Monday, July 18, 2016

All About Hiking, and the FitBit Blaze Review

“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.” 
― Cindy Ross

I think this quote sums up the change hiking has had on our kids fairly well! We really just got into recreational hiking; I say "recreational" because we have often hiked into a fishing hole or hiked while hunting, but in the last year we have really just gotten into hiking just to hike. A lot of people ask me where the fun is in that, and why I would do it without a "purpose". I really don't have a detailed answer other than we do it because we can. 

It is a moment that is not explainable when you round a turn or crest a top and get to hear that "wow" moment in your kid's voices and see the excitement on their faces. There is so much of the world out there to see that is absolutely spectacular, but you won't see it from a car or the seat of an ATV. Not to mention the health benefits that come your way from getting off the couch and stretching the legs as well!

The folks over at Verizon have really helped contribute to our motivations to get out and hike this early summer as well. You've seen out LG 360 Camera review; well, Verizon also sent out to us the FitBit Blaze that we were stoked to check out on another recent hike. This is also a part of bringing some attention to National Trails Day, which is held the first Saturday in June annually and encourages people to get out and check out our nation's more than 200,000 miles of trails. Our journey with the FitBit Blaze  takes us to the trails of the High Uintah's Wilderness in northeast Utah this week. It was a good chance to look at some of the hiking features of this FitBit that we could not demo from home, and it also provided an opportunity for me to catch the kids on camera sharing some of their favorite things about hunting. Check out the video below!

There are a bunch of FitBit models out there, and I know from personal experience that choosing the right one can be a little daunting. For the activities that my wife and I enjoy, we will both say that the FitBit Blaze is really geared for what we like to do. Aside from hiking, which I will get to in more detail in a second, my wife and I have both been actively working on our fitness for a couple of years now. For me, I keep things pretty simple and my routine consists of a daily workout of either running outside, on the treadmill, or weightlifting; and I usually don't try to track my calories specifically although I do try to eat right. For my wife, she is a little more detail oriented. Most of her workouts are aerobic in nature, consisting of running or videos, but Dayan does see the need to track her intake and calories burned a lot more precisely. So to take advantage of all the features that we could, she has been doing our demo of the product for a couple of months now.

Just about all FitBit models will track your heart rate, calories, workout times, and offer features like text notification and music control (synced to your phone's music), but the Blaze offers some other features not all FitBits will. The big thing you are looking for if you want a FitBit you can use for hiking and more precise run calculations is "GPS Connectivity". This function allows you to connect you your phone's GPS. When you have this enabled and go out for a run or hike, the FitBit will use that GPS function to capture more reliable, precise data on your pace, speed, etc. than had done the exercise without the GPS function. In fact, Dayna noticed that the Blaze was telling her that her runs on the treadmill were longer than what the treadmill reported, until she used the GPS function for the first time. After a hike with GPS enabled, the FitBit logged her stats more precisely, stored the data, and now the Blaze matches the treadmill display more closely. 

During our hike, as you saw in the video, we were pretty amazed by all the information we could look at after a 30 minute hike. The Blaze gave us total hiking time (NOT including the pauses/stops along the way, just total hiking time), calories burned, current elevation (built in altimeter), elevation gained during the hike, splits (minute-mile average), and heart rate data. I'll tell you, hiking is a lot more enjoyable workout over running for me! Pretty valuable data when you are trying to improve your health, especially if you will return to that hike and want to keep improving your results! This is where tracking is very important. On the synced phone, we were able to see the same data, as well as how that contributed to Dayna's overall day results, including her water consumption and intake still needed. This is where we could also check out a map of the hike!

Aside from hiking, the FitBit Blaze also has other exercise features, such as run, treadmill, elliptical, and biking, and a general "workout" which would be weights, yoga, or other. You can actually go into a huge list of "shortcuts" to go to more specifics on your workout you wish to track, including activities like golf, kickboxing, spinning, stair-climber, and more. 

A map display of our recent hike
Another cool feature with FitBit is the connectivity with friends (if you choose). You can track your results with friends, and even set goals and challenges with them to make it more of a team effort on fitness. 

I think one thing that I've seen trouble with other people when it comes to FitBits is the unknown with the devices. You hear they can do so much, but when some people get them they seem to get frustrated by a lack of what they can do. That in fact is just a lack of understanding. The manual that comes with the FitBit is kind of simple. But within the FitBit Blaze itself is a "Blaze 101" function where you can find help on all of the features. I would urge a use to turn to the web as well. We had a little trouble figuring out the GPS and mapping function at first, but a quick Google gave us all the results we needed to get it figured out with no trouble at all.

The FitBit Blaze also has an excellent battery life! Dayna is getting about 5 days between charges out of the device, and it only takes about 2 hours to achieve a full charge. She also likes how she can receive text notifications on the Blaze as well. It is also a watch with watch face customization options, and this little gem will also track in your sleep to help you see how well (or maybe not) you are resting at night.

What Dayna likes most about the Blaze is how it doesn't just track your workouts, but it tracks your entire day. This has really helped her tailor the level of her workouts to her day. 

We give the FitBit Blaze a huge thumbs up! It's features are valuable for the hiker for sure, but overall as well if you are looking for something to help track your journey to better fitness this is a great device for that! I have been hesitant to get into the FitBit craze myself, but after seeing the functionality and how it has helped my wife in her weight loss and fitness journey I will say I am in the market for my own now, and will most likely be going with the Blaze myself. At $199 on the Verizon website, I think this product is well worth the money for it's wealth of workout applications and the precise data it logs. The Verizon website will also provide you more specific information on the abilities of the Blaze, as well as compatible devices for the Blaze, and other online tools that enhance the FitBit experience.

The Blaze will be going along on our future journeys for sure, and we look forward to showing you the results!

Monday, July 11, 2016

LG 360 Camera Review

This is just one fun little camera:

About a month ago I was approached by the folks at Verizon about giving the LG 360 camera a demo in the field for National Trails Day. Honestly, I had never heard about National Trails Day before, or the LG 360 camera, in fact, as far as I knew, 360 photography was fairly new. I had just seen 360 photos appear on Facebook just weeks prior to this opportunity. So I was stoked to get out and give this camera a try. 

However, fire season kicked in, and I wasn't able to give the camera a worthy try until the 4th of July weekend. Before I get into the camera details, let me explain a bit about National Trails Day. We did get out and take a hike for National Trails Day, however we had some battery problems related to a phone, not the camera, so we were not able to give it a proper demo then. National Trails Day is just that, a day to get out and enjoy the nation's trails. Did you know there are over 200,000 miles of trails in the US? It occurs on the first Saturday of June every year. The day also consists of events at state and national parks, and you can also visit the National Trails Day website to create your own event! For our family, it was just good reason to get out and enjoy a short hike around Currant Creek Reservoir not far from another famous Utah water body, Strawberry Reservoir.

As far as the LG 360 Camera, our family had a blast testing this fun little camera out in the Nevada high country over the July 4th weekend. I wish we would have utilized the video shooting mode a little more; maybe next time, but we had a blast with the 360 photo mode! Check out our video over on our YouTube channel for the complete review:

I really love how compact and easy to use this camera is! When space is tight I don't want really bulky equipment with me, not a worry with this little gem! With the size though, I think it is important to lower your expectations just a bit. This camera is designed to shoot 360 photos and video. I read a lot of online reviews where people were disappointed with a few things such as zoom capability. True, it has very limited zoom, but again, that is not it's purpose! If you find yourself with this camera, enjoy it for what it was built for! 

I mentioned a few times that this technology is fairly new. The big draw back I have with this device is the ability to post the photos in true 360 format everywhere I want to post it, like here. A lot of programs just do not recognize the 360 format yet. I say yet, as I this again is new tech, and I think we will see the format take hold. Anyway, this is what I get when I upload to the program here from a saved file from my phone:

You can see that this photo (in 180 format) is really a 360 photo "rolled out" flat. The mountain in the background on the left side is the same as on the right side.

I did figure out how to get my photos uploaded to Facebook, as well as into Google Street View. I have also seen that YouTube carries the proper format for 360 videos, but as I mention in my review I did not get any 360 video on our demo, but I plan on testing that feature out more now that I know what I'm doing, and I'll throw a clip up on YouTube and here as soon as I get it!

Since at this time I haven't been able to post a 360 photo here on the blog in true 360 format, I would like to invite you to check a few of these photos out over on the Southern Utah Hunt and Fish Facebook page. You do not need a Facebook account to check out these photos. Once there, click on a photo and you should see a little "hand" icon appear. If you click and hold, you can drag the photos around to view them in a true 360 format. If you pull them up on your mobile device and open a photo, you can also stand in place and turn, seeing the photo in 360 degree format as you spin your body. 

For more on the LG 360 camera and to purchase the camera visit the Verizon website at for more information. You can find this camera there for just under $200, and you will also find all the specs, reviews, and a list of compatible devices there that work with the camera. I think it is well worth the money to enhance your photo and video experience, if you like to use a lot of different effects in your photo and video shooting like I do.

Be sure to check back as we will post more updates as we continue to learn more about what we can do with this awesome little camera! 

I would like to thank Verizon for this awesome demo opportunity! Check back soon as we will review at FitBit Blaze next, also courtesy of Verizon!