Throwing Shade

When the UPS or FedEx truck delivers a box and my wife gets to it before me, she’s throwing shade. You know the drill. Thankfully, something showed up here that the boss really likes. Something that throws real shade. The kind of deep, dark shade that provides relief on a hot day at the beach. Or the river. Or out on the trail. We’re talking about the all new Adapter Shade Panel and Sweet Spot Vehicle Kit from Force Protector Gear.

Shade at the beach!
Shade in the woods!

Founded in 2005 and based in California, Force Protector Gear is the designer and manufacturer of the US Marine Corps replacement Sea Bag, “The Deployer“, as well as their ThermaShield® line of products. Their gear is currently in use in extreme environments worldwide by USSOCOM and other demanding, high profile expeditionary customers.

What is the Adapter Shade Panel? The ASP is a thermal reflective specialty product in the ThermaShield family specifically designed for the Overland community. This magical blanket material can make shade that is 20-40° less than sitting in the full sun and ensures 100% UV protection. The real magic is in the special fabrics used in it’s manufacture (1000D Cordura, FPG Desert Cloth®, and FPG Reflectec®) which enable TRUE shade unlike other tarps or awnings currently marketed for overland use. Beyond providing shade, it can easily block wind and rain, and it can reflect heat away from you or towards you depending on what the need is.

As the basic building block for making modular, scalable shelter, the ASP’s tapered trapezoid shape attaches quickly to narrower 4WD vehicles, vans, or even side-by-side roll cages. As a stand alone system, it provides quick shade and protection under its 6’ x 10’ footprint and can be erected in about 5 minutes making it perfect for quick lunch stops on the trail.

Fast, five minute setup for lunch stops

The Sweet Spot Vehicle Kit includes an ASP, a ThermaShield blanket, 4 super sturdy poles and all the rigging, and provides nearly 200 sq ft of real shade that can be tailored to any environment. By adding a single Field Blanket to the sides or end of the ASP you can quickly augment your wind/shade/rain protection, and ensure continuous shade as the sun dips low on the horizon.

With standard ThermaShield snap spacing, you can attach additional blankets in minutes adding 60 sq ft of protection each time. In a few short minutes you can build a full Bedouin-style camp with shade and wind breaks. The utility of the Sweet Spot Kit as a basis for shelter is only limited by your imagination and how many blankets you add to it.

One thing that I really like is the fact that the Sweet Spot Kit is not a “one trick pony” like larger and heavier hard mounted awning systems.

Like all ThermaShield products, this kit provides many functions and can provide shelter both on or off your vehicle, help keep track of small parts and protect yourself when lying under your rig in the hot sand, or even just snuggling up at the campfire or keeping warm at a chilly sporting event. Their Desert Cloth is surprisingly soft and lends itself well to picnic blanket or bedtime use as a “woobie”.

It also has medical applications and can help reduce heat injuries, and is helpful for cold injuries or treating for shock by keeping an injured person warm. In a pinch, the Adapter Shade Panel or ThermaShield can even be used as an expedient litter when things go bad in the wilderness.


Average consumer grade companies make stuff and hope that it works. Since hope is not a plan, and their primary customers are anything but average, FPG took their ThermaShield to the lab at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts. They tested these blankets in temperatures ranging from -25 to 135 degrees Farenheit. Then they put them in the hands of SOCOM personnel where they were proven in real world conditions. The current Sweet Spot Vehicle Kit is an evolution of this rigorous testing and continued development of the basic ThermaShield concept.

Rated for every clime and place


The ASP can attach to anything from racks to shells. It can even attach to rear hatches on SUV’s using the supplied “Belly Band” strap. Padded corners on the ASP allow snapping in additional field blankets while protecting your vehicle’s expensive paint. Hypalon backed “Gromolon” anchor points and steel rings stay centered on the pole tips and provide a 270° stable arc to pull from. Utilizing the ¾” Stake Straps enable you to easily clip in to the MILSPEC anchor buckles and cinch down for a rock-solid standard configuration. Available SmartClip Adapters allow you to lock in paracord or small bungee cords for those non-standard setups fixing to objects, trees or vehicles.

Adapter Shade Panel mounting on Leitner Designs Rack
Hypalon backed anchor rings stay centered on the pole tips and provide a 270° stable arc

SmartClips and Stake Straps

The ASP has Surface Mount Buckles on all four corners that accept ¾” side release male buckles. In most scenarios, simply clipping in the Stake Strap and running the eye to a tent stake gets it done. It’s difficult to express in words what a game changer the Stake Straps are – keeping tension and making one-handed adjustments is stupid simple with these.

The SmartClip Adapter puts their patented aluminum SmartClip® into play giving you a huge amount of attachment options with a no-knot anchoring system for use with 550 Paracord or small bungee cords. You can easily attach to objects further away than the Stake Straps will reach (how much 550 cord did you bring?), or you can even use pliable bungee cords that can flex with high wind gusts in the desert. These incredibly tough accessories provide nearly limitless securing options in a tiny package.

SmartClips or Stake Straps? You choose based on your environment.
Made in USA!
Sweet Spot Kit, Extra ThermaShield, and rigging.

Weights and Dimensions

Adapter Shade Panel Dimensions: Trapezoid shape; 112” L x 52” W (vehicle end) and 72” W (pole end).

Adapter Shade Panel Weight: 2.2 lbs.

ThermaShield Blanket Dimensions: 112″ L x 72″ W

ThermaShield Blanket Weight: 2.2 lbs.

Our Thoughts?

We really like the fact that we can carry a MASSIVE amount of shade in a very small and very light package. The fact that it can be tailored to the conditions so easily is a huge plus for me. Windy? Sun blazing hot and low on the horizon? Need privacy? It’s as easy as snapping another blanket onto the ASP and staking it down.

I’m convinced that there is no better shade option available given the light weight, simple form factor and limitless applications this kit provides. Add in the SOCOM proven, made in USA quality and the science inherent in the 1000D Cordura, FPG Desert Cloth®, and FPG Reflectec®fabrics and you have a true “best of breed” product that has applications across the full spectrum of adventure travel from hardcore 4×4, overland, motorcycles, UTV’s, hiking, kayaking, and more.

CONCLUSION: The argument for the Adapter Shade Panel and/or the Sweet Spot Kit versus other options is unbreakable. There is no other shade system on the American market today that provides more scalability, more UV protection, or more heat reflective properties than this kit. If you only have one way of making shade, or if your life depends on being able to make shade or shelter anywhere on a moment’s notice, this is the clear choice.

Sweet Spot Vehicle Kit

FULL DISCLOSURE: The Force Protector Gear products featured here were provided at no cost to the author or American Adventurist for the purpose of this independent gear review.

SureFire Maximus

1000 lumens in a palm sized headlamp? It’s a thing, and it’s called the Maximus by SureFire. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to stop doing your favorite outdoor activity when the sun goes down, the Maximus has the light output to help you play outside longer. You can ride your bike faster, find your way better while running or hiking, and have an effective light on your helmet that can actually help you out while riding a motorcycle at night. When you get back to the truck or make it into camp, you can adjust the power on the Maximus with just the turn of a dial and set your light output to anything from 1 to 1000 Lumens.  Silly amounts of light in a compact package – it sounds like the world’s greatest headlamp, doesn’t it?

The amount of light that you can get out of the Maximus at full power is quite impressive, but don’t expect to spend all night burning a hole in the blackness.  At full power, the Maximus will only last around 1.5 hours, so discipline is required to make it through a full night of use without killing the battery in the first 90 minutes.  Dialing back the light output will obviously get you much longer runtimes, and with camp duties typically requiring less than 50 lumens of light, the Maximus has the endurance to go multiple nights without recharging.  Adjusting the headlamp to get the right amount of light exactly where you need it is as easy as tilting the body of the light from 0 to 90 degrees down and twisting the knurled dial to control light output.  The dial works great with bare hands or gloves, and the tilt setting will stay where you leave it – making the Maximus quite easy to use.  Yet, charging the Maximus is where things start to get interesting.


Recharging the non-replaceable Lithium-Ion battery is done from either an AC outlet or the included 12v car charger.  I’ll say it again: Non-replaceable battery.  Make sure to keep that fact in mind, or you could find yourself with a dead battery and dawn still hours away.  Furthermore, you have to use the specific Maximus chargers, so make sure that you pack the chargers with you whenever you’re gearing up for a trip.  SureFire is known for their exceptional build quality and attention to detail, so I was disappointed to discover that the cap for the Maximus’ charging port will refuse to say installed in the body of the light after it’s spent a few miles traveling in a pack or a pocket.  Should your Maximus encounter some real moisture with the charging port open – bad things could happen.  I had hoped this was an isolated issue with my light, but I noticed that the Maximus headlamps that the Expedition Overland crew were using in season three were all having the same issue.  This cover feels like it didn’t get the SureFire design treatment, so hopefully that is something they’ll address in the future.

The only other problem that I ran into with the Maximus was that the weight of the headlamp can cause it to slip down over your eyes if you make a sudden movement during an activity.  While running, or while mountain biking with the light under your helmet, this can make for a painful surprise.  SureFire molded mounts for a top strap into the Maximus, but my headlamp didn’t come with a top strap, and a search of the SureFire website didn’t turn up an official over-the-head strap.  If you’re not moving quickly (say during typical camping) this will be a non-issue for you, but was something I had to engineer a solution for as the Maximus’ light output is something that I had to incorporate into many of my favorite sports.

If you have ever found yourself creeping home in the dark without a light when your ride, hike, or other activity lasted longer than the daylight did, the Maximus is a great tool to have with you.  Toss it on under your helmet, and your mountain bike ride can continue at all but the fastest of speeds.  Likewise, on a dirtbike the Maximus can outshine the crappy halogen headlights on many bikes, allowing you to actually see where you’re going.  If you’re hiking or running at night, the Maximus has plenty of light at less than half power to light your way up like you’re walking down the Vegas strip.  This is where SureFire’s expertise in lighting shines (see what I did there) as the Maximus casts a perfect beam of light that works great at 10 lumens reading a book in camp and at 1000 lumens bombing down singletrack.

Even with it’s faults, the Maximus is a great headlamp.  With the dial control I can get exactly the amount of light output that I want without thinking about making an adjustment.  The dial system is hands down better than using a single button headlamp that has 50 different modes, where I would have to stop what I’m doing to focus on getting the light output I want – and there’s no risk of blinding myself by triggering the wrong mode.  With the Maximus it’s set and forget, and cranking up the sun or dialing it back is just a quick dial adjustment away.

The SureFire Maximus is a very impressive lighting instrument that is exactly what you would expect from something with the SureFire name name on it.  With the exception of the charging port cover and the weight of the unit combined with the lack of an over-the-head strap, the Maximus is a great headlamp.  Its light output is staggering at full power, and the dial system is a great interface over the single button control favored by many other manufactures.   It will be really cool to see what SureFire does with this model in the coming years as battery and LED technology continue to improve.  Hopefully a lighter Maximus with a longer battery life will become a thing in the not too distant future.  As long as you can remember to bring the charger and have enough discipline to use just as much light as you need, the Maximus can work in almost any role in which you place it.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself playing leader when your group is out after dark – other lights can’t hold a candle to what the Maximus can do to the darkness.

Full Disclosure:  SureFire provided the headlamp reviewed in this article at no cost to the author or American Adventurist. This review and others like it are intended to provide you, our readers, with no holds barred updates on a variety of new gear as it becomes available.