Ode to Opportunity, 2014

November 22nd, 4:56pm

Yup, that's right folks, it's that time of year again. Time for that time honored tradition of making a birthday/Christmas list! Hard to believe that two years have gone by since last time!

As usual the holidays are fast approaching: we have 12 days to my birthday and a little over a months to Christmas, so here's my fall wish list:


REI Down Booties

As most of you probably know, our house is quite chilly during the winter! As such, a warm pair of slippers is a must! For the last half-decade or so, I've been using a pair that my Aunt Martha made for me. They are totes adorbs and warm to boot! But alas! I'm wearing holes in the soles so I need a replacement! I got Keri a pair of these booties last year and they are just heaven! No seriously: heaven. But not only that, they have an added bonus of me not needing to wear a pair of socks with them! I’d probably be a medium and like both the blue and the grey, for $44.50 from REI.

Winter slippers

Another pair of winter footwear?! I know, what can I say? The heart wants what it wants. This pair of slippers comes highly recommended and has a few features that would be nice. Basically they seem like the winter version of my “driving sandals”. And I wear my driving sandals basically all summer, unless I’m running or barefoot. These are something I could slip on comfortably, wear around the house, outside or on errands. I really like footwear that I can slip on without using any of my digits: 👐. I want the “grey speckle” color in size 42 for $89 from Zappos.

Fleece Pants

Keri and I are both asking for these ridiculously soft looking fleece pants. They look super comfy, and we could match! I’d wear an XS, for $85. (If you use the link above, you should get $25 off your order.)


I’ve long struggled with finding a pair of pants I like. But I’ve hit a goldmine with these pants called “Cordarounds”, which are corduroy pants, but the ribs are sideways! Sideways! What a novel idea! They are super comfy and cute (I think! And Keri agrees!). They have two different weights of Cordarounds, and this pair is the heavier weight, fantastic for wearing on crisp winter days! I’d be a 30” waist and 30” length, for $90. (If you use the link above, you should get $25 off your order.)

ExOfficio boxer briefs

It’s been a rough year for underwear around this ‘ere parts as I’ve had to retire two different pairs of underwear (I’m down to three pairs!) due to the elastic wearing out. I’m completely sold on these ExOfficio boxer briefs: I’ve never worn a more comfortable pair of underwear in my life. The “Midnight Heather” color sounds fun, and I’m a size small, for $19.50 from REI.



This little device (and accompanying app) look really cool! Just watch the video! I'm most interested in the trip tracking (we're trying to cut back on our driving, and having actual data about how much we're using Leeland would be very helpful for that) and the driving feedback (sometimes I accelerate and decelerate too quickly). I really do believe that it could pay for itself over the course of a year.

Extra lightning cable

Keri and I have a lightning cable for each device we’ve gotten that uses them. But we put one of the cables in the car for road trips. Which means one device is cableless 😱. I know. We just want a normal length one, for $19 from Apple.

6 Port USB Charger

Keri and I now do a lot of charging of flash lights for running and biking. Our lights charge over USB, which means through our computers. Which is a bit of a PITA. This charger would allow us to have a convenient charging station setup and make it easy to always make sure we've got a full charge on our lights for biking and running! We've got to stay safe people! And seeing as how this is a matter of safety, if you do get this for me, it probably shouldn't come out of my gift budget. Safety people! $27 from Amazon.

EyeFi Mobi

A few years ago I got a different card from this company for Christmas. And unfortunately, it wasn't everything I dreamed it would be. The software was clunky, and the process slow. But by all counts, this latest version "is the real deal". Most importantly, it works with the phone. So this would potentially make it possible to take a photo with my camera, and then allow me to share it from my phone, right there. And this is something I've been wanting for over a year now. The only other way to get this functionality would be to get a new camera. And the camera I'm eying costs around a grand. So this is a much more affordable way to get this functionality. $57 from Amazon.

Bluetooth Music Receiver

Seems like all our cables are dying these days. First our HDMI cable, and now the audio cable in our car for listening to music from our phones is on the fritz. It hasn't died yet, but it is certainly finicky and on its way out. We have two choices. Replace it with another cable, or buy a bluetooth receiver, which would allow us to listen to music, etc from our phones wirelessly! This littly guy would plug-in to the line-in port in the car. Sounds like a no brainer to me! $25 from Amazon.

Travel Power Strip

Yes, I already have one of these, but this one is more compact, easier to plug mutilple things into, and more effecient at charging USB. Read all about it at my favorite review site, The Wirecutter! $15 from Amazon.


Yes, Keri and I just bought one of these last month, but it only covers the living room. What if the cats are in the dining room while we're out on vacation?! We'll have no idea what they're up to!! A second Dropcam would give us all the coverage we're interested in for keeping track of our kitties. You might think this is just a frivolous luxury and that we don't really need or want a second one, but what it really is, is an inevetability. This is something we really want! $199 from Dropcam.com.

27" iMac with Retina Display

Ooh, man, am I day dreaming big time about this guy. I checked it out in the store and the screen is absolutely incredible. Just imagine what I could do with all that screen real estate! I could have a browser window with the dev tools open side-by-side. Or I could have a Terminal window open with three panes, one for Vim, one for running commands and the last one for error logs. I'd want to max out the RAM, and get a 1TB SSD. That brings it to $3,560 with an education discount. Come on guys! You can do it! I believe in you!

Running & Recreation

SmartWool running Socks

After 4 years of no problems with my SmartWool running socks, I've had a number of pairs develop holes this year! I love the SmartWool's PhD Run series of socks, and for the most part, I only wear their "Mini" height. I wear all three weights (ultra light, light and medium) depending on what I'm doing and the weather. And I need new pairs at all three weights. I'm right between sizes, so for the thinner socks (ultra light weight), I like them a little looser, aka size large; and for the thicker socks (light and medium weights) I like them snugger, aka size medium. $16 to $19 from SmartWool.com. I'm not crazy about the green color for the ultra light weight, but other than that I like all the colors.

SmartWool cross country skiing socks

In addition to running socks, I would like another pair of thicker PhD crew socks for running on very cold winter days, and for cross country skiing. I like all the colors, and as detailed above, I'd wear a medium. $24 from SmartWool.com.

Base layers

Believe it or not, but my infatuation with wool has only grown over the last year. And after going on a number of runs with Erik where he has worn his wool running shirts, I'm interested in some wool running/outdoor base layers.

Warmer running mittens/Backpacking mittens

I’m discovering these days that my hands are basically pretty wimpy. Keri and I will go out for a cold weather run and I’ll be wearing shorts and a thin long-sleeved shirt, while she’ll be wearing pants and two layers up top. I’ll be perfectly comfortable with less clothing—except for my hands. I’ve used running gloves, and my hands were miserable. Two years ago I got some Nike running mittens, which have been great, but they are pretty thin and when it dips into the low 20s, I find I need a little more punch. Additionally, I have some backpacking gloves but I just don’t like gloves very much. These mittens could replace those too! Plus, they are compatible with smart phone touch screens! Sure you wouldn't want to type a message with these things on, but they'd do in a pinch on a cold day! $37 from OutdoorReasearch.com.

New snow mittens

Last year, I got Keri a pair of these for Christmas. Yes, they are quite expensive, but they are just heaven to put on. And now I want a pair too. The current winter mittens I have (which themselves were heaven to put on when I first got them), are almost 15 years old and just aren’t very waterproof anymore. So I want to match Keri! Plus, slowly but surely we’re getting enough gear between the two of us to be able to go winter camping! $199 from REI.

Garmin Fenix 2 GPS Watch

Well, 4 years on, and my GPS watch has seen better days. It's clasp broke, and while I could probably rig up some sort of passing fix, you couple that with its aging GPS sensor and out of date technology and what you get is that an upgrade would substantially improve my life. Or at least the part of my life that uses a GPS watch.

This watch has a number of features that really take it to a whole nother level.

  1. It is more of a hiking/trail running watch, (as opposed to my current watch who's emphasis is on triathalon training), which means it would also work very well for using while hiking, backpacking or cross country skiing.
  2. It has an altimiter, barameter and compass.
  3. It can work in just "watch" mode (so with the GPS off), which is a feature Keri, Erik and Joy have that is really nice.
  4. It can sync with the computer or phone via bluethooth, so I don't have to always remember to bring and plug-in my ANT+ sensor every time I want to upload my runs.
  5. It can show notifications from the phone, like my Pebble watch could, which allows me to leave my phone in my pocket while still getting texts and calls while out running. (This may seem trivial, but this is HUGE! Especially during the colder months when having gloves makes retrieving my phone a PITA)
  6. It can sync with a thermometer (see the next item on this list) to show you the current temperature. This is something I would kinda enjoy while running, but would love while backpacking or skiing.
  7. It can give you more advanced training data, about VO2 Max and recovery times using the heart rate monitor. How cool is that?

Should I keep going? I think you get the idea. It's a very cool watch. $450 from REI.

Temperature sensor for the Garmin Fenix 2 GPS Watch

This is the sensor needed to allow the Fenix 2 watch I'm asking for above to show the temperature. $30 from Garmin.

Three Person tent

After our last three person tent collapsed on us in some high winds, I’m not feeling as excited about it as I used to. It still works, but my faith is shattered for backpacking. We still want a larger tent for when we go backpacking with friends, though. So we need to replace it with something we trust more.

Recently, I’ve become very curious about the idea of some sort of tarp tent. Get the weight savings of a tarp, but get the security of being able to “zip” out the world and the darkness.

Mountain Laurel Designs makes a pyramid tarp called the SuperMid which you can combine with an InnerNet (mosquito netting and a floor for protection from bugs and critters) for a setup (for up to 4 people) that weighs 3lbs 1oz for the silnylon version or 1lb 15.5oz for the (much more expensive) cubin fiber version. Plus it is advertised as being “super stable in wind, rain and snow”. So we’re talking about a lighter (by 25%), stronger tent than our current group tent.

Not only that but this 3 or 4 person tent would weigh less than Keri’s and I current lightweight 2 person tent and the cubin fiber version would be 1.25lbs lighter. Talk about weight savings!

What’s the catch you ask? Sounds like a large footprint, and it isn’t free standing. Those are some trade-offs I'm willing to make!

The Silnylon version is $530 and the cubin fiber version is a whopping (close your eyes!) $1,135. And since no one is going to spend $530 or $1,135 dollars on me for my birthday or Christmas, I’d say the cubin fiber one is the way to go! Cubin fiber doesn’t stretch when it gets wet, and it has always driven me crazy about our current 3 person tent how much the fly would sag once it started raining.

NeoAir xTherm

I currently sleep on a tiny (I cut it down to my torso) ridgerest pad. This works great during late spring, summer and early fall backpacking. But it isn’t great for car camping (where weight isn’t an issue) or colder temperatures. Therm-a-rest came out with a winter NeoAir pad that is one of the warmest pads you can get for its weight, and it is super thick and comfy. So great for colder temperatures and great for car camping! I wouldn’t need a regular (which is 2” longer than me), but could make do with a size “M” (which is 3” shorter than me. don’t worry, I can curl up on my side—how I usually sleep anyway—or put my pack or something under the missing few inches). $144 from Amazon (REI doesn't sell them anymore?!).

Peter’s Head Net

Keri and I both have Sea to Summit head nets that we like, but this one is nicer. Don’t believe me? Read the FAQ! It even addresses the Sea to Summit version directly and uses my new favorite acronym (PITA)! Not only do these appear to be better functionally, but according to this website, they weigh an ounce lighter than the S2S ones. An ounce! From something that weighs 1.3 ounces to begin with. It isn’t very often these days that I can cut a whole ounce from my pack! I'd probably need a large size, for $20.

9” Sorex Stakes

We have some 6” carbon core stakes that I like: they barely weigh anything and get the job done. And we have some 8” aluminum stakes that I like: they are long and super strong, but heavier. But these stakes I’m asking for are 9” long (longer than our aluminum stakes), carbon fiber (so lighter than our carbon core stakes), and highly recommended. And they are pretty cheap! That’s amazing! So, I’d like to switch from taking four of each of the old ones, to taking eight of these new ones. That means I’d need two sets! $12 per set.

Stake bag

Right now (since I’m crazy and want to save weight), when we backpack, I have my stakes floating loosely in a mesh outer pocket of my backpack. This means they rattle, could possibly poke into something important, or catch and tear my pocket, and are hard to keep track of. The stake bag halfway down the page is 2.5 grams. I’d carry a stake bag that weighed 2.5 grams. It's going for $5.50.

Cooking pot stuff sack

Same link as the previous one, just farther down the page. Again (because I’m crazy), we don’t put our pot in a stuff sack, which is inconvenient. For our Evernew .9 liter pot, the stuff sack would only be 3.4 grams! It's going for $11.

Mini Dropper Bottles

These bottles allow you to take smaller amounts of Aqua Mira on backpacking trips, saving precious ounces! I’ve tried this once before with different bottles, but these ones are advertized for this specific purpose and have the dosage conversion already figured out! And the set only costs a paltry $4!

MSR Folding Spoon

I currently take a long-handled titanium spoon made by Sea To Summit for backpacking. This spoon works great for eating, but is a litle bit of a PITA to fit in the pack. These folding spoons from MSR weigh less, pack easier and are cheap! $4 from REI.


New Standing Desk Mat

I have a standing desk for working at (thanks Mom & Dad!) that I got a couple years ago. Last year I bought a standing desk mat to go along with it, as I thought it would be more comfortable. Turns out though, that there are actual recommendations for how thick and firm your standing desk mat should be, based on actual research. And it turns out the standing desk mat I got is too thin 😢 (Not too mention bright blue and a complete eyesore). And worry not my fearless gift-givers: As usual, my favorite review site has a recommendation! I’m asking for the smaller of the two sizes. My current one is 24x30 and is slightly too wide for my standing desk. $50 from the manufacturer.

Life Poster

I don’t remember where I came across this poster, but I absolutely love it! I know a lot of people my age are fretting about getting older, but we’re still so young it is silly! This would be a weekly reminder that I still have lots of life left to live (barring any freak accidents, like a zombie attack), and also that life is finite and I need to take advantage of it! $20 for the small size I want!

After talking to my parents and Keri about this, they think it would be horribly depressing. I think they're crazy! What's wrong with you people?!

Drill bits

Now that I’m officially a man around the house with a drill of my own, it would be really nice to have a drill bit set slightly more complete than the random 4 bits Neil found in the basement this summer! I know nothing about this (I’m not that much of a man yet!) so defer to others’ expertise.

Screw driver bits

Neil has a really cool racheting screwdriver with interchangeable bits that is super handy. Adn the bits can also be used in a cordless drill. This seems like a very useful, flexibile setup, so I’d like it too! So ask Neil about it!

Bicycle Repair stand

This summer I got a new bicycle that I adore and love! And I want to learn how to take care of it myself. A bicycle repair stand makes that a whole lot easier. This is the one my dad has. If it’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for me! $225 from your local bike shop!

Corkboard Map of the United States

Holy Moses, Batman! If this list were ordered, this item would shoot right towards the top of the list! This is sooo cool! Keri and I could keep track of where we travel together! $115 from Etsy!