We mountain bikers are, generally speaking, a resilient lot. We get up early in the morning, we ride till late at night, we manage to have fun in ugly weather, make the most out of rugged conditions and so on. We're often our own mechanics and forced to become survivalists within a moment's notice. That's why when we have an opportunity to spread the word about inexpensive bits that can we can throw in our packs that could make all the difference in a survival situation, we're all for it!
Enter Coghlan's Camping Gear- a company run by actual outdoor enthusiasts rather than corporate agendas and stock portfolios. These guys have a catalog of products that literally mirrors anything you could find yourself wishing for miles from civilization when a long cold night is quickly closing in: From mosquito repellants to biodegradable toilet tissue, from cooking flame cans to a hammock that can fit in your pocket. About the most difficult part of shopping through their catalog is deciding where to draw the line- literally everything they have is absolutely brilliantly useful. That said we decided to sample two products in particular: The Coghlan's Fire Disc and Paracord Bracelets.
Made of waxed cedar and boasting an indefinite shelf (or backpack) life, the Coghlan's Fire Disc is a sub $2 investment that makes starting a camp fire a breeze. And since it contains no toxins or offensive odors, it also serves as an anywhere outdoor stove for cooking/ emergency heat source.
The discs themselves are roughly an inch thick and 4-inches in diameter. They're light (3.5 ounces) and dry to the touch and come individually wrapped. Because of the wax, they are waterproof as well; a welcome feature for those times when our packs become soaked from the weather.
In practice the discs are as easy to light as simply holding a flame up to one of the discs from a lighter, firestarter, match or so on. We hadn't an opportunity to attempt lighting one of from a flint striker though suspect it wouldn't be too challenging with a hot enough ember and some steady breath. It should also be noted that we averaged around 35-minutes of burn-time for a single disc though they can be broken apart by hand for multiple applications.
All in all, the fire disc is an incredibly useful addition to any pack. About the only negative to report is that since it contains no ignition source of its own, carrying a lighter or matches is a requisite unless you feel confident with your ability to rub two sticks together.
Price: $1.99 each
While we had a pretty good idea of what to expect with the Fire Disc, the Paracord Bracelets were certainly a bit more of an unknown for us. We've known about the benefits of carrying a length of nylon paracord for some time (shelter building, gear repair, building snares and traps, resistant to rot or mildew) but the bracelets bring a new degree of functionality to the equation. For starters, each consists of not one but a pair of paracords at your disposal without forcing the user into locating something sharp enough to have to make a cut.
With a break strength of 550-pounds, the list of potential uses is limitless but we can jump in with all of the uses the company recommends such as repairing torn clothing, replacing a broken lace, building a tourniquet or splint, a make-shift fishing line and so on but the list of uses for a mountain biker is much, much more extensive. We've used these cords to secure loose components, to supplement a broken helmet strap, and one resourceful rider even turned the cords into an ankle holster to carry his water bottle after a crash deformed his bike's cage beyond use.
In short, these little beauties paid for themselves a dozen times over and perhaps the ultimate bonus comes in the form of style points. Until you use them for the first time, they arrive as a stylish, braided bracelet with plastic hasp that not only looks good on the wrist, stays out of the way and requires none of the precocious real estate in your pack.
Price: $6.99 each