- Maxtoch SN6X-2X flashlight:
As you might imagine, a good flashlight (or two, or four) is a
critical part of our gear. Fortunately, bright and
affordable LED flashlights are abundant in this day and age.
However, some applications require a light with special features
or exceptional brightness. Looking down deep shafts and
across huge stopes is one such application. Most lights
don't have enough "throw" due to their wide beam patterns.
The stray light reflects off wall and particles in the air and
makes it impossible to see across those great distances.
Fortunately, Maxtoch has that issue solved with the 2X.
The Maxtoch 2X is the kind of light that's
referred to as a "thrower". These are often used for
hunting. In fact, the Maxtoch 2X's smaller cousin (the
Sniper M24) has a body specifically designed to fit into
standard scope rings on rifles. The 2X is not a small
flashlight at 10" long and almost 3" in diameter at the head.
It weighs in a whopping 19 ounces with batteries. However,
the performance you get from the 2X is well worth the size and
With it's large, smooth reflector and Cree
XML-L2 U2 LED, the 2X blasts out 1,300 lumens in a narrow beam
with minimal spill. It literally blasts through the
darkness in a manner that's beyond impressive. We've had
brighter lights, but none of them could penetrate the distance
like the X2. Shining the beam down a shaft is a
revelation. You can see the bottom where you couldn't
before because blinding light isn't reflecting back from the
walls. You can easily choose between three brightness
modes and a quick to access emergency strobe mode.
The 2X is tough too with it's
aluminum body and hard anodized finish. All joints have
o-rings and the manufacturer certifies the light to IPX7
waterproof standards. The glass front lens has an
anti-reflective coating and has proven to be tough and scratch
resistant. The 2X takes two 18650 type Lithium-Ion
rechargeable batteries and will last up to 1.5 hours on high
with 3,400mAh cells. Speaking of batteries, due to the
high draw of this light you'll want good high capacity cells (we
use Panasonic originals). As with any two cell design,
protected batteries are highly recommended. Included with
each light is a nice padded storage case, quality lanyard and
small spare parts kit.
The Maxtoch 2X is a truly
impressive long distance light. At around $80, it's very
affordable as well. It's just the thing for seeing what is
down deep shafts, across large stopes or what's out there on the
next ridge at night. Having the 2X in our gear cache has
allowed us to see things we couldn't before and has been a huge
The Underground Explorers
- Coleman 70 Quart Xtreme 5 Cooler:
When we're out in the backcountry for days at a time, often in
hot weather, a good ice chest is worth it's weight in gold.
Coolers have come a long way in recent years. After
several new players entered the market with high performance
(and unfortunately, high cost) multi-day super insulated
coolers, traditional manufactures such as Coleman and Igloo
responded with long lasting coolers of their own.
Fortunately, these large manufacturers have been able to offer
high performance, long lasting coolers at reasonable prices.
After fighting with our old coolers and
ending up with all our ice melted after just a day or two, we
decided it was time to move into the modern age. After
looking at all the options, we chose the Coleman 70 quart Xtreme
5 high performance cooler. It offered the best balance of
capacity and size. Even though it made moving it harder,
we liked the lack of wheels which can eat into the usable space.
The 70 quart Xtreme 5 fit well in the back of the Jeep and
cleared the storage platform we often use for longer trips.
Best of all, it's very affordable at only $59 (with free
shipping from Amazon no less). The question we all had
however, was how would it compare with specialty coolers costing
five times greater (or more)?
The Coleman 70 quart Xtreme 5
cooler is well constructed with sturdy handles and hinges.
Everything is plastic and might look fragile but even after
dozens of trips bouncing around in the back of the Jeep or truck
and being hauled in and out multiple times each day, all the
hardware is still in excellent and fully functional condition.
The body of the cooler is proven to be tough as well and we've
experienced no dents or cracks. It's not all perfect
however. The rough texture on the outside makes cleaning
more difficult. We also wish the lid didn't have cup
holders molded in. While seemingly convenient, they take
away from the interior volume and also reduce the insulation
factor of the lid.
A key thing to remember is
that loading enough ice is critical to making your cooler last.
Even the best cooler won't do the job if you don't have room for
enough ice. The type of ice makes a big difference too.
Block ice will last much longer than cube ice. The colder
the ice is to begin with also makes a difference. We
choose the 70 quart size because it allowed us to load 30 pounds
or more of block ice and still have enough room for our food and
drinks. We fill up any remaining space with cube ice to
remove as much air gap as possible.
With a full load of ice, food
and drinks, our Coleman 70 quart Xtreme 5 cooler has lasted an
incredible five to six days in hot weather without running out
of ice. This performance was achieved with the cooler kept
in the back of the vehicle or out of the sun. We don't
keep our drinks separately so the lid is opened fairly often as
well. Even though we still had ice after five or six days,
the cooler needed to be periodically replenished with cube ice
to keep everything as cold as we'd like, especially as the
amount of food and drinks inside was reduced. We found
that to be easy to do, even on extended off-road trips.
With periodic draining of the water and replenishment of ice
cubes when fueling up, a significant amount of block ice
remained and everything stayed ice cold even after seven days.
For winter camping, it seems like the ice lasts forever.
Even a moderate amount of block ice is able to keep the cooler
cold for week or more.
Being able to store enough
food and ice in a single cooler to feed multiple people for a
week or more (winter or summer) is incredible and
convenient. That, combined with the low price, durable
constriction and convenient size makes the Coleman 70 quart
Xtreme cooler a winner in our book.
The Underground Explorers
Verdict: Highly Recommended!
Zodi Hot Tap Travel Shower:
Nothing is better after a day of dirty, sweaty mine exploring that a
hot shower. Unfortunately, that's hard to come by when your
way out in the backcountry and miles from civilization. Bag
type solar showers work well, but only in certain situations.
If it's cloudy, cold, or you've been driving around all day, you're
out of luck. Fortunately, there's a way to take a hot shower
in any weather, without having to plan ahead. The Hot Tap by
Zodi is a compact propane powered water heater and shower.
Since it doesn't rely on the sun, you can use it just about anywhere
or any weather. The burner is connected to a shower head and
submersible pump and can be up and running in just a few minutes.
The whole thing is powered by four D cell batteries.
Setup is easy. Connect
a one pound propane bottle to the burner and attach the base.
Drop the pump into your water source and also the shower head so
the water can recirculation. Start the pump and once water
is flowing, light the burner. The Hot Tap is an instant
water heater but depending on the source water temperature (and
the air temperature), it might not be warm enough for your
tastes. Fortunately, getting the water piping hot is east.
The longer you let the water recalculate, the hotter it gets.
When the water temperature suits your liking, just pull the
shower head out and get wet. When soaping, simply put the
shower head back in the water source to keep it heating.
As with any system, there are
a few details to keep in mind. The submersible pump is
rather large and doesn't fit in most common water containers.
Some versions of the Hot Tap come with a storage bucket that
doubles as a water container to use during your showers.
You can also use your own bucket or any wide mouth container
such as the popular plastic military five liter cans (which is
what we do). The battery box on the pump seems to be a bit
fragile. We haven't had any issues yet but we're always
very careful with it. If you want to stop the pump and the
flow of water, you have to shut off the burner as well.
This isn't too much of an issue since recirculation the water is
desirable anyway. You can run the pump with the burner off
to save propane once the water is hot enough if desired.
We've used the Zodi Hot Tap
on many trips and have been very pleased. We used to have
solar bag showers scattered all over the place or worse, had to
get by with baby wipes. With the Hot Tap, the whole team
can take a hot shower no matter the weather or time of day.
The Hot Tap is very affordable, selling for around $150 at many
retailers. The only problem you might have is carrying
enough water to keep everyone satisfied!
The Underground Explorers
Verdict: Highly Recommended!
Nitecore MT40GT flashlight:
We're suckers for bright flashlights. More
than that, we're always looking for the next
great thing in bright but compact torches.
An even bigger draw is a flashlight with a tight
beam for penetrating deep shafts without a great
deal of spill or backscatter. So, when
Nitecore got in touch and asked us to test their
new MT40GT, we jumped at the chance.
MT40GT is a thrower. It puts out a very
bright but narrow beam with minimal spill.
With it's smooth reflector and Cree XP-L HI V3
LED, the MT40GT blasts out and incredible beam
that pierces the darkness. With its
tightly focused beam, the MT40GT penetrates far
down shafts and across stopes without blinding
backscatter. Even better, the MT40GT
weighs only 12 ounces and has a slim 2" diameter
head. That's significantly smaller than
the Maxtoch 2X we tested previously. The
difference in size and weight really comes to
the fore when packing the MT40GT for a long trip
offers several brightness and strobe modes,
including an SOS mode and multiple user defined
modes. The MT40GT is a solid light with a
black HA III hard anodized finish and is rated
to the IPX-8 standard (submersible to 2 meters).
The tailcap switch feels solid and activates
with a audible and tactile click. The
tough mineral glass front lens has an
anti-reflective coating. The MT40GT can
use two 18650 Li-Ion rechargeable batteries or
four CR123 primary lithium cells. The
maximum runtime on maximum brightness is an
impressive two hours and fifteen minutes (using
quality 3,400mAh cells).
MT40GT is an amazing long distance light.
Its very affordable at around $80 and is easily
obtained from a number of retailers. It's
small size, incredible brightness and tight beam
make it one of the best distance flashlights
we've ever used. Because of it's light
weight, the MT40GT is now our go-to light for
illuminating shafts and stopes.
The Underground Explorers
Verdict: Highly Recommended!
Road Shower 2:
As you probably already know,
we'd kill for a shower after a
long dirty day underground.
Sometimes we're fortunate enough
to get one but many times we're
left dirty. Solar showers
work great when it's sunny and
warm but require pre-planning
(and staying in one place) and
the clouds to cooperate.
Our Zodi Hot Tap propane water
heater solves both those
problems but it takes up space
and we often don't have room for
it on longer trips in the Jeep.
Carrying enough water to keep it
fed can also be an issue due to
The Road Shower
attempts to solve many of these
problems and the folks that make
it sent one our way to see what
we thought. The Road
Shower is a five gallon aluminum
water tank that mounts to your
roof rack. It's
essentially a permanently
mounted solar shower and water
tank all in one. This
solves one of the major problems
with solar showers (pre-planning
and staying in one place so the
shower can sit out) and also the
water storage problem in small
(or fully packed) vehicles (by
moving the water out of the
cabin and onto the roof).
The Road Shower can be
pressurized with compressed air
for good water pressure no
matter how high or low it's
mounted. This is a real
bonus for lower vehicles.
The air space required for
pressurization does take away
from the amount of water you can
store but it's not a huge
difference. On taller
vehicles, you can fill the Road
Shower to the max and simply
remove the cap and let gravity
do the work. The Road
Shower has a pre-attached hose
and sprayer nozzle which can be
adjusted from flood to stream
easily and quickly.
Several mounting points for the
hose and nozzle are attached to
the Road Shower for secure
storage and easy placement for
Mounting the Road Shower to
our Thule rack was quick and
easy. It uses metal plates
to go around the load bars and
has rubber pads you can use if
you're concerned about marring
or slipping. The biggest
consideration we had was where
the weight would be carried
since our roof rack is only
mounted to the fiberglass
hardtop on the Jeep.
Speaking of weight, the Road
Shower weighs in at 15 empty and
roughly 55 pounds when fully
loaded with water. It's
important to make sure your roof
rack system can accommodate that
sort of weight. Once
mounted, simply put in four and
a half gallons of water through
the large fill opening, secure
the cap and then add about 20
PSI of air pressure via the
Schrader valve and you're ready
We took the Road Shower on a
ten day trip to Nevada to see
how it worked. We had
mostly sunny skies, warm
temperatures and quite a bit of
wind. We used the Road
Shower often during the day to
wash our hands and clean up.
Having quick and easy access to
water in this manner was great.
We actually washed up more often
than usual because it was so
We took several showers with
the Road Shower throughout our
trip. A full tank was
easily enough for three people
to shower if we were judicious
with our water usage. We
took most of our showers in the
late afternoon and did have some
issues with the water
temperature. Even though
the Road Shower was in full
sunlight, the water wasn't as
warm as we expected it to be (or
as warm as we'd experienced in
similar circumstances with solar
bag showers). Based on
some experimentation, it seems
like the high winds we
experienced carried away heat
faster than the late afternoon
sun could put it in.
Airflow around the Road Shower
when driving would seem to cause
the same problem. The
large surface area of the Road
Shower and it's highly
conductive aluminum construction
would seem to be a doubled edged
sword. If you take your
showers earlier in the day this
would be less of a problem, even
with the wind.
Being dirty on the trail or
after being underground stinks
(literally). Baby wipes
only go so far and nothing beats
a real shower. No solution
is perfect and the Road Shower
is no different. We really
liked getting the water out of
the cabin and up on the roof
where we had plenty of space.
Easy access to that water was
also a huge bonus. The
price is something to be
considered. At $299 the
Road Shower is far more
expensive than a solar shower
and even more costly that a
propane instant water heater.
Still, you gain a great deal of
convenience, spontaneity and
space that other solutions
simply don't offer. With
the Road Shower, you're still at
the mercy of the weather to get
a hot shower but out here in the
desert, that's not usually a
problem. It seems like the
amount of wind (or driving you
do) and the time of day you need
to take your shower might be the
biggest X factor with the Road
Shower. Still, we found it
to be very practical and
convenient, not only on long
trips but even day to day around
town. If you leave a
gallon of water in the tank
you're be surprised how often
you find yourself using it.
The Road Shower is particularly
helpful for those with smaller
vehicles that don't have room
for five gallons of water (of
fully loaded vehicles like our
Jeep where every cubic inch of
space is filled on a longer
The Underground Explorers