the dyrt
Ranger Review: RōM Pack at Devil's River Campers Park

Campground Review

Every year it seems there are changes at Devil's River. The campsite are still nice, though if you want privacy, there's not a lot. This is great for camping with friends or family. We usually have 4 sites with family over Labor Day weekend. This year they've added a deck off of the bathroom/shower building. It seems like it was almost done.

One night there was very loud partying at some of the seasonal campers sites. It was a bit obnoxious, but they were mostly quiet by 11pm. There were a lot of seasonal sites with Trump flags and I saw one Confederate flag…so interesting cross section of humanity.

One of the season campers had some giant inflatable climbing/bouncing things for the pond, so that kept the kids and some adults occupied. The same person also projected a movie in the new covered deck. He's a generous man, willing to share with the other campers.

We played cards and lawn games and Slammo and frisbee in all the open space and also swam in the pond. It was a great weekend, as always.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the RōM Pack from RōM Outdoors.

I'll be upfront and honest…this might be the most disappointing product I've tested for The Dyrt. It definitely isn't all bad, but the concept, in my opinion is a failure.

The RōM Pack is a convertible backpack that can unfold into a poncho or a blanket.

As a backpack…

What I like:

  • It is stylish
  • The material quality is heavy duty

What I didn't like:

  • It is very heavy…when empty
  • The main pocket isn't very large due to the excess material needed for the poncho/blanket

As a poncho…

What I like:

  • It is a poncho

What I don't like

  • The snaps don't stay snapped
  • It is too short in the front
  • It is too warm….it has a fleece lining
  • The hood is small
  • It looks a bit funny when you where it with the backpack straps and the flaps…I was laughed at by my family

As a blanket…it is great. It is warm, large enough and water resistant.

Overall, the concept doesn't seem practical. If I'm hiking and I expect rain, I'd pack a raincoat or a lightweight poncho to wear over my regular clothes. I'd dress for the weather. I'd never need a fleece lined poncho. I likely wouldn't need a blanket either…and if I did I could roll up a blanket and put it in a regular backpack.

The RōM Pack is also quite expensive at $120. The build quality is very good, but the execution and the concept are where it fails. The best "mode" is blanket mode, but I can recommend any number of cheaper blankets. I wanted to like this, but I'm afraid I can't recommend it.

Ranger Review: Renogy Water Filter at Lowney Creek (Pictured Rocks)

Campground Review

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is great for backpackers. We camped at Lowney Creek and parked at the Beaver Lake Basin Overlook. It was a 2 mile hike crossing the beautiful Lowney Creek multiple times. The birds were singing on our hike, we saw toads, and the trail is pretty well maintained and very well marked.

Our campsite was right on the shore of Beaver Lake. This offered ample water for filtering. We were able to watch a blue heron catch a fish and were hearing the loons. The lake is beautiful and definitely suitable for swimming. There are 4 campsites at Lowney Creek with a shared fire ring and a shared bear box for food. There is nice large trees for shade, and a couple of the sites are more secluded than the other two. Nearby about .3 mile is the group site.

The backcountry camping was awesome and I would definitely go back.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the Renogy Water Filter pump.

It is a functional pump that works, but isn't all the easy to use, especially by yourself. I found that having at least one person to assist by holding the clean water bottle and to make sure the water inlet hose stays in place. It went even better with three people. Unfortunately for me, this isn't great.

What I like

  • The flow rate was good. I haven't used it enough to have to back flush, but it's nice they include a syringe to extend the life via back flushing.
  • It is compact. I have some friends with Katadyn filters and those are no better at filtering, but they are much bulkier.
  • It comes with a bag for all the hoses and the filter.

What I don't like

  • The hoses work, but seem low quality. They aren't smooth, but overly rubbery, so stuff sticks to them.
  • To store, you have to remove both hoses
  • It is cumbersome to operate
  • The carbon filter probably improves taste slightly, but you'd have to buy replacements. My Sawyer filtered water tastes fine to me.

Overall, a functional filter that works as well as a filter of this design could work. I'd probably recommend a Sawyer Squeeze before this one though.

Ranger Review: Mountain House Turkey Dinner Casserole at Point Beach

Campground Review

Growing up in Two Rivers, it is surprising that I never camped at Point Beach. I've only ever been there a few times, and never for camping. Overall, the campsites we were on were on the smaller side, but not too small. There was just enough privacy with the trees. You could hear the lake if you listened, you were very close.

The park is beautiful. The beach is very nice. It isn't a big swimming/volleyball beach like the nearby Neshotah Beach, but there is enough sand and space to find a spot and the swimming is fun. Nice big waves on the Great Lake.

There are some trails along the lake and some other hiking, but we spent most of our time at the beach relaxing.

The firewood for sale was bad, we had a hard time keeping it going. Most of the pit toilets in the park didn't have ventilation for the vault, resulting in very smelling restrooms. The flush toilet building was fine, though, and pretty central.

I'd definitely go back!

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the Mountain House Turkey Dinner Casserole.

I've eat a fair number of Mountain House meals in the last few years and this one is near the top in taste. It tastes just like Thanksgiving. MMMMMMMMMMMM. I'm getting hungry thinking about it. Mountain House meals aren't cheap, but if you can find this one on sale or just need something easy, definitely try this one. So good.

Ranger Review: Renogy Solar Backpack at Mauthe Lake

Campground Review

Mauthe Lake is a solid campground with nice sites and a beautiful lake. There is ample hiking in the area being part of Kettle Moraine State Park. The 2 mile trail around the lake is very nice.

There is a good mix of options for campsites: full shade all the way to sunny. While most sites are good sized, there are a few small ones.

The campground has a central bathroom/shower building and each has its own pit toilet restrooms.

Overall, this is a nice campground and we try to go once a year.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the Renogy Solar Backpack[https://www.renogy.com/renogy-solar-backpack/].

As a backpack it is great, and the solar panels are an added bonus.

What's great

  • The backpack is stylish, has tons of pockets everywhere, and small features that add to its utility
  • It has a solar panel that can charge your stuff

What's not great

  • The solar panel part zips off and can be reversable on the backpack itself, but to access the inner pockets of this part while it is still attached to the backpack is somewhat difficult/awkward.
  • The solar panel is slower to charge than I thought it would be. It charged a little less than a quarter of my 13k mAh battery in about 3 hours with mostly sunny conditions. This was about 70% of my phone. I don't have much experience with this small solar kits, so maybe this is normal, but I was expecting faster.
  • Mine was stepped on and it got some cracks in it. I would have expected it to be a bit more durable on a backpack. It does still charge, but looks all cracked. I'm not sure if the performance is affected by this.

Final thoughts

Overall I'm still very happy with the backpack and will definitely make use of it, though if I were to need a solar charging kit, I'd probably buy it separately from the backpack itself. I don't see the practicality of hiking with the solar panel charging…the pack would only be a day pack, but if you only need a day pack, your phone should be fine for just a day. You'd get better performance from a stationary panel, which is how I used this one anyway.

Ranger Review: Primus Essential Stove at Ottawa Lake

Campground Review

I've been to Ottawa Lake many times before, and really appreciate the spaciousness of the sites. There are a great mix of options for campsite ranging from almost full sun on the natural Wisconsin prairie or nicely shaded woodsy campsites.

There are many options for hiking since this campground is part of Kettle Moraine State Park.

The beach is pretty large and swimming is excellent. They've been restoring part of the beach in the last few years and it is looking great. The population of sandhill cranes in this area seems to be growing, as we saw a few pairs of them while camping here as well.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the Primus Essential Stove (1.3L).

I've got plenty of experience with camping and backpacking stoves, ranging from DIY beer can alcohol stoves up to Coleman Duel Fuel Powerhouse classic camp stove.

What's great

  • The Essential Stove is suitable for backpacking or regular camping, and it includes the essentials: 2 pot, a pan, a pot holder, and the burner. Everything nests together in a nice little package.
  • The stove is plenty powerful and was able to get our coffee percolator boiling in only a couple minutes.
  • The details are nice: they put rubber/silicone feet on the bottom and on the pot holder, just adding a bit of finish to a functional set

What's not great

  • The way the hose folds into the stove when stored is a little awkward at first. After using it a few times, it's more natural and not a big deal, but this could be improved.
  • "With great power comes great responsibility…" It doesn't have a great "Low". In order to prevent our coffee from boiling out of the percolator, I tried to turn it down, but accidentally turned it off. There isn't a great simmer option…the low is not very low.

The verdict

Overall, it is a nice kit and I will be lending it to some friends to an upcoming backpacking trip.

Beyond Clothing A9-U - Utility Mission Pant at Ottawa Lake, WI

Campground Review

Ottawa Lake is a campground that is so close to Milwaukee that I don't really go often enough. The campsite are nicely sized and sufficiently shady. The lake is great for swimming, though they do have e coli warnings frequently in the heat of summer. Hiking in the area is always nice, as it is part of the Kettle Moraine Southern Unit. I really have nothing bad to say about this campground, except that the cost of wood is too high.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the Beyond Clothing A9-U - Utility Mission Pant.

I'm not a military person, so I don't maybe have the background many of their target market has, but I do love to be outdoors, go backpacking, and hiking. These pants are made of a tough, heavy, ripstop nylon/cotton material. There are a plethora of pockets of various sizes. The waistband is adjustable with a heavy duty velcro, though I have noticed it doesn’t hold as well after a few washes.

The knees have gussets for movement, but for me they were too low and only helped a little. There are also a couple different spots with velcro on the legs to tighten the pants if needed.

These are really tough pants that will be able to take a ton of abuse. They are a bit warm, so they are best suited for cooler weather.

These were the cheapest pants that Beyond Clothing offered, at $194. Personally, that's way too much for pants. The material quality is high, the design is just good, but the price is much too high. Unless you have money to burn, there are cheaper options out there for the same or better quality. For most people, these are way too expensive to be worth it, even though they are good pants.

ColdPruf Platinum II at Devil's River Campground, WI

Campground Review

I've been going to Devil's River for as long as I can remember on Labor Day weekend. My grandparents used to have a permanent site there, and my family has continued to camp there since my grandparents' deaths. It is a nice campground, not far from Green Bay, in a nice area. The weekender sites have been made more level in the past few years and are pretty grassy with some trees.

They removed the old small pool and installed a large swimming pond. It is a treated pond, so it is murky water, but the open space is nice for a swim on a hot day. The pond is full of clay at the bottom, with not much sand except for by the beach, so it isn't the best for walking, just swimming or floating.

The bathroom building is old, but mostly clean. The showers are in need of an upgrade. Some were out of order when we were there.

There is access to the river and the nearby Maribel Caves park is nice as well. This is a great campground to just relax at and play cards.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the ColdPruf Platinum II shirt and pant base layers.

Being from Wisconsin, I have to own long underwear to really enjoy going outside in the winter. I've always found the stuff I had to be uncomfortable and hard to move around.

I wore these camping over Labor Day weekend when it got down into the mid-40s, and I was comfortable without any coat or outer layer. In the winter I would wear these under other appropriate clothing and I'm confident I'll be warm enough.

ColdPruf has better quality materials (not cotton) than the old stuff I have, and the fit is much better. There are excellent sizing charts and sizes for tall people, like myself. The fit is great. I could comfortably play sports or other activities in the Platinum II without any range of motion restrictions. It is tight enough fitting for a base layer (the modern name for long underwear), but not too tight.

The best part about ColdPruf is the value. You are getting very high quality, warm base layer for a great price. I would definitely say ColdPruf Platinum II is Ranger-worthy and can whole-heartedly recommend them.

Ranger Review: CRKT WOODS KANGEE T-HAWK at Peninsula State Park, WI

Campground Review

Welcker's Point is a well-shaded but somewhat open campground at the north end of the state park. The sites are nicely sized and very comfortable. There is a lot of poison ivy, but as long as you stay on the campsites and the road, you'll be fine. Even though it is shaded, the spacing in the trees allow nice airflow off the bay.

Everything within the park is connected by trails and roads, and most attractions in the park are around a five minute drive.

There were a lot of people in the park, but it was during the week and there were some empty sites in our campground.

The beach was very nice, though not very large. The nature center was packing with information about the animals there and we even got to watch a monarch butterfly come out of its chrysalis!

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the CRKT Woods Kangee T-hawk ax.

I'm no t-hawk expert or ax expert, but I have used a few different style axes, mauls, splitting axes, and hatchets. I bought this t-hawk thinking that it 1) looked cool and 2) would be able to replace my hatchet, which is a pretty cheap, but functional tool.

When I got the axe and tried it out, I found that it was really cool looking, but isn't a replacement for a hatchet if your primary function is splitting wood at the campsite. I found it to be ok at splitting, but due to the taper, then the round part of the head, it won't always go deep enough to split effectively.

What the Woods Kangee does really well is chopping. It was more than twice as fast at chopping compared to my hatchet. The shape of the axe is ideal for chopping quickly and efficiently.

The other use could be in a tactical/apocalyptic situation. The style of the Kangee with the spike at the back is intimidating enough that it could prevent conflict altogether, but if conflict ensues, I'm confident it would be an effective weapon. Those zombies don't stand a chance!

The t-hawk handle is hickory and feels great in your hand, not slippery at all. The head is a carbon steel and seems to hold its edge well. It was pretty sharp from the factory for me, but could be sharper.

Ranger Review: OOFOS Sandals at Pike Lake, WI

Campground Review

For my five-year-old son's first backpacking experience, we hiked about 3 miles on the Ice Age Trail, into Pike Lake campground (in the Kettle Moraine North State Park). We camping on one of the backpacking sites right off the trail.

Our campsite was very large, fully shaded, and included a picnic table and a fire ring. There was also a port-a-potty nearby, central to the three backpacking sites. The site was really nice, and the fireflies were very active at dusk.

Within Pike Lake there are many hiking trails of varying lengths, and all are very well maintained. They are even updating the path of the trails to help stop erosion on the hills, which is impressive if you are interested in conservation and natural resource management. There is also a lookout tower that offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

The lake was beautiful and the beach area is very nice and clean. There are many picnic tables and a playground. We would have loved to swim on our last day, but it was a bit cool (not even 70 degrees F) and very breezy. My son determined that we should hike back, but he did get to play in the sand a little bit.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test OOFOS OOriginal Sport Sandal and my wife got to test OOFOS OOlala Sandal.

Before testing OOFOS, I was not really a sandals person. Now I wear them more than I ever had before. OOFOS are made of a single molded piece of high density closed-cell foam. The shape of them offer excellent arch support, very cushioned overall foot support, and forces the wearer to take most of the pressure off of the heels. They are waterproof and very durable.

After our hike into our campsite, I wore my OOFOS and even hiked in them a little bit. They are excellent after hikes and runs, or after a long day on your feet.

My wife is very much a "sandals person" and she appreciated the cushion and the support she got while she was pregnant. OOFOS helped ease some of the pressure on her back. Now that we have our newborn, she still wears them daily. OOFOS has been her primary shoe for the last couple months and she loves them.

I whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone. Friends and family who know that I wasn't a sandals person before noticed the OOFOS and I share my love of these sandals. 100% Ranger-worthy and 100% recommended. The extra cost over cheap sandals is totally worth it.

Ranger Review: High Hopes Hammocks at Mauthe Lake, WI

Campground Review

With the rising popularity of this campground, we were fortunate to get a short-notice reservation for a portion of Fourth of July weekend.

Our site was about 50/50 sun and shade throughout the day. Within the campground, both coniferous and deciduous sites are available and you have your choice of full shade all the way to almost full sun.

Each loop in the campground has pit toilets and there is a new-ish centralized shower and flush toilet building.

The lake is clear and beautiful for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, or just relaxing. The area around the beach has a playground, as well as a large area with picnic tables, park grills, and open fields for playing sports or games. There is even a reserveable shelter for special events.

There are a lot of hiking options within Kettle Moraine North and one of our favorites is the the Tamarack Nature trail. Unfortunately, much of the trail was flooded, though it didn't stop us. With more than 6 inches of water in some places, my shoes were wet, but it was still a good time.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I tested a High Hopes Hammock.

Having used hammocks in the past, the biggest issue I've had was the hammocks are often too short for me, at 6'5". I was happy that the High Hopes hammock was long enough, and very comfortable. The quality of materials are very good and the bag is attached.

If you get the version without the straps (as I did), the included "rope" is just a couple short lengths of paracord. I'd recommend picking the version with the straps if you don't already have any.

High Hopes has two distinguishing characteristics. The first is that they donate either a hammock, survival supplies, or money to organizations helping underprivileged countries, the homeless, or those affected by natural disasters. This giving program is the reason you are paying a little more than other similar hammocks. The second feature is their cocoon function with velcro. This is great if you want some privacy (from people or bugs)…perfect for a nap.

Overall, High Hopes hammocks are quality and comfortable. Check them out, especially if you are on board with the High Hopes charitable mission. High Hopes is certainly a Ranger-worthy product.

Really nice, quiet semi-rustic camping experience

Sandill Station is right outside Lake Mills, WI, right off the Glacial Drumlin bike trail. It features 15 campsites and 1 group campsite in an oak savanna, with varying degrees of shade. What makes this campground a bit different is that all 15 standard sites are carry-in only. The parking lot is anywhere from 100-500 yards from the campsite, depending on which one you choose. There isn't anywhere to buy firewood, so buy from a local resident/gas station. There are showers/flush toilets at the nearby Glacial Drumlin office in Lake Mills, but none on site, only pit toilets.

The campsite we were on was spacious, private, and beautiful. We had two large oak trees on either side of our site, giving us a good amount of mixed shade. We walked over to Mud Lake (in the park), and only saw sandhill cranes flying, not standing in the water. Also nearby is Aztalan State Park and Aztalan museum. The state park is beautiful grassland and prairie, and the Crawfish River flows along side the park. There are hiking trails as well as guide tour booklets. The museum has a small fee, but is a collection of Native American artifacts as well as things from local residents and their ancestors.

Overall, the campground is a nice choice if you want a private, quiet getaway into the oak savanna of southern Wisconsin. I wouldn't go in the middle of summer, due to the limited shade, but it was very nice in early fall.

Ranger Review: Mountain House 5-Day Kit at Hartman Creek State Park, WI

Campground Review: As someone who has camped my whole life, mostly at Wisconsin State Park, it is surprising that this was my first time at Hartman Creek. Hartman Creek has pretty spacious sites, though they can range from very big to just big enough. Our site was larger, almost fully shaded under a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees. The only thing I didn't like was the sandy soil, but otherwise our site was awesome.

There is ample hiking opportunities in the area, some you can walk to from the campground, some requires a small amount of driving. The lake was a smaller lake, but nice for swimming. They do a great job of keeping the beach and swimming area clean.

Overall it was a great time and we'll definitely be back.

Gear review: A couple months ago I won the contest for WI and was excited to test the Mountain House 5-Day Kit. Ever since I started backpacking I've heard and seen the Mountain House packs. I never bought them because I like to prepare my own food, and I enjoy cooking on the trail. Since I won it I was very curious.

I have to say I was very impressed with the ease of making the food: just boil a couple cups of water, pour it in, mixed it, and seal it for 9 minutes. Voila! A tasty meal.

I had the Chili Mac, and it was awesome. For someone trying to save weight on the trail, or those not confident in your cooking (or trail cooking), I can definitely recommend Mountain House meals.

The box calls it an emergency 5 day kit, and it has a shelf life of 12+ years. For emergency purposes, it is an awesome thing to have on hand, especially in areas that are prone to loss of power, flooding, tropical storms, etc.

For myself, I don't know that I'll purchase Mountain House meals at full price for backpacking or camping, but I definitely think it is a "Ranger worthy" product that is very useful for the right situation and right person.

see other review

just adding photo

Large park, with nice lake, hiking, short notice reservations

The park is pretty big, and not super popular compared to other state parks like Devil's Lake, or even the nearby Mauthe Lake. This means reservations can be much shorter notice. The lake is good for swimming, but has a bit of "seaweed". The sites are nice size, and there are many with shade, a few with mostly sun, and a lot with a mix. There are a ton of hiking trails nearby (Kettle Moraine North) or even a couple in the park, as well as a nice biking trail.

Mostly an open field with a few scattered trees and a treeline surrounding

Not much shade if it's hot, but you can still have a great time since the park has awesome hiking/swimming/boating and more.

Large mix of sites

The variety of shaded vs open sites is pretty large. There is only one shower/bathroom building for each half of the campground, so it can be a decent walk from certain areas. Younger forest, so there isn't as much shade or space between the trees.

Great mature forest, large shady sites, decent bathrooms

The only knock on this was the showers in the nearest building to our site needed replacement. They were usable, but not really with my 3 year old. Otherwise we loved our large shady site.

Small open sites, not much to do, bathrooms poor

Unless this has change drastically in the last 10 years, this is probably the worst campground I've ever been to. The lake is nice, but that's about it.