Seek Out a New Version of Your Everyday Products

I hate chores and don’t like doing them. Unfortunately, my life tends to include some chores that I have to take care of. Shopping, for example. In order to work around the idea that it is a chore, I make it into an adventure. Looking at it as an expedition, I enjoy shopping and look forward to trips to the store.

One of the things that I do is to explore the different versions of the stuff that I have to buy. When you go shopping, do you always buy X brand of yogurt, Y brand of toilet paper and Z brand of clothes? Unless I have tried most of the options out there and settled on one that I prefer, I will continue to try new versions. This does make the trip a bit longer, but it helps keep it from seeming like just another chore.

Here’s a recent example: Before leaving for Ireland, I was perusing the food co-cop’s hygeine section and came across J.R. Liggett’s Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo. It particularly caught my interest at that time because a shampoo bar would take up much less room in my luggage than a bottle and also cause no trouble when passing through security checkpoints. (Even better, if I liked it, it would not only work for this trip but also for camping.) I purchased a bar, put it in my luggage, and away I went!

I’ve never used a bar shampoo but figured it couldn’t hurt to try. The label states “This shampoo will not strip the natural oils from your hair so most people do not need a conditioner.” Since I was trying to save room while packing, not having to carrry conditioner sounded good to me! Worst-case scenario, I would not like the shampoo and would have to buy a bottle to replace the bar.

By now, a couple of months have passed since I purchased my shampoo bar, and I doubt that I will be returning to a liquid shampoo. My hair feels healthier than before, and I haven’t used any conditioner. My wife also tried the shampoo bar and liked it, except for the fact that I purchased an unscented bar. Once I told her that it also comes in a variety of smells, she was interested in gettting some for herself.

Without taking the time to explore a new section at the store (which was only a recent find itself), my hair would not be healthier, my haircare routine would involve an extra step and I would have bought yet another bottle of the same shampoo that I had been using for years. Who knows what I will find next time…

Now, instead of just blindly following your list, take the extra bit of time to seek out the adventures that shopping list of yours points to. Explore the offerings of the deodorant department, peruse the sock selections and try a new fresh fruit flavor! Your new favorite might be waiting just behind the next purchase!

43 Uses for a P-38

P-38 Can OpenerI first put my P-38 on my keyring over 10 years ago, and it has been there ever since. Keeping it there has saved the day in a number of instances. What is a P-38? It is a can opener. Designed as a throwaway item intended for one-time use, it will last forever. They were given out with canned C-Rations, which have been replaced by un-canned Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s), so that P-38’s are no longer standard equipment.

This little tool has an amazing history. Anyone who is familiar with the military (indeed, with any part of the government) knows that they do not do anything fast. In 1942 the P-38 was conceived, designed, prototyped and went into production in less than 30 days. For the Government to do anything in less than 30 days is a phenomenal accomplishment.

The P-38 is designed to do one thing; open cans. As such it is an amazingly effective device. It opens any classic tin can, any time, any place. It runs forever. No batteries required. Fully portable. Self-protecting. Cost is zilch. No users manuals or tutorials.

Fortunately for us, it also does more than just open cans. Without further ado, here are 43 reasons that I carry my P-38:

  1. can opener (duh!)
  2. all-purpose toothpick
  3. fingernail cleaner
  4. splinter remover
  5. flat-head screwdriver – use one of the ends
  6. phillips-head screwdriver – use one of the corners
  7. bottle opener
  8. box cutter
  9. letter opener
  10. chisel
  11. stirrer
  12. neck slasher (women used to carry to use in case of attack)
  13. seam ripper
  14. cut fishing line
  15. open paint cans
  16. window scraper
  17. scrape around floor corners
  18. digging
  19. clean out groove on Tupperware lids
  20. reach in and clean out small cracks
  21. scrape around edge of boots
  22. {in the field} gut fish
  23. {in the field} scale fish
  24. test for “doneness” when baking on a camp fire
  25. prying items
  26. strip wire
  27. scrape pans in the field
  28. lift key on flip top cans
  29. barter
  30. marking tool
  31. deflating tires
  32. measurement
  33. striking flint
  34. puncturing plastic coating
  35. knocking on doors
  36. Morse Code
  37. write emergency messages
  38. scratch an itch
  39. save as a souvenir
  40. rip off rank for on the spot promotion
  41. carburetor repair tool
  42. bee sting removal tool (scrape off w/ blade)
  43. knife sharpener

My trusty P-38 has come in handy numerous times. More than once I have gone on a camping trip and no one thought to bring a can-opener, even though everyone brought canned food. Fortunately, I was prepared (and it’s always humorous to watch the un-initiated use a P-38 for their first time.) I have even saved members of other groups, such as the unfortunate lady who walked around half of the campground looking for a can opener before getting to our site.

Besides a can-opener, I often use my P-38 for a screw driver; I have tightened glasses, fixed equipment at work, opened battery compartments when geocaching and more! I cannot stand having dirt underneath my nails, and so frequently use this to clean underneath my nails (I sterilize it on a regular basis, as well!) Without repeating the list above, suffice it to say that my P-38 is the most commonly used tool on my keyring and I feel lost without it.

Think you could use a P-38? You can grab one here, or G.I. P-38 Can Openers (15 Pack)get a number of them and share. Or keep them all for yourself and store them in various places: keychian, glovebox, tacklebox, mess kit, etc.

If the 1.5″ P-38 is smaller than you want, you can always try its big brother, the P-51. At 2″ long, it is still convenient enough to carry daily, but is easier and faster than the smaller P-38. The larger size affords more leverage and doesn’t require as much thumb pressure to use. They are especially good for smaller or arthritic hands.

Get yourP-38 or P-51 today, you never know when it’ll come in handy!

Garmin eTrex Legend Cx – GPSr Review

Garmin eTrex Legend Cx

(Apparently the HCx has replaced the Cx. It seems to be the same, except more accurate.)

I received this GPSr for Christmas in 2006. I learned to use it shortly thereafter and Ashley and I have been geocaching ever since. While this has been used mostly for caching, we have also tracked some of our travels with the Tracks feature. (Tracks is a breadcrumb-like trail that shows where one has been.) This feature enables us to retrace our footsteps and has helped us return to our vehicle a number of times, extra helpful as we rarely mark it’s position.

Physical – The Legend Cx has a color screen with bright backlight. Backlight has been plenty bright for us (and we’ve never used it higher than the medium setting), and even functions semi-well as a flashlight (tested both searching for caches and for the car).
The Legend has a total of 6 buttons. After some practice, both Ashley and myself are able to do everything with a single hand, using the index finger and thumb to work the controls. We have found the “joystick” located on the front of the GPSr to be fairly intuitive.

Navigation – The Legend comes preloaded with a base map. In the rural region where we live, this included only the main highways and interstates in the area.
Not too long after receiving the GPSr, we got a copy of MapSource (Garmin’s interface) with the US’s topo maps. We have since loaded the topo maps for the areas we most commonly travel (about half of Kentucky) and still have about 50 mb left of the given 64 mb card. A larger (1gb) micro SD card was purchased in order to give us more saving capacity.
We have only used the directions (by road) feature a couple of times. It does a fairly good job of routing our trip.

Signal – The Cx seems to have problems with overhead cover. There are times it will take us right where we want to go, but others it will just get us in the general area.
This works well for us, as our style is to get within about 30 feet and just spread out and start looking. If we set the GPSr down, it will settle fairly quickly and give us more accurate readings.


  • Intuitive (for us, at least) interface, simple with only a few controls
  • Rugged – has survived a few drops and bounces
  • Water Resistant – haven’t tested more than some rain, but so far so good!


  • Overhead cover can prove frustrating

We definitely enjoy our Legend and would not hesitate to recommend it to others. There are other GPSr’s out there, some cheaper and some more expensive, but for what we need, the Legend is a good compromise between price and features.

If you are interested in purchasing an eTrex Legend for yourself, here’s your chance!

PackTowel Personal – Review

For my birthday I received a much-wanted PackTowel Personal, Bath sized (which is the largest of 4 sizes available). I have been wanting one of these for some time now.

I have tried a “camp towel” from Wal-Mart and was less than satisfied. I thought that a generic camp towel would do about the same thing as the PackTowel, just be smaller and not as soft. I was wrong. I tested the camp towel after showering at home. I wiped water off, only to find myself still damp. I found that the camp towel acts more like a squeegee, brushing the water off of whatever object is being wiped.

One of our splurges around the house are the soft, thick towels. I thought maybe I was just spoiled and that I would just have to get used to not being fully dry after using a camp towel of any kind. I read some reviews on the MSR’s PackTowel brand, and came up with nothing bad. “I’ll go ahead and put it on my wish list, then if it doesn’t perform to my expectations, I won’t be out any money,” I thought.

My birthday rolled around and I received the PackTowel that I requested. I specifically asked for the Personal, as the Originals don’t seem as soft when felt in the store. It has almost a silky feel to it, nice and soft, if thin. According to MSR’s website, the PackTowel Personal, Bath, weighs 8.5 oz. for a 25 x 54 in. towel. When folded up and stored, the entire package is about 9 x 7 x 3/4 inches. The towel came with a carry pouch, one side of which is mesh. The pouch includes a piece of velcro to keep it closed, and a loop to hang it by. According to the packaging, the PackTowel is made of 85% Polyester and 15% Nylon.
I received a Dusty Blue towel, with Curry (a yellow color) being the other option. Other features include Anti-Microbial treatment that reduces unpleasant odors, as well as a snap loop on one of the corners, useful for hanging up to dry.

Eager to try out the towel, I put it to use after a shower at home. The first obvious difference was the small size of this towel. I was living in the dorms at the time, which included a community bathroom. As such I had to carry my toiletries to and from the shower, and utilized a special bag to do so. The PackTowel fit inside of the bag, instead of having to carry it separately.
After the shower I grabbed the towel, almost apprehensively, and began to dry off with it. The texture is different, definitely not like the fluffy cotton towel that I am used to. However, my hair was dry! There was no feeling of being damp after using this towel. It was more than large enough for my needs.

The towel didn’t feel wet when I was done using it. This makes me believe MSR’s claims of “fast drying.” I have done no sort of testing to determine how fast it dries; neither have I yet tried to test their statement that “wrings out almost completely dry.”

One last piece of information for this installment: This is machine washable and can be machine dried. Always nice to have easy care equipment!

Update: This review was written nearly a year ago. I have used the towel on various camping trips, numerous hotel stays and a number of nights staying with family members. In short, I carry my PackTowel on every trip I take. It easily fits inside of my toiletry kit, dries fairly fast when I need it to, and continues to do a fine job of drying me off. My wife received a PackTowel of her own for Christmas this year. Both will travel with us to Ireland and Europe as we study abroad next semester. She has been envious of mine since I received it and it is past time that she has one of her own.

Would you like to get a PackTowel of your own? You can buy one now!