Ranger Review: INNO BRM665 at Oceano Dunes SVRA

------- Campground Review -------

This was my first trip to Oceano Dunes SVRA. Originally we were supposed to be camping in Yosemite but the recent fires interrupted those plans so my buddy grabbed his quad and we headed to the beach. We showed up without reservations and with no hesitation were granted access to camp for a small fee of $10 per vehicle. After you enter the gate you immediately drive down to the beach and you're off-roading from that point on. I would highly recommend you have an appropriate AWD or 4x4 vehicle if you plan on entering the park as we saw a number of cars and 2WD trucks get stuck on the soft sand. Camping is allowed in the park anywhere south of pole 2 so it's a little trek from the gate down the beach before you can camp. One thing that was a little weird is that there are no designated campsites in this park. It's all first come first serve so people stake out their area. Unfortunately this leads to campers who bring wooden stakes and tape and section off large plots of land just for themselves… this was very annoying. While we were there to tent camp about 99% of campers on the beach had large trucks towing trailer motor homes. The park was also extremely crowded during our Sunday - Tuesday trip which was unexpected for being there mid-week. The crowded camp site combined with people staking off large areas for themselves made finding a spot rather difficult and we ended up nestled between two motor home compounds.

Nice things about Oceano SVRA:

  1. Natural Beauty. The beach is actually quite pretty, as are the dunes.
  2. Dog friendly. Dogs are allowed everywhere in the park as long as they are on a 6' leash. All the fellow dog campers seemed to be very respectful and keep their dogs under control and clean up after them.
  3. Price. $10 a vehicle is cheaper than most camp sites.
  4. Off-Roading. This is one of the few places where you can take your vehicle off road and have some fun in the dunes. I had a blast off-roading on the quads. We made friends with one of our neighbors and he was nice enough to take us out and give us young guns some tips and tricks on riding. He was very generous with his time and even let us try out his top of the line equipment to see the difference between our beater ATV. It was such a blast and was by far the highlight of the trip!

Less than nice things about Oceano SVRA"

  1. Amenities. The bathrooms are kind of a joke, just porter potties or a boxed in hole in the ground. There is no running water, fire pits, picnic tables, designated camp sites, etc… you're really just out there with what ever you bring with you.
  2. Crowded Chaos. The campground was overcrowded. There is no way that many people should have been camping on the beach. It made for a less than campy experience. Would recommend coming in the off season.
  3. Natural Beauty is overshadowed by man made mayhem. I was expecting to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves… instead the sounds of RV generators were so loud that you couldn't even hear the ocean. While the park does have some natural beauty, it's always obstructed and in the presence of an RV or squad of quads. You're not really in nature at all.
  4. Disrespectful campers. Campers section off large areas of the beach hogging it for themselves. While it is clearly marked that no fireworks are allowed large fireworks and whistlers went off ALL NIGHT LONG. This terrorized my dog, kept us awake, and while it was easy to identify where the fireworks were coming from the Rangers did nothing about it. There are clearly marked signs of a 15 MPH speed limit on the beach and around the campground area. This is completely ignored and buggies and bikes kick up sand spraying it all over the place.
  5. Weather. Not really a complaint but just be prepared for heavy wind as you're right on the beach.

I'm all for the off-road and 4x4 community and want to support them. I believe that they are an important part in outdoor recreation and see them as the cousins of car camping, backpacking, and hunting. That being said there are a few bad apples in every group. Maybe the end of summer mentality and heavy crowds they just showed them off a little more during this trip. I don't this is necessarily a bad campground, but I didn't have the best experience here. If I come back it will be with different expectations, and i'll probably bring an RV as opposed to a tent. Overall I give the Oceano Dunes SVRA a 2.25/5 stars.

------- Product Review -------

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time - on this trip I got to test out the INNO Wedge BRM665.

Product Review of INNO Wedge BRM665:

This was the perfect trip to put the INNO Wedge BRM665 through the paces. The INNO Wedge BRM665 is roof cargo box that mounts to the crossbars of your vehicle. While INNO has a number of different products in the wedge series that offer a variety of different sizes the BRM665 provides an extra 14 cubic feet of cargo space. I've owned a couple of roof cargo boxes from other brands in the past, and after retiring my last cargo box was excited to get to test out the INNO.

Strengths of the INNO BRM665:

  1. … It's Strength. Honestly this thing is STRONG. While manipulating the box off the roof it was vest stable with little to no flex or warping as I moved it around my garage or lifted it onto the car, making it very easy and predictable to handle. It's strength again was displayed once mounted on the roof where there was no pulling of the sidewalls or flex of the hood as I opened/closed the box, grabbed the side to reach in, or shut it down on compressible items inside.
  2. Functionality. There are some really smart and convenient features packed into this little box. Firstly it opens on both sides which was a total game changer. No longer did I have to climb up onto my car to reach something that had rolled to the opposite side of the box, I just walked around and accessed the opposite hatch. Secondly there are straps in the box to help hold your gear in place. I haven't seen this feature in any other boxes, but not hearing my stuff roll around in the box when it wasn't full as I took a turn was reassuring.
  3. Safety. This box has locks that are idiot proof. The key can only be removed from a keyhole when in the locked position. So you put your key in, turn to unlock, open the box, access your gear, close the box, and have to turn the key back to lock to remove it. At first I hated this feature. What if my keys are somewhere else and I want the box unlocked for quick loading and unloading? But during the trip I came to really like this feature. With my past boxes the key could be removed without locking the box. Sometimes I would be out on the trail or pulling onto the highway and think "man, I hope I remembered to lock the cargo box", no more!
  4. Quiet. The streamlined shape of the box was much MUCH quieter than my previous cargo boxes. No, it's not silent by any means. However, at highway speeds my previous boxes sounded like there was a tornado touching down on-top of my roof. The wedge however is hardly noticeable at street speeds and acceptably loud at highway speeds.
  5. Versatile. The memory mount system is amazing. My previous cargo boxes had fixed mounting positions which were fine on my Sequoia but interfered with the operation of the hatch on my Subaru. The INNO system mounts have a generous slot to adjust the positioning forward or rear allowing me to sit it further back on the Sequoia for easy access AND move it forward on my Subaru so the hatch could open all the way. On top of the adjustability the memory mount system makes it SUPER FAST to mount and unmount. Previous cargo boxes i've had typically take about 20 min to put on and about 10 min to remove. I was able to install and remove the INNO in about 2 minutes each. No more leaving the box on during the work week between camping trips for me!
  6. Size. The first thing I did when I got this box was stress test how much it could hold. I stuffed it with weeks worth of camping equipment, as many skis as I could pull down from the rafters in the garage (long enough to fit my 186cm Line SFB's), stoves, and at one point my 86# dog jumped in while it was on the ground. It's got capacity!

Annoyances of the INNO BRM665:

  1. Weight. At over 50 pounds it's pretty heavy for a roof mounted cargo box. While I was able to install and remove it on my own my wife would not be able to do so and would require help. The weight made it a little squirrelly when lifting or lowering from overhead.
  2. During a stress test of the box I put everything I could find and just shoved it in there to see what it could hold. When closing the box the latch grabbed onto my sleeping bag stuff sack and tore it. Not a big deal but something I'll be watching out out for when packing the box in the future.
  3. The white top got pretty dirty pretty quickly on the trip from sand and salt and bugs. Maybe get the black one unless you want to scrub this thing clean to keep it looking tip top.

Overall I loved the the wedge. It's by far the best roof cargo box i've ever owned and it's features make it super easy to use. The construction of the box seems to be very strong and I imagine even with heavy use this box will last many camping and skiing seasons until it taps out. Well done INNO! I give the INNO Wedge BRM665 4.75/5 stars.

Ranger Review: Marmot Alpinist Jacket at Mt. Shasta

Getting there: From the bay area to Mt. Shasta is a long and dull 4.5-5 hour drive. Most of the drive is through a dull stretch of the central valley until you get closer to Lake Shasta and the mountain itself.

Campsites: We didn't so much stay in the designated campsite as much as we just kinda picked a spot and set up our tent right next to Panther Meadows. Pick a spot a little off the main road as traffic goes up and down that road all day and night as people launch from the Bunny Flat trail head at all hours for their accent of Shasta.

The Park: It's amazingly beautiful. Shasta is a real gem.

What to do: Try the technical climb of Mt. Shasta. There are two ways to do this; backcountry ski skin accent and mountaineer accent. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages. I ended up doing the BC ski accent/decent. This option requires you to carry a ton more weight for the hike up, but a much faster and more fun decent. Be sure to get a summit permit before climbing the mountain. A permit is require for all climbers ascending above 10,000'. I believe it was about $25

The Gear: I took with me my Marmot Aplinist Jacket. This is my first season using this coat and it's a great piece of gear. The coat is designed to work with Alpinist (and ski) gear as the name suggest. Pockets are high, remaining accessible with a backcountry pack on. The hood is large, so that it easily fits over my climbing helmet. The ventilation is abundant, so that I could quickly adjust my temperate on the fly with the changing weather conditions. The temperature on the mountain ranges from 80+ at the base to below 30 up top with heavy winds. Some parts of the accent were rocky and exposed. The jackets durability held up well to the abuse of rubbing against rocks and the edges of my skis on occasion with no tears or rips at all. At night when we were done climbing for the day and were around the campsite on the mountain the jacket layered well with a down mid layer. But my favorite part of the jacket is it's fit. The Aplinist jacket has an athletic cut, so that there wasn't a bunch of extra fabric all over the place getting caught in pack clips or flapping in the wind (and it looks great on you). An athletic fit usually means restricted range of motion, not in the Aplinist. Even with it's athletic fit I had full unrestricted range of motion with my arms, head (even with the helmet and hood on), and torso. Verdict: Field tested, Ranger recommended! For extreme and diverse conditions this jacket is amazing. The only downside is the weight as you would want a different coat (Marmort Precip for example) for longer backcountry treks or more moderate weather conditions. Check out the coat at: marmot.com

Yosemite - Tuolumne Meadows

Getting there: As far as campsite in Yosemite go, Tuolumne Meadows is one of if not the most difficult to get to. From the East entrance of the park your still about 1.5 hours away from the campsite. To increase the difficulty of getting there Tioga Road is closed during the winters and will close anytime it snows.

Campsites: Tuolumne Meadows rest halfway between the Yosemite Valley and Mono Lake. Additionally Tuolumne sits just feet from the John Muir and the Pacific Crest Trail. All this access in combination with the difficulty of getting to Tuolumne Meadows makes it a great campground for those wanting to get away from the crowds and out onto the trails. WARNING: Because Tuolumne Meadows is so exposed to the forest there is HEAVY BEAR ACTIVITY. Keep your campsite clean, keep all food/toothpaste/sunscreen/anything that smells (even canned beer or alcohol) in the Bear Bin. The Park: Yosemite is awesome. What to do: You're already WAY OUT THERE so you might as well go see everything off Tioga Road (White Wolf, Porcupine Flat, etc. Also drive out to Mono Lake. You have perfect access to hiking the John Muir and Pacific Crest trail. Find a route and get out there!

Half Moon Bay State Beach

Getting there: Easy from anyplace in the bay. The 92 into Half Moon Bay tends to get a lot of traffic as it's only 1 lane each direction. The beach is right off where the 92 and PCH meet up and is super easy to find. Campsites: The campsites are close to each other, your not going to get a 'secluded' camping experience here. The facilities were kinda dirty, probably because they are overused by day trippers to the beach and not just campers. The sunset, beautiful. The stars, scarce with the fog and ambient light from all the surrounding cities. Dogs are allowed at the campsite on leash, but not on the beaches here at all. If you want a dog friendly beach go just a little south to Poplar Beach where the pups can roam free off leash and have a blast. The Park: Tiny. Beautiful beaches, nice scenery, not a lot of vegetation. What to do: If you want to swim, surf, or just watch the sunset this could be the campground for you. If you want to hike, be alone in nature, or have a secluded experience then go someplace else like Big Sur. There was a LOT of trash on the beach when we were there (beer bottles, red solo cups, bonfire wood/ash). I'm sure this is an isolated incident of some assholes trashing the beach to party, but it should be noted.

Los Gatos Creek Park

Getting there: Easy enough. I stopped by this park on the way to LA to stretch my legs and check it out. It's about 30 min off the I5 and not worth your time. The website said that it's $5 to park, but I didn't pay. Campsites: The campsites are closed as far as I know. However, even if they were open I would camp elsewhere, like at Pinnacles.
The Park: Tiny. Not very scenic. Maybe good for a picnic and some sort of activity in the large fields (soccer, frisbee, softball, or something) What to do: … go to a different park.

Mt. Whitney - 12,000' Camp

Note: This review is for climbing Mt. Whitney and camping at the Outpost Camp @ 12,000' Getting there: From any real city getting to Whitney Portal will take hours and hours on the longest most boring roads in the world. And you better not forget your permit before you get there, because you wont make it through Whitney Portal without it - permits are required to camp or climb Mount Whitney.

Campsites: There are no campsite at the Outpost Camp @ 12,000', you simply pick a spot and set up your tent. Try to find someplace that will be sheltered from the wind and don't set up too close to the water. Have a pre determined place picked out where you want to poop (you MUST have a WAG Bag with you on Whitney - be sure to pick them up before your hike, and carry extra) for going to the bathroom as it is quite rocky and exposed. You don't want to be searching for a spot with a turtle head poking out. Thirsty? Great! The stream has cold delicious water flowing through it, but unless you want to get giardia you better have a filter or iodine tablets. Enjoy!

The Park: It's beautiful, it's treacherous.

What to do: Hike forever and summit Mount Whitney! Try not to die. Look at ALL THE STARS! Try not to freeze to death. Enjoy the view! Try not get Altitude Sickness.

Mt. Diablo State Park

Getting there: Super easy, look for the tallest mountain in the area, drive towards it, boom you're there. It was expensive to enter the park… I think around $10 per vehicle, someone correct me if i'm wrong.

Campsites: The campsites are a decent size and fairly spaced out. All the campsites provide a old broken down picnic table, a bear box, a grill, and a fire pit. There are shared restrooms with plumbing to use.

The Park: Awesome. Big. Crowded. No dogs allowed.

What to do: Hike Diablo there are TONS of trails. Go rock climbing or bouldering in Rock City. Drive, hike to the top and check out the observation deck.

*will add my pics later.

Sandborn County Park

Getting there: Getting to the park is fairly easy compared to other parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains like Big Basin. There is an entry fee of $6 per vehicle if you park in the lot. The lot was full and cars were waiting when we left. If the lot is full and your not towing a bunch of stuff or kids you can also access the park via road parking and the gates (if you park in front of the gate you will be ticketed/towed). Campsites: All the campsites provide a picnic table, a bear box, a grill, and fire pit. There are shared restrooms with plumbing scattered all over the place so one will always be within a short walk. The Park: It's nice. Dogs are allowed on leash. Lots of Redwoods but to far inland to see the ocean or anything. Even during the summer it gets enough of a sea breeze and has enough shade to stay cool.
What to do: Go out on some hikes, there are about 15 miles of trails. If you hike 2 days and stay 1 night you can easily hike the park out. Trails start steep and then mellow out once your on the ridge line.

*will add my pics later.

First to Review
Crystal Basin Recreation Area - Gerle Creek Campground

Getting there: Once you get off the 50 from where ever you're coming from it's another 45 minute drive on windy roads. Best to try and arrive during daylight as signs are scarce and many roads look overgrown, it would be easy to get lost at night. Campsites: The campsites are fairly spacious but close together. Each campsite is allowed 1 car for free, additional cars are $7 per night. Also not listed when booking is if you bring a dog they'll tax you $1 per night per dog. All the campsites provide a nice very large picnic table, a bear boxes (big enough for about 2-3 coolers), a grill, and a large fire pit. There are shared restroom areas scattered all over the campgrounds so one will always be within a short walk. The restrooms are coed, have TP, and is little more than a hole in the ground. No sink for washing hands or a dish washing area so bring your own wash basin. A potable water spout is located outside of each restroom. The Park: It's ok. There are a lot of lakes around. It get really hot up there. What to do: Go out on some hikes. Bring a kayak and chill at one of the lakes. Hope you drove a Jeep up here because this is 4x4 land and you would be in good company revving your engine and trying to drive up some rocks.

Kings Canyon National Park - Canyon View Group Campground

Getting there: A long drive on windy roads behind people generally doing 10mph under the speed limit. Take your time because you sure wont be able to rush. Once inside the campground the road looks more like a lunar landscape with more potholes than pavement. Campsites: The group campsites are fairly spacious and easily fit 15 of us, they are rated to hold 20 people but that might be a bit of a squeeze. All the campsites provide 3 picnic benches, 3 bear boxes (not enough so be weary of how many coolers you have), and only one fire pit with grill grate. Trying to get 15 people around a single fire pit and still within range of the warmth was a major issue. There are shared restroom areas with full plumbing and potable water through the campsite. This campsite was also really, really far away from most of the stuff we wanted to do, I would NOT stay at this campsite again. WARNING: The rangers here are asshats. They were constantly patrolling and searching for a reason to write us a ticket (-1 star). They gave us 3 warnings the first day of our stay for BS nit picky reason (we don't want to put our shit in the bear bin when we are sitting around snacking on it you dick). The Park: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park were nice but everything you want to do is at least an hour drive each way on windy roads. Kind of a pain. What to do: Go out on some hikes, there are a ton of trails. Go see the giant Sequoias, either General Sherman or General Grant. Go explore some caves, they are awesome.

Yosemite National Park - Hodgdon Meadow Campground

Getting there: As far as campsite in Yosemite go, Hodgdon is one if not the easiest to get to. From the East entrance of the park off the 120 the campsite is less than a mile from the entrance gate. You wont get stuck in the grueling traffic that often plagues the drive to get down into the valley.

Campsites: Hodgdon rest on the upper shelf of Yosemite outside the valley. Because of this a lot of RV's camp here and then use their tow vehicle to drive down into the valley. Additionally Hodgdon will be windier than in the valley and a few degrees cooler. The campsites are fairly close to each other and all provide a picnic bench and fire pit with grill grate. There are shared restroom areas with full plumbing and potable water through the campsite. WARNING: Because Upper Pines sits along and is so exposed to the forest there is HEAVY BEAR ACTIVITY. Keep your campsite clean, keep all food/toothpaste/sunscreen/anything that smells (even canned beer or alcohol) in the Bear Bin. If you're not prepared to chase a bear away from your tent, your car, or your family… stay someplace else. The Park: Yosemite is awesome. What to do: While Hodgdon isn't one of my favorite campsites in Yosemite it does have a distinct advantage, access. If you stay in the Yosemite Valley… you're basically stuck in the Yosemite Valley. Staying at Hodgdon gives you much better access to Hetch Hetchy, Tuolumne Grove, Crane Flat, and everything off Tioga Road (White Wolf, Porcupine Flat, Tuolumne Meadows) - if it's open.

Uvas Canyon County Park

Getting there: From San Jose it took me about 40 minutes. The road is windy, narrow, and not for the car sick. Be prepared to pay $6 for parking.

Campsites: The campsites are nicely maintained. Plenty of area to pitch a tent, all the sites have a BBQ, fire pit, and picnic table. The sites are close together to maybe bring ear plugs in case you have loud neighbors.

The Park: Really pretty, really small. I would say in 1 full day you can explore 100% of this park. No need to make an entire weekend out of this place when you can do all of the pretty stuff in just a few hours.

What to do: Go see the waterfalls. With the current California drought all of the falls were at little more than a trickle but still something to see. To hike to each fall it's about 6ish miles with just a few hundred feet of total elevation gain. The trails are large and well defined for an very entry level experience.

Yosemite National Park - Upper Pines Campground

Yosemite is the golden gem of the National Parks system. It's one of a kind landscape and unmatched beauty is something that has to be experienced, not just seen.

Getting there: The drive down into the Yosemite is grueling… you WILL be stuck behind someone who goes 10 mph under the speed limit, its taking picture on their phone while they are driving, and has a turn signal on the entire time. These people are the unavoidable demon of a place so famous and beautiful that every gaper out there wants to come and see it for themselves.

Campsites: Upper Pines sits along the Merced River and just on the North edge of the campgrounds for the valley. It location is great for access to the trailheads for Half Dome, Mirror Lake and Nevada Falls. The whole campsite has a great view looking up at Half Dome. The river is a perfect spot to wash off or cool down after a hike. WARNING: Because Upper Pines sits along and is so exposed to the forest there is HEAVY BEAR ACTIVITY. Keep your campsite clean, keep all food/toothpaste/sunscreen/anything that smells (even canned beer or alcohol) in the Bear Bin. I have stayed at Upper Pines about a dozen times and about half of those trips there will be a bear incident someplace in the campsite. If you're not prepared to chase a bear away from your tent, your car, or your family… stay someplace else.

The Park: Yosemite is awesome.

What to do: I'm sure this will be covered more in-depth in a different review.

Pinnacles National Park - East Entrance

With so many great parks near the Bay area from Yosemite to Big Sur or Point Reyes, Pinnacles is and under rated gem of a park.

Getting there: An easy drive down the 25. The park East entrance is actually very easy to miss so pay attention on the windy road or you'll miss it like I did… twice.

Campsites: Car/RV camping. Full plumbing restrooms and showers. Metal fire pits at each campsite. Wood for sale. Campsites are very close to eachother and you will catch a lot of neighbor noise so try and select a campsite on the end. The Visitor center has maps, information, and a small shop.

The Park: Very much had a high desert feel. Very hot during the day with little shade to be offered, but got fairly chilly at night. It seemed small for a National Park… but i'm also comparing its size to the likes of Yosemite or Big Sur. You can explore just about the entire park in 2 days/1 night.

What to do: …Hike.

  • I would suggest one day going to explore the Balconies Cave. From the Old Pinnacles Trailhead Parking its 2.1 miles each way to the cave and the cave is about .4 miles. All said and done it will be about a 5 mile round trip hike. The walk out is exposed and gets hot, have plenty of water. The cave itself stays very cool, around 50*f. Headlamp for both caves will be required.
  • Now that you're warmed up go for a real hike the next day up to the top of the Pinnacles. I'd suggest parking at Bear Gulch Day use area > up the Condor Gulch Trail (1.7mi) > turn left at High Peaks Trail (.6mi) > stay left on the High Peaks Trail all the way back down (2.2mi) [there is a restroom on the trail near Scout Peak] [Photo Ops here, look for the Condors!!] > turn right onto the Rim Trail (.4mi) > cool off going down through the Bear Gulch Cave (.7mi) [need your headlamp again] > and finish the hike back down to the Day Use Area (.5mi). It's a good hike… not to be done with young kids. You better have some food with you and at least 2-3 Liters of water per person, the trail is very exposed and the sun will beat down on you like an ant under a magnifying glass. Start in the morning to try and avoid some heat and finish in the cave to cool off at the end, it will feel refreshing and amazing.