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.

Fishing for Fun & Survival

In a backcountry survival situation, fishing is an excellent source of food, and in some environments it may be your sole source of food. During normal times, trying your hand at fishing with some of the more arcane techniques covered here can also be a whole lot of fun!

As Hank Williams Jr once said, “We’re from North California and South Alabam’, And little towns all around this land. And we can skin a buck and run a trotline. And a country boy can survive

Can you?

Fact: A good survival kit should have some basic fishing line and hooks, but it’s likely you won’t have a pole. Even if you do, there are other ways to catch fish.

There are three very basic ways to fish without a pole, or in a survival situation. Some are better in the still waters of a lake, pond or swamp, while others are better suited for running waters:

1. Limb Lines. Basically, the tree is your fishing pole. You can easily rig several limbs in sequence, varying the depth and type of bait to see what works in your area.

2. Trot Lines. As simple as a length of strong fishing line with hooked and baited drop lines hanging down every couple of feet and spread across a stream or pond.

3. Jug Fishing. Like a trapper setting traps, jug lines can be a very effective way of targeting specific fish hangouts, and can even be drug behind your raft or canoe on the move.

Each method requires adequate anchor weights to hold them in place if stationary, or drift weights that will help prevent the escape of a large, wriggling fish. Weights are used to restrain and/or control a fishing line and can vary from lightweight sinkers to a big rock. Basic baits include grubs, worms, shad, minnows, local shellfish, “stink” baits, big tasty bugs, or whatever you can find. You may have to improvise, adapt and overcome.

It’s wise to carry some basic fishing kit in your bag of tricks, and we’re big fans of Vigilant Trails. They make kits that are innovative, affordable, lightweight, and above all, functional. And they make them right here in the USA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of these methods should be used with caution or for survival only as they may illegal in some locations.

A basic survival fishing kit

A trotline is a heavy fishing line with baited hooks attached at intervals by means of branch lines called snoods. A snood is a short length of line which is attached to the main line using a clip or swivel, with the hook at the other end.

A trotline can be set so it covers the width of a channel, river, or stream with baited hooks. A big advantage of this method is that it can be left unattended in high traffic areas which increases your odds significantly in a survival scenario. There are many ways to set a trotline, with most methods involving weights to hold the cord below the surface of the water. They are used for catching crabs or fish (particularly catfish).

Beer can fishing is an effective, popular technique for those that don’t want to transport rods and reels, or when opportunity knocks and your gear isn’t with you that day. If you pay attention, you’ll see many a fish caught this way on the rivers and lakes in the Deep South and elsewhere.  

There are many other classic, non fishing pole techniques employed in the backwoods of America…

Hand Picking… Steathily approaching a stream bank or submerged rook and gingerly easing you hand undernearth feeling for fish, normally trout. Also known as Tickling as you softly reach around the belly of a Trout and than snatch it with your hands. Takes lots of practice to master and best results are in cold conditions or summer heat when the fish are more torpid. Larger trout species like Brown trout are easier to pick. Brookies are like atomic squirrels and are difficult for even the best picker.

Noodling… similar to the above but involves more open water and submerged stumps and other cover. Usually associated with bullheads and catfish. Instead of reaching under the belly with trout you are either grabbing them by the gills (smaller specimens) or jamming you fist in their mouths to pull them up. It can be unnerving and thrilling at the same time to grab a big ‘ol flathead like this. Also can be done with snapping turtles in their burrows. They go in head first and you reach up over their shells with one hand and and grab the tail with the other and drag them out. It’s a freaking insane tussle and can go sideways if you aren’t focused or tend to be unlucky.

Seining… basically mounting a net between two poles, adding weights to the bottom, grounding it in the stream bed and then overturning the rocks and logs upstream from the seine. It’s a two person affair as one holds the seine and the other rakes the current ahead. Anything tossed up in the current gets caught in the net. When the Raker is done the Netter raises the net to capture anything caught. Usually this is for catching crawdads for eating but also for bait like shiners, strawmen, or hellgrammites.

Damming… Found a hole on some smaller crick with fish you want to eat but can’t catch? Build an escape viaduct at the bottom of the hole that is small in size width wise but is as low as you can relative to the depth of the hole your targeting. Build a dam upstream of the hole to reduce water flow as much as possible with the intent of draining the fish laden hole as much as possible. If it’s successful, and you need to select a workable hole, you can either catch, spear or net the fish in the lower water levels or do the same as larger fish try and escape via the downstream aqueduct.

Spearing… like it says. Using a crafted spear, or store bought one you jab into the water. Doing so at night with a spotlight is the best method. You can use a modified fishing spear with added tines soldered in between the factory ones. One needs to be mindful of refraction and current strength when making a strike. Be fast and sure because any hesitation will be a missed fishy.

Boomflies… a long subtle branch and an M80…errr..that might be too much. Keep in mind that some of these methods are frowned upon by your local game and fish revenuers so survival use only.

Just some good old boys, never meaning no harm…

In winter conditions, you may consider ice fishing.

It can be as simple as knocking a hole in the ice (be careful!) and dropping a baited line in the hole and waiting. If you planned ahead and have extra hooks, line, bobbers and sinkers, you can get after the fish from multiple holes.

One technique is a tip up. This is made by placing a couple good size sticks in an “X” pattern over your hole while ice fishing to suspend a smaller pole with bait at a set depth through a hole in the ice. This helps detect when a fish strikes, without having to be in contact with this piece of gear.

You can see the “flag” or whatever from a distance and can thus manage multiple holes at once, covering a larger area to increase your chance of survival. When a fish does take the bait, a flag “tips up” or the flag can “tip down” to signal that a fish has taken the bait. It’s cold out on the ice so you may want to use a “tip-up” so you can set it and watch from a warmer, sheltered location onshore.

Try to suspend your bait in the “cruising lane” where you think fish may be traveling under the ice – they get hungry in winter so they’re moving around under there looking for food.

1. First, clip a 1-ounce depth finder or “sounder” weight to the hook and drop it so it falls through the weeds and hits bottom.

2. Pull the sounder up about 1 foot above the tops of the weeds. Clip on a small bobber at water level as your marker.

3. Raise the sounder an additional 3 to 6 inches (to compensate for the fact that the spool will be under the water) and slide the bobber down the line the same distance.

4. Remove the sounder. Hook the bait through the back and drop it through the hole. When you set the tip-up, the bobber should be visible on the last wrap of the tip-up spool. Wait and pray for dinner to arrive.

Ice fishing example using a Tip-Up rig

FULL DISCLOSURE:  All endorsements and opinions in this article are unsolicited. Items featured in this article were privately purchased by the author for personal use. Tips and techniques discussed here are for educational purposes, and some of these methods should be used with caution or for survival only as they may illegal in many locations.

***Big thanks to Mark Collins for the fresh catfish photo and Ridgerunner editorial input on this here article***





Today we’re being bombarded with reports from academia, mainstream and social media, and the government. This announcement is not intended to condense all those reports, politicize them, or provide our own set of recommendations, other than to reinforce one particularly important issue – to come together as Americans and stay home. Now is not the time to get out and travel.

Instead, spend some time with family. Work on other projects.

One principle we sincerely believe in is that American Adventurist is a vehicle which allows for the individual, who shares our passion for this pastime and community of interest, to be something greater than yourself through fellowship, stewardship, and leadership. Now is the time to do just that.


Lately, many social media organizations have been advocating for “social distancing” through self-quarantine by camping. On Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook we see people essentially bragging that they’re packing their gear and heading out to the most remote location imaginable, typically only a few hours away from their home. While romantic conceptually that’s not practical, nor is it contributing to the health of our community. Let’s take a closer look at why we’re convinced this isn’t a good strategy.

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“Coronavirus is just like the flu – it’ll all be okay.”

COVID-19 is similar to the flu in how it’s transmitted – via respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. And that’s why many of the preventive measures we talk about are the same as the flu. But the two viruses are different in ways that are significant and dangerous, and current data supports the FACT that COVID-19 is on the rise in America.

Meanwhile, flu has a vaccine; COVID-19 does not. The flu vaccine protects all of us, including our vulnerable populations who are frail or who have medical conditions. People who get the flu when they’ve taken the vaccine tend to have milder, and shorter illnesses. A vaccine for COVID-19 won’t be available for at least 18 months, if even then. Everyone is vulnerable.

Flu has established treatments; COVID-19 does not. Our flu treatments make the illness milder and shorter. When someone does get hospitalized with the flu, the health care team have experience and material for treating the flu. With COVID-19 we don’t have a treatment, other than supportive care, which means they can keep you alive longer, whereupon you either survive or die.


“I don’t need to worry about getting sick. I’m healthy.”

Sixty percent of Americans have at least one medical condition whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, or something else. Feeling healthy and being young isn’t a good reason either. The majority of hospitalizations in China were over age 30.

“Coronavirus is not in ‘the wilderness’, so I can go out.”

You don’t know it’s not in your area. There’s been a shortage of testing in the US, so we don’t have an accurate idea of how many people – or what areas – have truly been affected. The fact is, it is already here and has been for some time.

Did you know that individuals can shed the virus (infecting others) for up to 2 weeks before they get sick? That’s why the quarantine for COVID-19 is 14 days. You can be standing by someone who is infectious but not yet sick; in a queue at the grocery story; punching in your PIN at the ATM; pumping fuel into you adventure vehicle; and quietly pick up the virus. A virus which can survive on some surfaces from a minimum of 1 to 3 days. On every gas pump handle or debit card device you touch.

Alternatively, you could be the one who is positive and inadvertently spreading it to others. This is part of what explains the rapid spread of the disease. People don’t realize they are infectious. It could be anyone.

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If you do decide to retreat to the “safety” of your remote camping site, what might happen if you have COVID-19 and you begin to exhibit symptoms? Even with the latest communication and locator gear, rescue could be hours away, while the respiratory effects of this infection rapidly progress and you slowly suffocate. Additionally, you have now initiated a cascade of human rescuers that you’ve exposed which ultimately consumes more scarce resources and threatens more lives. This is why social distancing is so important. By severely limiting our interactions with each other (even if we think we’re healthy), we have a chance of slowing the progress of the virus.


The Bottom Line in a Pandemic:

Naysayers may be acting out of a false sense of security. They may be downplaying the seriousness of the situation out of fear. But with lives at stake, we simply can’t afford to deny the danger. Stay at home. Take the opportunity to do that deferred maintenance on your vehicle, or perform that modification or installation you’ve really wanted to do. Take time now to do deliberate trip planning for later on. Study things and do things and be well. At home.

If you happen to already be out there on extended travel far from home, consider hunkering down someplace safe until the situation improves.

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If we each do our part, we will make a difference and flatten the curve. Look at polio – with global collaborative efforts polio is now 99% eliminated in the world. Today with the COVID-19 crisis, social distancing buys us the critical time we need to save lives. Be part of something bigger than yourself, and don’t forget to support small businesses during this time of uncertainty.

Stay home, hang out in your garage, and be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

Poster images courtesly of Duke Cannon

Photos by Chad de Alva

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The Trailshot

Remember that one time your ‘quick’ morning hike/ride/<insert adventure here> turned into an all-day safari, and you ran out of water before you got back to the truck? Perhaps you passed by a source of water on your way back, and your mind decided to remind you of all of the millions of ways in which water would be awesome right now. But you can’t drink from that sketchy-looking pool of turbid water, because giardia. (Pro Tip: You don’t want giardia.) Well, thanks to MSR’s new Trailshot water filter, there’s now no reason why you can’t belly up to that water source and drink long and deep.

The Trailshot is the water filter that you really have no excuse not to always carry with you. It takes up the same amount of space as two energy bars in your pack, and weighs in at all of 5.4 ounces. This isn’t some single use ‘survival’ filter where you can only suck water into your mouth. This is a proper water filter that can be used over and over to keep you safely hydrated anytime you need to gather more water in the field. The Trailshot uses MSR’s hollow fiber filter technology that effectively filters bacteria, protozoa, and particulates from any water source. For the North American user, this is really all you need in a filter. However, if viruses are a concern—international travelers, I’m looking at you—you’ll need to add another step to your water purification process like some Aquatabs, or check out MSR’s Guardian filter that handles everything (bacteria, protozoa, particulates, and viruses). When viruses are not a concern, the Trailshot is the water filter that you should always have in your kit.

Using the filter couldn’t be easier: simply drop the pre-filter end of the hose into a water source, and start squeezing the filter body with your hand. You can drink right from the mouthpiece on the filter, or point it into a water bottle or hydration reservoir and fill it at roughly one liter per minute. A big advantage with the Trailshot’s hose design is that you can pull water from a very shallow source, where a water bottle-style filter would be very hard to use. Another advantage is with turbid water: a UV-light type filter is unable to effectively purify cloudy water, a task easily handled by the Trailshot.

Pro Tip: When working with really turbid water, use some form of container to allow the water to settle prior to filtering so that you’re not sucking as much particulate into the filter for better performance. If the Trailshot does get clogged up, giving it a few good shakes along the filter’s long axis will get it going again.

MSR states the Trailshot has a filter life of 2,000 liters, but your mileage may vary depending on how particulate-laden your field water sources are. Spare filter cartridges sell for $35, and carrying a spare never hurts.

Stay Out Longer

A water filter is a key piece of gear for anyone who wants to carry less water (and weight), or who doesn’t want to be limited by the amount of water they can carry. As long as you know that there will be water to collect in the field, you can carry only the amount of water you need to get from source to source. This is a huge advantage for ultra-runners, enduro mountain bikers, or anyone who likes to go fast and light. If you’re the type of person who must to see what’s over the next hill, or who wants to be able to take the long way home, the Trailshot is a great piece of gear to keep in your kit so you can stay out longer than intended.

Dehydration is no joke: if you’ve ever run out of water in the field, you know it isn’t a good time. For the space of two energy bars, a Trailshot in your kit can keep you and a friend hydrated from practically any field water source. Mine traveled all over the Southwest with me this fall, and even when it’s just along for the ride, knowing I have a way to safely gather water from the field is a huge confidence boost. The Trailshot retails for $49—a no-brainer for anyone who plays outside. Pick one up, and avoid that one time where you ran out of water.