronation.

Now my kids, they were Keens. I'll probably do write-up about Keen Kids shoes later, but for my Bad Ass Kids, Keens are sufficient. They don't slip off easily, they provide wet/dry interface traction, as well as good cushioning at all-day or multi-day affairs such as Disney, or Cuba, or Mexico, or even at home. For myself however, I prefer the Chacos

In terms of terrain and geography, these sandals have handled everything from white sandy beaches in the tropics, to basaltic lava rocks, to shit-covered rocks in Nigerian streams. I think I even went through some sort of rainforest with them. I know for sure I've climbed a comms tower with them. Did I mention these work perfectly on land and submerged underwater?

One thing to note, if you are travelling, is that they do have a bit of weight to them, about 2lbs for the pair vs 1lb12oz for a pair of Keens. We're talking about 4oz extra of booze you can't put in your carry-on's amenities kit.

Another thing to note, that is a plus, is that the webbing itself is a polyester material, not a nylon, which makes it super fast to dry, and polyester is doesn't present with  much friction when wet, unlike nylon webbing uppers found in the Keens.

So, about the webbing straps. I think it is actually constructed out of one length of webbing for the top that loops in and out of the mid-sole and uses a buckle for cinching. the back heel straps is a separate length. How you "customize" the fit, is to tug each exposed strap starting at the front and working your way to the back (like shoe laces), until you get a snug fit. You pull on the buckle to tighten everything up.

It really is an infinitely adjustable system because it uses this pull-through design to secure the fit without the necessary bulk of extra buckles and straps.

Seems pretty darn easy. Once it's set, it stays in place because of friction within the rubber midsole. To loosen I just have to release some tension from the buckle and I can easily slip my feet out.

These are also machine washable, or even better find a brush, some baking soda and some water. The open-air design really does enable me to clean these sandals more effectively than a close-toe design.

The last comment I want to make is the contouring of the foot-bed. It's what Chaco calls a BioCentric design with moulded arches that offer extra support, reliable stability, pronation control and all-day comfort. All of which are very true and I have proven it. In fact, it carries the Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association - which probably means that it's good for you - just like fluoride toothpaste is endorsed by dentists.

So, some things I don't like, nothing really. Weight can be an issue if you are approaching that weight limit threshold for carry-on. They still will get stinky if you trudge in seawater, so will every other shoe, but this is by far the easiest to clean and quickest to dry.

So yes, every bad ass dad should have a pair of Chaco sandals. Because Bad Ass Dads don't let Bad Ass Dads wear Crocs.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BAK Gear: Chicco Poly High Chair

Have you ever bought a high chair where your kid couldn't sit at the table without knocking knees or pinching their leg fat?? When we first realized we were preggers, we went straight out to the store and bought the first Graco high chair we found. It functioned. It lacked some features but it worked. Plus, it was cheap. However, as she got bigger, our child couldn't sit at the table comfortably without some sort of injury, whether its pinching her fingers between the underside of the table and the high chair or her leg fat getting squished.

Now, enter the birth of our second kid, and things are a little different. We got some lessons learned from buying a cheaper high chair with limited functionality. We started looking for a more useful high chair that would serve our kid from the first time they sit down for a meal at the table, to at least when she can get on and off her own chair. Plus, for you pansy male designers it should fit the decor and design notes of the house right? As a conversational piece, it should draw in and complement colours of the surrounding area right? 

The Chicco Poly High Chair came in many textile design options and layouts. BAM opted for this red/orange paisley combo matching some artwork and brings out the warm brown and orange hues in the flooring and dining table. Plus it hides shit really well - especially tomato-based sauces - so you won't have a white-coloured high chair with the faint orange staining that you see at second hand stores. We bought this off a garage sale in near mint condition for cheap. Normally it retails around $150 at ToysRus but I still wouldn't pay that much for a chair. For that price, I'd rather the kid sit on stacks of medical textbooks strapped in with a shemagh scarf. So buy it on sale - or used.
Apparently this chair is Italian-designed (although probably mass produced in China and sold at a premium). So if you want to be chic and hip you want this chair. Almost everything about this chair can be operated one-handed - good, bad, meh - it helps.  Ok, so why do we like this chair so much. First here's the marketing text straight off the website:
The Chicco Polly 2-in-1 High Chair Features:
Ultra-slim fold
Two vinyl easy to wipe clean seat pads
7 seat heights, 3 seat reclines, and adjustable footrest
Convenient tray insert and tray storage
5-point harness with shoulder pads and 4 wheels with brakes
What we really like though, is the fact that its vinyl so we can wipe shit off of it, or just stick it outside, and hose the damn thing down - with the kid strapped in.

We also like that it folds into a compact size. Well as compact as any high chair could be squished, but it's out of the way, and out of site (and it won't fall over). I like that it has all sorts of doodads to adjust, whether its armrest, or seatback position, height under table, footrest, seatbelt positioning, It's like being in the driver's seat of a Land Rover.

On the back of the high chair, there's actually some additional features that make it a well thought out product. So if you're like me, you often wonder, "so now WTF are we suppose to do with the tray table if we don't use it?" Well, along the rear posts, there are hooks to keep the tray in place when not being used. There's also netting available which we use for holding myriad bibs and shit like that.

Ok, so now onto the sitting piece, the vinyl. I can't really figure out why they made it a two-piece affair, other than giving it some design contrast. Not a big deal but it works. Although, I suppose if the top layer becomes a Pollack painting, it can be removed leaving another underneath. As with other high chairs with vinyl content, when doing a field strip and clean be sure to run your fingers into the nooks and crannies to rid the chair of dried noodles and shit. Removing both covers for laundering is as simple as unthreading the seatbelts from the eyelets, and voila they both come off easily. Because its vinyl, its also very easy for our dog to do some pre-cleaning.

For the tray table itself, its also a two-piece affair with the main tray table affixed to moveable chair arms by means of sliding it along the rails on the arms. There's plenty of leg room between the tray and the seat, there's also a crotch block to keep your slippery kid from sliding down, if you're not using the seatbelt. The tray insert really is quite helpful with those inevitable spills, just lift off the tray insert, dump and re-attach. All the while keeping your kid in place. The underside of the tray really does look like the Starship Enterprise.

The tray insert is a semi-transparent plastic piece with shallow partitions for water cup, an entrée section, and some side sections. I like that its a solid piece, with no holes (unlike the Graco which had holes to accommodate plug-in toys) - making it much simpler and easier to clean. It also fits in our dishwasher. Not sure of the recommendation but I always follow my rule about, if its kid stuff, and its not machine washable I ain't buying it. We never actually used the tray, because our kid sat at the table

So the last bit I'd like to review is the height adjustment capability. We already know that you can lay this high chair almost flat so your kid can sleep while you eat. Or for an infant who can't hold their head up yet. When we went out looking for another high chair, seat height adjustment was a big performance factor. We needed something that would fit under our table while enabling our child to sit there comfortably without pinching her leg fat.

This chair enables her to sit at the table. With a few height adjustment options, we can essentially let the chair "grow" with the kid, enabling her to remain at our table, and perhaps not having to buy a booster or make her squat on adult chairs for height.

I'd recommend this chair for anybody who requires more control of the adjustment of their high chair to suit their family requirements for having their kids at the table (we didn't use the tray at all). As always, evaluate what you really need. We went through two separate Graco high chairs before we got this one. That's not to say Graco doesn't make a useful high chair, we just found it didn't' slide into our table too well with the kid in it, and when collapsed it actually had a weird weight distribution making it prone to falling over.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BAK Gear: Gro-Clock - children's clock

Sorry folks its been a while since my last legit kid's stuff review. I've been out saving the world and getting a tan at the same time. This review is on the Gro-Clock, a clock designed specifically for aiding your kid to learn when to sleep and when to get out of bed. My little bad ass kids haven't learned to tell time yet, but timings are important to me, probably much more so than love, respect and scotch.

We searched for a perfect system, reading online on how to teach kids how to tell time, and honestly none of that shit works. Not really. Not unless you put your kid into 5 minute horse stance timeouts enough times, that they can guestimate when you say "don't wake up for another 3 horse stances" Well, that only sort of works. The Gro Clock has a countdown timer in the form of sunrays or moonrays, that gives the timings some visual context.

We started out first kid on the Gro Clock when she got into a toddler bed which coincided with her new-found ability to get in and out of bed on her own. Sleep training with this clock enabled her to gain increasing responsibilities and freedoms while decreasing her dependence on us. If she wakes up before the screen turns to wakeup (orange) and the audible beeps, its her responsibility to stay in bed or in her room until it does turn to orange and beeps.

The Gro-Clock really fit with what we were looking for, which were:

  • Visual representation of sleep (indiglo blue) and wakeup (yellowish orangey)
  • Intuitive Countdown timer
  • Dual wakeup times (one for nap and one for night)
  • Silent and/or audible tone
  • Double as a nightlight
  • Adjustable backlighting
  • Child lock out
  • Sleek and sexy

The product itself has a built in battery that "freezes" all the settings, including the main time; therefore if the power is off/on a few minutes it shouldn't be off by much. However after 3 or 4 hours, the battery drains. It also uses an LED backlighting, so power consumption is quite low, in fact it also has a built-in energy saving mode, the clock will turn off the LED after wakeup. There are two sleep modes, using different icons. One is a sun, the other a moon - perfect for daytime nap and night time sleep. We liked this clock so much that we picked up another for our 2-year old - who just transitioned from crib to toddler bed.

Here are the rest of the features from the product website:

  • ​Glowing screen shows images of stars and sun to communicate 'sleep' and 'wake-up' time
  • Includes fun bedtime story book
  • Stars go out one-by-one during the night to show the passing of time
  • Key-lock option
  • Option to set two separate wake-up times (weekday/weekend or night-time/day-time nap)
  • Adjustable screen brightness
  • Silent operation
  • Optional audible alarm feature
  • Mains powered (adapter included)
  • Suitable from age 2+ years
  • Conforms to highest applicable British and European Standards
  • Educational option of showing digital clock during the ‘stars to sun’ countdown
  • "Mr Star" night time graphic
  • Beautifully illustrated bedtime storybook

Now this ain't the magic bullet that will turn your hellish satanic kid into a sleeping heavenly cherub over night. This great piece of hardware used, in conjunction, with consistent parenting and disciplining will yield great results. Now if you just slap this onto their table, and tell them " don't wake up till it shines, or I'm a beat your ass" That's probably not going to work well for you - especially if you just lazy and want to sleep in till 10am. We use sticker charts as a reward system - over a 7 day period. The Gro-Clock becomes part of her nightly routine, and as long as she accomplishes them all - she gets a sticker beside each task, and when she fills the chart she can pick out of a box some useless dollar store trinket. The key here is consistency and a good understanding of Pavlovian Conditioning.

We bought the clock from Toys R Us Canada for $50 CDN.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's tax time!

This is just a quick post to say that, if you're Canadian and looking for new way to prepare your taxes and file them easily, then check out Did I mention they are free, no strings attached?

Simpletax is a cloud-based Canadian software company authorized to NETFILE with the CRA. So what this means is that I can log in from anywhere and prepare my taxes - from home, from work, on the bus, upside down in the amazon rain forest... I can even do it from overseas.

I love the simple and intuitive user interface, the question marks are helpful, and the links go to CRA website for more FAQ. I also like the number crunching for optimizing coupled tax returns.

In the past I've used installed software like simply accounting and quicktax and turbotax. These are just bloated applications that I use once a year. So why have it installed? Why not just go to a simple login screen, type my credentials in, then BING BANG BOOM. I can switch between profiles and prepare BAM's as well. It's pretty darn slick.

For me, I don't need tax advice from software, I don't need to know how much more I will save if I take out a loan for my RRSP's, etc. I just need an app that will enable me to fill in the boxes, validate against some business rules, do some optimization and boom done. I'll save the advice for when I meet my financial planner.

The dev team is relatively small, but they are subject matter experts consisting of a tax lawyer, designer, and developer. what more do you need for rapid prototyping other than user feedback?

So, I say, give them a try, and if you like it, send a lil' somethin somethin there way to keep the project going.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

BAM Gear: BOB Revolution SE Jogging Stroller B.O.B.

These days, the BOB Revolution Jogging Stroller is as ubiquitous in the city as it is in the woods. And damned rights it should be. This piece of kit is by-far the best $500 investment we have made. From its high strength aluminum alloy construction to it's big 12" wheels, the BOB is part of our everyday lives. Even with two kids we have managed to use the BOB unintentionally as a two kid transporter (especially useful when on vacation where lots of walking would be involved).

Now when we were considering buying a jogging stroller, I totally balked at the price point of some of these higher-end strollers. Considering now, that it has been in use for over 5 years, through two kids, on a daily basis, I think it's well worth it. You buy cheap you buy twice. Buy Once cry once. And certainly from my cohorts discussions, I do believe that spending the extra money to buy something of higher quality will in the long run serve you better.  We also had to consider, what we wanted our jogging stroller to do. In short we were looking for an active-lifestyle stroller that could also take a beating - in fact I've use the stroller to carry my shooting equipment and steel reactive targets out to the 500m line. But amongst that we were looking specifically for:

  • Big inflatable wheels for trails
  • Adjustable Shock absorption for trails
  • Single front swivel wheel for turn on a dime maneuverability, plus a locking mode for straight jogging.
  • Sunshade
  • Reclining
  • Some sort of storage area
  • Well built and easy serviceability through a local bike store
  • Infant carrier adapter
  • Snack tray
  • Can accommodate even 5-6 year olds
  • Easy to push and manipulate one handed
  • Ease of deployment and tear-down
  • Small footprint and deployed and tore-down
  • Removable wheels
  • Easy to lock brakes
  • Lower center of balance as well as front to back balance
  • Lots of surface area for the hands to grip
  • The ability to accommodate two kids in a pinch
  • Weather shield protection
  • Under $500
We looked and we looked, and 5 years ago, there wasn't that much on the market that fit exactly those needs. There were a few contenders, but we ended up going with the BOB Revolution as it was being sold through our local bike store, and an excellent compromise between true hardcore pavement running stroller, and trail applications.

Those who know me realize that I'm not the gentlest with my kit. Where people will spit-shine their Glocks and their M4's I just throw hose them down with some CLP love and throw them into the safe without nary a worry. The same goes for kid equipment. That's not to say we don't perform proper care and maintenance, but if it's meant to be outside in the dirt, it's going to be outside - in the dirt. 

Here are the features of the BOB from the BOB website:
  • Swiveling front wheel allows for superior maneuverability.  Locks forward for increased stability when jogging or if the terrain turns tough.
  • Easy, two-step folding, lightweight frame for convenient transport and storage.
  • State-of-the-art, adjustable suspension system provides an exceptionally smooth ride.
  • Accessory Adapter allows for quick and easy attachment of BOB Infant Car Seat Adapter or Snack Tray.
  • Ultra-padded, adjustable reclining seat for enhanced seating comfort. Five-point padded harness helps keep your child comfortably secure.
  • Multi-position canopy adjusts for protection against the elements. Large viewing window lets you keep an eye on your baby.
  • High-impact polymer composite wheels with pneumatic tires and tubes take on tough terrain.
  • Low Boy Cargo Basket provides plenty of undercarriage storage. Additional space in large seatback pocket. Internal seat pockets provide a great place for snacks and toys.
  • A simple twist of the front wheel tracking adjustment knob keeps you rolling straight.
  • When engaged, the parking brake helps secure a stopped position.
  • Padded handlebar for comfort; wrist strap helps you secure stroller when strolling and provides handy fold lock when folded.
Now, there have been some enhancements done between the time we bought ours and the current model year, for example, the accessories are now all QD (quick detach), versus when I had to unscrew and screw on shit. However, all the mechanisms and material are still the same.

What I truly love about this BOB, is that even though it comes in at 11kg, it still pushes light. And I attribute that its sealed cartridge bearings as part of the wheel component. I love the shock absorption- mainly because the kids don't complain when we're on the trails.

Ok, so besides jogging with the stroller, we do also take it with us on family outings including when travelling to places where we know there will be lots of walking and complaining and carrying of shit. Some situations where we do use the stroller including lots of uphill/downhill trails to the beach along the West Coast, Camping, and of course family vacations. You will be pleased to know, that when fully compressed with the wheels off, the stroller fits inside most major airport X-ray machines, although you may find it just as easy to empty out all the shit and roll it through. Either way, there's options now for flying - plus all the airlines I've flown with have OK'd it for skychecking (checking the stroller at the gate) which means you now have, essentially, free storage space!

So, when going on family outings we try to keep it minimally loaded, but inevitably, it will end up being the family caravan at the end of the day. Buy a MOMMY HOOK! On one trip where we were out for the entire day, by the end of it, we were hanging two little life backpacks, some activity sachets, jackets and fleeces, diaper bag. One time I even bought flat of water and just rested it on top of the canopy. It was downright epic.

Now, if you have a little one and then a kindergartner, you may of considered buying a Duallie, or a Chariot double stroller. Go ahead, if you intend to jog with both of them. We found that the Duallie double stroller had a very limited window of opportunity to use. I don't really like pushing two kids while I'm jogging. I'd rather tow them on a bike. In anycase, if you are going on a trip and do want to have the ability to transport two kids - easily done. The bigger on just sits in the foot well. It's not beautiful and probably not all that safe, but strolling through a theme-park, you can get your kid to stick her feet out and start knocking down ankles - the equivalent to ice hockey and "elbows out."
There is one thing that I don't really like and its how they want you to keep the stroller folded down. They want you to use a strap with velcro and loop it around itself. I found it a bit hokey, and opted to use one of my leg straps from the Safariland 6004 SLS tactical thigh rig (elastic 1.5" webbing with high grade plastic hardware buckles). I just loop it through the brakes bar and click it together and I don't have to worry about velcro becoming undone. That's a minor issue which I believe this new generation has addressed.

This stroller is truly an all-season stroller, all weather stroller, all-terrain (well - mostly just up to hardpack or loose gravel). I'd recommend this to all my Bad Ass Dads and Moms who are looking for a stroller to do active shit with. Or, if you just want to stroll in the park in the middle of winter you can do that too. Remember, proper care and maintenance will ensure you will get years and years of "adventure" out if it. Then you can resell it and get some good coin back. It has a very high resale value too.


Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.