Sunday, October 25, 2015

Clearwater Lake Recreational Area, Ocala National Forest and 3 years of shennanigans...

It's October yet again, and that means candy for most, for me it's time for our second annual trip to the Ocala National Forest! This trip also marks Derek's and I third anniversary of camping, traveling and shenanigans. All I can say is it's been one hell of a ride, so much hiking, camping, driving (sooooo much driving), cooking/eating, and of course brews, lots and lots of brews (both coffee and the fun kind). I heard somewhere that is not about the destination, but about who you travel with, and I can't help but to agree. While traveling alone has never been a problem for me, this last 3 years have been way too much fun and you can see and read some of it on this blog (and my youtube channel these days). But enough about us, and more on this awesome park we camped at.

Clearwater Lake Recreation Area offers a quiet getaway along the southeastern edge of the Ocala National Forest, just outside the community of Paisley, Florida. With a shaded campground, day use picnic area, beach and a nature trail that winds through the pine woods and scrub around Clearwater Lake, this facility has plenty of activities to keep campers occupied.

The Ocala National Forest, in north central Florida, spans four counties and 383,000 acres. It is the southernmost and oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River, and protects the world's largest, contiguous sand pine scrub forest (as borrowed from their website).

Arrival was after dark due to a mechanical difficulty earlier in the day

This was a nice surprise of a view on Saturday morning

One thing I have to say about this place is that the website's description and pictures fall way short of what this place really is like. The campsites are huge, with plenty of shrubbery and trees in between each site, the camp staff is helpful, polite, and very happy to assist with anything, including delivering firewood and ice to the site. The trail around the lake is approximately a mile and a half, and provides plenty of coverage from the sun, and great views of the lake.

After a hearty breakfast on Saturday morning Derek and I went for a walk to check out the park.

Even though there were deer around in large groups, the spiders were much more patient with amateur photographers like me.


After a walk on the trail around the lake my knee needed some rest and some refreshments and lunch were in order, followed by some trail riding and chasing sunsets.


Thanks to rain the prior week there were plenty of opportunities for water crossings. One thing to keep in mind around the Ocala National Forest, and any other water crossing is to always make sure you know the water depth prior to driving thru it.

One of the trails that we took ended up leading to a unpaved road that eventually ran into private property, but managed to provide a beautiful beginning to the sunset.

 At the end of the day the best sunset was right by the lake were we had started, home if you will. Like many other times sometimes you just have to go see and explore to realize that "home is where is at"

Monday, October 12, 2015

Survivor Filter product review

A few months ago a company named Survivor Filter was kind enough to send not one, but 2 of their personal water filters for me and Derek to try out on our hiking and camping trips. Fast forward to a few weeks ago before Overland Expo East and again Survivor Filter not only supports our outdoor lifestyle but also wants to be part of our trip, and send not 1, but 2 Survivor Filter Pro! Now what's the difference you may be asking?

Survivor Filter
Well like the name suggests the personal one is the one you would carry in your pocket or day pack, and maybe share it with your significant other (if you didn't get them their own), simply attach it to a water bottle or drink straight from a fresh water source. The information below is from their website (
  • Triple Filtration to 0.05 microns, thanks to UF Filtration, Carbon Filtration and mesh - 4 times more efficient than the competition at 0.2 microns.
  • Dual Filters (Ultra and Carbon) are removable and can be cleaned or replaced by purchasing on Amazon as needed. Plus, comes with 4 extra mesh filters! 
  • BPA Free and Weighs only 3.5 ounces. Fits just about anywhere (7 inches long X 1 inch wide) and Comes with detailed instructions and How to Use Manual.  
  • Can be used directly from fresh water source, OR firmly attached to a Smart Water or Dasani Water Bottle, making the Survivor Filter the Most Versatile Personal Water Filter Straw Available.
  • Other personal water filters are difficult to drink from, the Survivor Filter Personal Water Filter has a Special Mouthpiece, an integrated Cap to keep the mouthpiece clean and produces a SUPER FAST FLOW RATE of 200 ml. (7 ounces) per minute. 
Now that you've read the facts, the reason I like it is because it works (with plastic bottles and my Hydro Flask), its rugged and easy to store/carry.

Survivor Filter Pro
Now on to the Pro filter, this bad boy not only packs small, it's lightweight enough to be carried in a daypack for hiking, has a drinking cup designed into it and is fast and easy to use with a 3 stage filtration approach. And yes, I do like this one a lot! So much that all my drinking water for the Overland Expo East trip came from using this filter to fill my water bottles, so not only saved money by not having to buy drinking water, but also it's good for the environment because of less use of plastic bottles.

Here are the specs.:

  • Comes with drinking cup and carrying bag!
  • Perfect for filtering large jugs of water for the whole family
  • Triple Filtration to 0.01 microns, thanks to Cotton Filter, Ultra Filter and Carbon Filtration and mesh.
  • All 3 filters Filters (Ultra and Carbon) are removable and can be cleaned or replaced by purchasing on our website as needed. 
  • BPA Free and Weighs only 8 ounces, 6.5 inches long and Comes with detailed instructions and How to Use Manual.
  • Can be used directly from fresh water source, pumped into attached cup, OR pumped into any portable hydration pack.
  • Produces a SUPER FAST FLOW RATE of 500 ml. (17 ounces) per minute.
  • Comes with detachable filter tubes 

Filming a video review for my youtube channel
Would I recommend this product to anyone? Absolutely! Now go their website, get your own (and one for your significant other) and as long as there is fresh water nearby you'll never go thirsty again.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Overland Expo East 2015

Overland: Accomplished, traversing, or passing over the land instead of the ocean: an overland journey; an overland route. Thats the definition I found online, but what else does it mean? Like many other things in life, it could vary depending on perspective. Is it a 3 year tour around the world in a heavily equiped 4x4 vehicle? Or a 2 week trip thru diferent states or countries?
To me its not just the journey, vehicle or leght of it, but the preparation before, adaptability during, and persistance thru it to not give up and succeed in reaching your goal.

This year's Overland Expo East seemed plagued with "inconveniences", from bad weather that prompted the closing of vehicular traffic in the event, class cancelations, registered campers not allowed in due to deteriorated driving conditions in the ranch hosting the event.


This year's event also had a diferent tone for me, I came back for the second year in a row as a presenter and expert panel member, brought some new faces with me in a 4 jeep convoy, and it was my first annual Anvil Adventures Club reunion with most of the original members, plus several newer ones that I've only met online yet felt like we've been friends for a long time. Some (if not most) of the guys had already been camping and overlanding for 9-12 days prior and mostly under the weather conditions we were dealing with, rain, mud and cold weather, yet the "welcome home" was as warm as a "Florida chamber of commerce" day.


After a soggy day a brew and stogie are in order!
In my opinion if the weather conditions did anything was make the event a much more real overland experience since it made attendees use their driving skills thru muddy hills, use clothing that should be standard "equipment" and cook meals in adverse conditions, in other words put to use equipment, knowledge and attitude. All this things not only apply to overlanding, but to every day life, it's just a different approach.

Oz Tents were very popular and so were their room additions that can be used as kitchens or living areas.

Kitchen set ups were in abundance in all configurations
This year for the first time in this event, I offered a Basic First Aid skills class for children, besides an Intro to Wilderness and Remote First Aid class. Someone asked me how I felt after a long day of teaching, meeting people, and answering questions, if it was a success? My answer was the same as any other class I've taught or water safety presentation I've given "I loved doing it! To me that is a success" and judging by the participants reactions and their participation during class, I'd dare to say they did too. Another new thing that happened this year was having friends in my class (it was great, but don't tell them I said that).

What was new and the same was the amount of great vehicles that were in attendance, many older than myself that are still in use.

The owner of this bike has traveled to Alaska and all over the U.S.A. with her dog on the sidecar

The trailer was a hand built Anvil Adventure Trailer, check them out on Facebook.

An Ursa Minor Jeep

Sports Mobile was on hand with their amazing vans

As for vendors my favorite this year was Simple Shot Shooting Sports, not only they had a booth/tent to display and sell but also a range where we could go shooting free of charge and for the fun of it and free instruction on proper technique, use and care of the equipment. However just because that was my (inner child) personal favorite doesn't mean I didn't enjoy all the other vendor displays and vehicles, like ARB's fleet which is always different and outstanding.

I was very impressed with the Sylvan Sport Go camper

Very spacious accommodations on a very small and lightweight package when closed 

The Editor in Chief from Outdoorx4 Magazine was in attendance with his family braving the elements in this very nice set up
This beauty of an ARB FJ is nearly bullet proof, from the diesel engine to the axles and suspension

ARB's F-350 was on display prior to being used after the expo to go to the Vermont Overland Expo.

Derek and Ludy got a very in depth product description from Eric Valdes from ARB 

The latest OME adjustable shock absorbers where displayed on ARB's Rubicon JK

Getting a personal tour of ARB's new products never gets old, if you ever get a chance to go on one, do it!

U-Joint's vans are always something to drool a little over


Tiger Adventure vehicles never fail to impress

Some items seemed to be a common theme among the overland community these days like ARB refrigerators, Goal Zero Yeti 400 solar generators, Oz Tents, and on/off road trailers with awnings and or Roof Top Tents, and Trasharoo bags

Justin's SoCal Trailer and Foxwing Awning make for a nice dry living area and sleeping quarters

Scott Quinn actually built this camper from scratch on a military trailer platform

OK4WD turned this ARB refrigerator into a kegerator and powers it up with a Yeti 400 from Goal Zero
My ARB 37Q fridge, perfect size for the 2004 TJ

These bags were designed with overlanders and people that would go wheeling in remote locations so that they could not only bring their own trash back, but whatever other trash found along the way. Mine got immediate use as a dirty laundry bag.

Scott K.'s Oz Tent and Manley ORV Trailer with James Baroud's roof top tent, notice the awning mounted on the Jeep's roof rack

Derek and I like to have some tunes while at base camp and EcoXGear never fails under any weather
Survivor Filter Pro provided me with all my drinking water for the trip

Another thing this event is great for and probably my favorite part of it is the getting together with old friends and new ones alike.

Byron from Exploring Elements was one of my first inspirations not just to road travel, but to share my experiences thru blogging
Exploring Elements adventure mobile
R.J. and Bart checking out Ben's galley

Yeap I got a pic with Alison DeLapp from Overland Journal, if you don't follow her blog yet, do yourself a favor and go follow her.

What can I tell you? If you like to road and off road travel you need to go to an Overland Expo, not just for the classes, but for the friendships, and inspirational atmosphere.

On a side note: Thanks to Donny Hodges for some pictures used in this post, and please check my youtube channel as I'll be posting a slideshow/video of the entire trip that covered Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Also please keep in mind and if you are able to donate to the victims of the South Carolina floodings.