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Travel Gear Review: Peak Design Capture Pro Camera Clip
Check out our review of the
Peak Design Capture Pro Camera Clip!
20 Oct 2015
Free Things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii
Here's how to see O'ahu on a budget!
28 July 2016
Road Trip New Zealand: South Island
The beauty of New Zealand's South Island
can't be missed. Hop in a campervan and get to it!
18 Apr 2016
2016 Gift Guide for Travelers
14 Dec 2015

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Roof Venting in the Tiny House

Alisha McDarris

Venting the roof of our tiny house was a point of much research and deliberation. We'd look up what we were supposed to do, think we had an idea, then come across someone who said the complete opposite. We had heard roof venting was absolutely necessary and not so much. So we dug deeper, asked some people who knew a lot more about roof venting and building than we did, and came up with this: Yes, you need to vent the roof of your tiny house.

But why? And how? Well, first, whether or not you vent the roof of your tiny house largely depends on the shape of your roof and the insulation you are using. Our tiny house roof is a simple slanted roof and we used fiberglass insulation and as it turns out, in those situations venting is absolutely necessary. The most definitive text we found on the subject was this website. It's based on conventional building principles, but the facts remain. We double checked with some guys at our local building supply store and they confirmed our suspicions: yes, vent.

But How?! Lots more research later here's what we came up with: yeah we have a bathroom vent fan and a kitchen vent fan, but those aren't keeping all the hot air being pushed upward every day from creeping into the cavity between our ceiling and our roof sheathing, causing mold, mildew, even rot to form. No good. So the solution for us was baffles. Or vent chutes. Whatever you call them they keep the fiberglass insulation from pressing directly up against the roof sheathing and they allow air to flow all the way from the lowest point in the ceiling to the highest. And on that highest point we created a protected gap between the exterior walls and the roof drip edge that allows that warm, damp air to escape so it's not trapped up there forever, wreaking havoc on our wood and ruining and our ability to breathe uncontaminated air.

Baffles are super easy to install and really cheap. We purchased polystyrene chutes for about $1.68 a piece and placed them in between every roof joist all the way from the low to the high point of the roof. They are held in with about 3 staples each and the insulation just goes in right after. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Creating the actual vent openings on the outside of the roof line was a bit trickier. Metal vent grates would make it hard to attach the drip edge and wouldn't keep out bugs. We found a sort of plastic woven mesh that's supposed to keep leaves out of gutters which we considered using, but it was going to be a bit more expensive and we'd have to cut it. What we ended up with -- and this was Josh's idea -- was a cheap, short, long strip of corrugated plastic that we could easily cut to size. The corrugations allow air to flow through and a bit of weed mat attached via spray adhesive keeps insects and debris from getting into the ceiling. Slide that stuff under the drip edge, screw it down, and we have our roof venting solution!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Tiny House Update: Christmas Day Paint Job Destroyed

Alisha McDarris

Ok, maybe not destroyed, but definitely damaged. Here's what happened. We saw that it was supposed to be above 35 degrees Fahrenheit for over 24 hours, which is what our exterior paint said it needed to be in order to cure. It also said it would dry in a few hours. All wrong. But we didn't know that when we set out to paint our tiny house on Christmas day.

As it turned out, it was above 35 for over 24 hours, but it was humid, so the paint was still wet to the touch 16 hours later (the next morning). And then the unthinkable happened. It rained. It wasn't supposed to rain for another 6 hours! We checked the weather forecast eight times to make sure! But as is often the case with weather predictions, they were wrong. So it rained and we watched gray paint literally run down the side of the tiny house from the kitchen window. And then we yelled and threw things and moped around the house all day and went outside when it stopped raining to hose the grey rainwater off the trailer and the driveway. We sulked and bemoaned our waste of time and materials. It was a far cry from how good we were feeling on Christmas, just a day before, when we spent a few hours with brushes and rollers and our parents and got to stand back and gaze upon a tiny house that finally looked like ours. The tan siding was gone and a beautiful grey stood in its place. I was thrilled. that lime green front door never looked better.

So naturally we felt terrible. My parents had helped, we had all spent several hours Christmas day outside working on it, my dad was sore. And we felt like all their work was for naught. So in addition to feeling like we wasted time and materials, we felt guilty for wasting my parents' time. But they didn't complain, so that went a long way toward making us feel less guilty, but not less cranky.

But it's not all as black as it seems. Only two sides of the tiny house were damaged by the rain since the wind and wet only come from one direction out here. And of those sides, only one will need completely redone, and it's one of the small sides, so that's a blessing (though it is one of the lap sides, which are a pain to paint). The other side just needs touched up a bit. Unfortunately, at this point it may have to wait until we get to Texas, cause we're not holding out for another warm front in January in Ohio. At least we tried. All we can say is we tried.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tiny House Update: Plumbing and Electric Rough In

Alisha McDarris
Ah, plumbing and electric. Such necessary components to a modern day build. At least for our tiny house. And prior to the last couple of weeks, I knew almost nothing about either. I knew how to flip a breaker and fix a leaky faucet, but that was about the extent of my experience. I can now say that I possess slightly more knowledge on the subjects than I did last month. But just slightly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tiny House Update: Windows and Doors

Alisha McDarris
Josh is excited to finally have the front door installed. And yes, we know our house wrap is on upside down.

Oh windows and doors. I love them. Except for when I have to install them, and then I hate them. Ok, maybe not hate. But they are annoyingly time consuming with the flashing and the rough openings and the trim.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

Alisha McDarris

The holidays are upon us! Lights! Music! Christmas trees! Menorahs! Presents! But as a traveler, I know that sometimes we're hard to buy for. We're always on the move, we seldom desire superfluous belongings, and we're picky about our gear. So what's to be done? Well, check out our holiday gift guide of the top ten gifts for travelers, for starters, then get shopping! And rest assured knowing that every item has been selected by travelers (that's us), for travelers (that's who you're buying for). So happy holidays and may your season be bright, your hearts be warm, and the adventures of past, present and future bring a smile to your face.

The Peak Design Slide strap and Capture Clip are excellent gifts for adventurous photographers. 

1. Awesome Camera Accessories ($60)

I never travel without my camera, but the right accessories make a huge difference in how often it actually gets used (and how much of a fuss I make every time I pull it out). Peak Design makes killer camera accessories perfect for photographers on the move. If we didn't already have them, the Slide Strap and Capture Clip would be at the top of our list.

Wow Airlines is a fantastically cheap option for flights to Europe.

2. Flight to Europe ($99-$149)

No, seriously. These days it's a valid gift option. With companies like Wow Airlines offering flights for so little, why not give them an excuse to pack their bags? Reykjavik? Dublin? Amsterdam? Take your pick.
Sierra Designs Flashlight 2 Tent
A good backpacking tent will be lightweight, durable, and pack down small.

3. A Good Tent ($200+)

And by good we mean small and light. A good backpacking tent won't be cheap, but it'll last for years and will provide shelter for hundreds of adventures. Plus, the recipient will be beside themselves with joy as they try to set it up in the living room. This Sierra Designs tent from Campmor might be a good place to start, plus you can get 20% off with the code MERRY.

A titanium spork is small, light and might be the second handiest item in a traveler's backpack (after a towel, of course).

4. Titanium Spork ($15)

It may sound silly, but nobody will be laughing when they're eating Ramen out of a styrofoam cup in the back of a van in Australia. A titanium sporks weighs virtually nothing and allows travelers to reenergize without feeling like a neanderthal.

Travel towels pack small, dry quickly and are incomparably useful.

5. Travel Towel ($15)

A towel is a simple thing, but infinitely useful in situations other than drying off after a shower in a grungy hostel. But a microfiber version that folds up small, weighs little, and dries fast is worth its weight in gold. Bonus points if it's got the number 42 on it.

Children's books and TV shows can be a great way to help learn a new language.

6. The Gift of Language ($10-?)

Know a traveler about to set off to Brazil or Switzerland for the first time? Get them a language learning package. Sure there are free apps, but depending on their style of learning, the recipient may appreciate a few options. Instead of just buying expensive CD's or downloads, offer a few children's books in the language they want to learn, a kid's DVD or two, and then a program like Rosetta Stone (or something cheaper), all wrapped up in one convenient package.

Solar chargers with or without a battery pack are a good way to keep devices charged while on the road.

7. Solar Charger ($50+)

Know a high-tech traveller always on the go? Keep their batteries charged with a portable solar charger that they can strap to their backpack or at basecamp. Small models are light and easy to transport and can usually charge small devices in a few hours. It's a handy tool to have when driving across the country or hiking for more than a few days.

8. Travel Magazines ($8-$15)

Travel magazines are great for inspiration and trip planning, but they do tend to take up space and require a semi-permanent address for mailing. Instead, get them a subscription to electronic versions they can read on their tablet or phone. No mailing address required. Try E-zines like Afar, NatGeo Traveler and Outside, depending on their traveling style.

We like Bill Bryson's travel memoirs for his wit and sarcasm.

9. A Good Read ($8-$15)

Whether it's meant to inspire travel, remind them of the feeling of adventure, or occupy their time on a plane or train while they travel, a few good books are rarely remiss for those with a wanderlust. Pick up travel memoirs like Aron Ralston's Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, or A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. There are hundreds to choose from! No bookshelf? Get the E-book!

Knowing where you come from can determine where you'll go...literally!

10. DNA Testing ($90-$150)

No, not to prove that no matter how much they question it, you are in fact their biological parents, but as a way for your traveler to connect to their roots. Maybe there's some Danish ancestry in there or a small part of their family spent a few generations on a small island off the coast of Greece. Seeing where ancestors lived and connecting with family history as it relates to geography can inspire all sorts of new adventures. There are lots to choose from, but National Geographic, and all have tests you can order online that focus on people and places from $90 or so.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tiny House Update: Thanksgiving

Alisha McDarris

Happy Thanksgiving! Yeah, I know, it's a little late, but we were a bit busy around here visiting with family, eating too much vegan food, and working on the tiny house. But we did get a fair amount done and for that we're thankful. We're also thankful for a bit of a build break. We needed it after the last two weeks of hitting it non stop.

After the walls went up we rushed to get the roof sheathing and metal roof on before it rained. It sort of worked. Needless to say we still had to go out and buy a roll of 10' x 100' plastic sheeting to protect our poor tiny house from inclement weather. And then we got a bit more done and it rained again and we had to break the plastic back out. But when we saw rain in the forecast for Wednesday, we were all, "You know what. We don't even care. Let's veg on the couch and watch TV all day."

We didn't do that, either. Josh had a video editing project to work on so he was at that all day and I caught up on some pitching I had been meaning to do. But we managed to take our car to get the tires replaced and wheels aligned, which was a plus, we even worked a bit on the house on Thanksgiving, finishing up the last of the flashing around the doors and figuring out the door jamb situation. See, we bought a glass door at the local ReStore for $15 not thinking that we'd also need a jamb and doorstop and such for it. And hardware. Sometimes we don't make wise choices. All said and done we could have probably saved ourselves quite a bit of time by spending slightly more on a door that was ready to hang and already had a knob and deadbolt. But you live and you learn.

Friday we took it easy again, relishing the extended break. Weather was again a little spotty, but that was just an excuse we used as Josh still had to finish up that video project and I wanted to go black Friday shopping to pick up some stuff for the house. I actually hate black Friday shopping, but we didn't go super early and there were some killer deals on a few kitcheny things we needed that I couldn't even have gotten that cheap used, so it wasn't so bad. And we did still manage to hang the first two siding panels that evening (the first piece is the hardest!), so the day wasn't entirely wasted. Plus it gave us the stamina to wake up Saturday ready to hit it hard.

Josh caulking around the windows. That was probably his sixth tube. So. Much. Caulk.

And we hit it real hard. We got all but two top pieces of siding up on the entire house with the help of a whole lot of friends and family. No joke, there were so many people who came to help on Sunday that I literally didn't know what to do with them (and that's an appropriate use of literally)! They helped paint trim, caulk windows and doors, hang siding, and take down the braces inside, which made the interior look super spacious. We're only bummed we can't ride the wave into tomorrow and totally finish the exterior; guess we'll have to start building the lofts!

All the siding is up on the tiny house! Now to select our exterior paint colors.

Also it's getting really cold here in Ohio and I don't appreciate it. My tiny little body doesn't have the built-in insulation it needs to cope with Ohio winters. I think years of living in places like Florida, Texas and Australia has thinned out my blood and now anything under 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) is just too cold. And once the sun goes down? Fuhgetaboutit. I'm going inside before my toes freeze off.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Alisha McDarris

Because you can't have a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal without following it up with pumpkin pie, here's an awesome recipe for a vegan pumpkin pie that tastes absolutely delightful (and doesn't call for any weird ingredients like tofu). Whip up one or two and impress the crap out of your friends and family with this American holiday classic.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tiny House Update: Dealing with Rain

After insulating and attaching the subfloor, it was a mad dash to raise the walls, attach the roof and the house wrap before any inclement weather. Unfortunately, we didn't quite make it. Fortunately we managed to get plastic sheeting over the whole thing just in time.

For those of you building a tiny house outside, rain can be a real problem. Water on your subfloor is bad enough but water between the subfloor and your flashing where your insulation lives can be a nightmare - near impossible - to dry out. The key here is to have plastic sheeting on hand in the form of a 10'x100' roll - available at your local hardware store. If you have a smaller tiny house, this may cover the entire thing. We had to use one of these rolls coupled with a few tarps to seal it up completely - our tiny house being approx. 28' long x 8.5' wide x 13' tall. Of course, after we go the roof on and only had to wrap the sides we had plenty! (Here's me wishing we didn't have to cover it more than once.)

But as luck would have it, we had to hang it three times. Even though walls were partially covered, house wrap was up and windows were installed, there were just too many vulnerabilities to cross our fingers and hope that not too much water got it. Sigh. Maybe we'll managed to get the exterior sealed up before the next time it rains (or snows!).

Have questions about tiny house life or building? Let us know in the comments below!

The Tiny House Gets Off the Ground, Literally

Alisha McDarris

Last weekend we finally got our walls vertical after building horizontally in the driveway for a week and a half. It was a pretty exciting step, getting those monsters upright and leveled out on the trailer after three weeks of flooring, flashing, and wall construction.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Introducing the Peak Designs SlideLite Strap

Alisha McDarris
The Peak Designs SlideLite is a fantastic camera strap for small to medium cameras. Yet another example of the company's innovative designs. 

First of all let me just say that Peak Design is my favorite camera accessory manufacturer since Lowepro. And nobody is paying me to say that. Their Capture Pro clip basically changed my life and with the SlideLite I don't have to choose between using the clip and using a strap. Brilliant. Extra safety for when I'm scaling a rock wall with my camera attached to my person. True story. This actually happens. So here's a review of this new strap and what I think of it as a professional photographer and frequent traveler.

Right off the bat let me point out all the features of this strap that I think are nothing short of brilliant.

First, the Anchor Link connection system. The strap comes with four, the perfect number for hooking up multiple cameras. Since I have two camera bodies that I regularly rotate between, I don't have to switch out my one good strap over and over or use a lesser strap on my day-to-day point and shoot. The patented Anchor Link system lets me simply and easily unclip the strap from one camera and clip it to the other that's already got the Anchor cords looped on. Too easy!

The Peak Designs Anchor Link System is secure in addition to being easy on, easy off.

Second, the Anchor cords themselves. And this just goes to show that Peak Designs really knows what they're doing, because even as  photographer I wouldn't have thought of this. There's more than meets the eye to the thin black cords on the Anchor Link system. It's actually three layers of protection that hold up to 200 pounds (that's more than me and all my camera gear combined) and indicate wear. When the cords are black you're good to go. When you start seeing the yellow underneath you'll want to replace the cords soon. When the red cord at the center shows through your camera is no longer secure hanging from the strap; you need to buy some new ones. Again, too easy.

Third, the cinch system. Really easy quick pull adjusters look slick and are way easier to tighten and loosen than most of the other straps I've used. Easy enough to adjust on the fly mid hike or while climbing a tree to get that perfect shot. It's also handy if you regularly pass off your camera to a husband or second shooter like I do.

The adjustment clips on the SlideLite are probably the easiest and least frustrating I have ever seen.

Lastly, the look. I'd be lying if I said I didn't really dig the look of this strap. Simple yet striking, it's reminiscent of a seat belt and I like that. It's not flashy (though it does come in red or blue in addition to black), and I like the simple semi-industrial look of it. It's just well designed.

But highlights aside, it's fantastically functional. It's light, it's compact, and it can be used with other Peak Designs products like the Capture Clip. In fact, the SlideLite comes with a Capture Camera Clip compatible tripod plate that you can not only use on the clip, but on an ARCA-type tripod. I already have the Capture Clip Pro, so now I also have an extra plate so I don't have to switch one between cameras. The plate also provides an attachment point for one or two Anchor Links should you like to carry your camera lens down as I do with my larger body and lenses. If not, keep them looped around the strap lugs on the sides of your camera.

Attach the anchors on the Peak Designs tripod plate or on the sides of your camera. It's up to you.
The SlideLite Anchor Links on the Peak Designs tripod plate. So you can carry bigger cameras lens down.
This is the problem I have with my current strap, a Black Rapid model that screws into the tripod plate mount on the camera's underside. Don't get me wrong, I love this strap, especially as it's designed for women, but the fact that the Peak Designs SlideLite can be kept on my camera if I want to use my Capture Clip or a tripod is a huge plus. I hate unnecessary fiddling and adjusting. I'm too impatient for that nonsense. I want to get the photo from the top of the cliff and then move on (or maybe admire the view with the naked eye instead of through the camera lens).

It's intended for smaller camera bodies like mirrorless cameras and point-and-shoots, with the larger and wider Slide strap available for larger models to ease the weight to square-inch coverage ratio, but it works for all kinds.

While the SlideLite's narrow and low profile design make it ideal for smaller cameras, it functions just as well with larger bodies.
Proof that Peak Design has thought of everything are the silicon strips on the SlideLite. There are two narrow bands on one side of the strap that can easily be turned up or down. Up if you're wearing the strap cross-body and want it to slide effortlessly across your clothing when you lift and position the camera, down if you're wearing it over one shoulder and want it to stay put. The strips provide a bit of extra grip, especially given the strap's slippery material, but I still wouldn't go frolicking through a field and expect it not to slide off my shoulder. Even so, I can't go single shoulder with my Black Rapid at all, so it's still a win in the multi-functional department.

Silicone strips on one side of the SlideLite help keep it from slipping off your shoulder.

Over all, I'm digging this strap. It's definitely going to replace my former strap. And why not? With the form, function and flexibility of the SlideLite, who wouldn't? I might have to look into getting the full size Slide, too. After all, we don't want Josh to get jealous.

Want one for yourself? Get a 10% discount by going to and using the code TERRADRIFT!

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