Category Archives: Gear

Hunting, fishing, and camping gear. Anything that doesn’t fit another category can be found in Gear.

Green LED light bar for hunting vehicle

It frequently amazes me that hunters often feel the need to light up the woods as if it were daylight. I am the complete opposite in that I want just enough light to safely drive from camp to hunting area with minimal disruption. When driving my F-150 I turn off all of the lights other than the amber fog lights. After some research, I purchased the Kaper II L16-0075GR Green LED Hunting light to install on my 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

I bought the light right before the 2020 deer season so I simply spliced in a cigarette lighter plug and temporarily mounted the light in an existing hole in the Polaris metal roof. Worked well enough for its intended purpose but was not the way I like to roll. I wanted to mount the light in the grill area and install a proper wiring harness and dashboard switch.

Once again, I turned to Amazon and settled on the Nilight LED Light Bar Wiring Kit. This kit includes long wires, heavy 14 gauge wire, fuse block, dual leads, and lighted dashboard switch.

wiring harness and bus bar
wiring harness and bus bar
Nilight wiring harness
Nilight wiring harness switch.

I knew where I wanted to mount the Kaper green LED light but wasn’t quite sure how to access the area required to tighten the nut. Turns out the lower grill insert simply pops out! Super easy installation drilling one hole through plastic. Mounting hardware is all stainless steel.

Continue reading Green LED light bar for hunting vehicle

Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Review

Be prepared for the next weather event with the Jackery Solar Generator 1000.

The polar vortex hit Texas in February 2021 with a vengeance, inflicting freezing cold temperatures that partially knocked out the power grid for days. We were without power in our residence for almost three days but some homes were offline for much longer. Fortunately, I have a Honda EU3000is generator that I faithfully start each month and let run for 10-15 minutes. It has always immediately fired up and run smoothly. Until February 15, 2021 when it would not start despite my best troubleshooting efforts. Unbelievable! Thirty months of flawless performance until the very day I needed it. That is when I determined to get a backup power source, preferably one not dependent on a carburetor.

Jackery Solar Generator 1000

Research quickly led me to Jackery – the industry leader in portable power stations and solar generators. Their best solution for me was the Jackery Solar Generator 1000 which consists of the Portable Power Station Explorer 1000 along with two Solar Panel SolarSaga 100W chargers. The two solar panels can be connected to the power station at the same time using the included adapter. Each SolarSaga 100 also includes a USB-A and USB-C port so that you can charge mobile phones and other small electronics directly from the solar panel. Free, clean, green energy!

Jackery Solar Generator 1000
Continue reading Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Review

Review: J.B. Dillon Chambers Boots

Living in Texas, I have purchased my fair share of boots through the years. Through experience, I have come to rely on certain brands for specific functions. Specifically, Lucchese dress boots, Ariat (with rubber soles) for general ranch work and light hunting, Wolverine for serious hunting, and Red Wing work boots. J.B. Dillon now joins my list of preferred cowboy boots!

I have been wearing the J.B. Dillon Chambers full quill ostrich boots for several months now. They are exceptionally comfortable and easy to wear all day. And they look fantastic in Chestnut!

One question I get asked, is “How do they compare to Tecovas?” This is a fair question as I would consider them competitors working the same space.

Continue reading Review: J.B. Dillon Chambers Boots

Orbea Occam: Is it the best trail bike on the market?

Full disclsure.. I am a gnarly old dude, 55 years on planet earth and the last 25 years I have been a mountain biker. I love it, it gets me out in the woods (or the desert) and I get my adrenaline rush, physical fitness and mental health therapy all in the same day!. I have owned a LOT of bikes, I mean 30 or so probably, my first year I went through 4, and in fact got so involved in riding and racing and the quest to have the best I opened a high end shop.

Continue reading Orbea Occam: Is it the best trail bike on the market?

History of Portland Marine

Portland Marine officially opened at the end of 1967 with a new building, which was quite an improvement over the rented three car garage which served as headquarters for the oilfield and charter boat service operated by Liz and Glen Coker for 11 years. The new 1200 sq. ft. building was split equally between showroom and shop and Portland Marine employed one full time and one part-time employee. The business was located at 500 Moore Avenue next door to the Portland Volunteer Fire Department.

Family legend has it that one day Glen came home and informed his wife, “Liz, I just signed with Chrysler, we are in the boat business!”

Glen Coker Portland Marine
Glen Coker Master Boat Mechanic

All was well until 1970 when Hurricane Celia destroyed all buildings and stock. While rebuilding, a 1400 sq. ft. shop was added and a storage lot purchased across the alley (next door to Royal Foodtown which was owned by Buddy Ganem).

Portland Marine
Original Portland Marine abandoned circa 2015 (after Richard Foley moved to new location)

In 1972 a new 5000 sq. ft. air conditioned showroom was purchased along with the city block it was situated on. The old quarters were converted into the South’s most modern shop including the first full-size drive-in test tank for testing motors under power. By the late ’70s, Portland Marine employed seven full-time and five part-time employees (including myself).

Portland Marine
Portland Marine showroom circa 1978

Along the way, Liz and Glen won many national sales contests. Their hard work resulted in Portland Marine being recognized as one of the premier dealerships in the country and they earned international reward trips to such exciting destinations as England, Ireland, Jamaica, and the Canary Islands.

Liz and Glen Coker
Liz and Glen Coker in Jamaica 1974

Portland Marine was one of the first Yamaha Outboard dealers in the USA. The Yamaha 200 was revolutionary and simply outclassed the domestic makes. At the time, Portland Marine had strong sales of both Chrysler and Evinrude. It soon became a fact that those boaters who could afford it always picked the Yamaha. It was superior in every way.

Throughout his life, Glen had a deep hatred for those black Mercury motors. He strongly believed that they were heavy, slow to spin up, overly complicated, and did not survive in the harsh salt water climate.

Portland Marine
Liz Coker in center. The Butt family (HEB) were customers of Portland Marine

Glen was President of the South Texas Boat Dealers Association. He fought to protect the interests of recreational fishermen – at times putting him at odds with his commercial fishermen customers – and made many trips to Austin to lobby against gill nets and trot lines.

Glen Coker fishing in Mexico
Glen (far right) fishing in Mexico

Our number one selling rig was a Robalo 21′ with a Yamaha 200 horsepower outboard. Boats have grown tremendously in size (and price) over the years but at the time this was considered an ideal boat to run down to Baffin Bay or to take 30 miles offshore. Outfitted with a T-Top, and sometimes a 20hp “kicker” for safety, it was an awesome boat to troll for kingfish in the open Gulf. From personal knowledge, it had the performance and quality construction to jump Gulf swells – clearing the prop always produced a distinctive scream combining excitement and terror. Glen ran full-throttle. In rough water he would shout, “Get her on top!” as he put the hammer down.

Ronnie Hubbell started working at Portland Marine part-time while in high school. Turns out that Ronnie is a master mechanic and quickly rose in rank to service manager. Ronnie eventually left Portland Marine to start his own dealership in Aransas Pass. Ronnie’s Marine grew into three locations – the original store in Aransas Pass, a second location in Corpus Christi, and a third dealership outside of San Antonio. Ronnie and Glen were two of a kind.

Ronnie Hubbell
Ronnie Hubbell

Thinking of Glen, Ronnie recently commented, “the most important thing I think I still remember day to day, was if you’re gonna do something, try like hell to do it right.”

Glen was always trying to bring value to his customers. He designed and constructed at least three different boats to offer performance at a lower price point than the name-brand boats. The Apollo was a 19′ center console that was an alternative to the much more expensive Robalo. The Salty was similar but featured a square bow. The Apollo and Salty were both manufactured in Florida. The Critter was a simple fishing boat designed by Glen and built by Johnny Majek (yes, that Majek).

Critter boat
Critter, designed by Glen Coker built by John Majek
Portland Marine
Portland Marine Boat Show Special

Sample pricing from 1977-1978:

  • Chrysler 30 hp outboard $695
  • 16′ Commerical Polarkraft $553
  • 18′ Richline aluminum boat, 30 hp Chrysler, and trailer $1495
  • Starcraft 15′ with 75 hp Chrysler $2795
  • Manatee 18′ bow rider with 130 hp Volvo I/O $5466
  • Salty 19′, 135 hp Chrysler, EZ Loader trailer, fully loaded $5995

Glen Coker and Portland Marine were actively involved in racing boats and sponsoring races down at Sunset Lake. With ace driver Ronnie Hubbell on the throttle they won numerous state and national races.

Glen Coker Portland Marine
Glen Coker and Mike Coker with Race Boat 1968
Ronnie Hubbell Portland Marine
Ronnie Hubbell accepting winning trophy as Glen proudly looks on

In 1978 the dealership was sold to Mr. Justice. Quite frankly, he drove the business into the ground.

Richard Foley soon stepped in and bought Portland Marine in 1980. Richard steadily restored Portland Marine to its position today as a top boat dealership in the Coastal Bend. Richard had been the service manager in the shop earlier and was the right man to carry on the tradition. The dealership was relocated into the old Jeff’s Auto Parts building on 7th Street. Sadly, Richard passed away in 2008. Today, Portland Marine is owned and operated by Carol Foley. Stop in, they will treat you right.

Although it has been 41 years since my family sold Portland Marine, the values I learned while working there still guide me to this day.

Portland Marine
Portland Marine
Portland Marine
Portland Marine

Glen Coker story on Tactical Gun Review

Tecovas Boot Review “The Earl”

As with any good Texan, I own and wear boots.  Through the years I have developed a fondness for Lucchese dress boots, Ariat work boots, and Wolverine hunting boots.  I was in the market for a new pair of brown ropers and started looking at the Lucchese boots and balked at the $400 – $600 price tag.  That is when Tecovas caught my attention.  Tecovas promises, “Handmade, high-quality boots that don’t break the bank.”

What is a roper?  A roper has a lower heel and, generally, a shorter shaft than the traditional cowboy boot.   They are often described as being a bit more comfortable to wear and look great with jeans.Tecovas The Earl

Browsing through the Tecovas website, I quickly landed on The Earl.  The Earl is a calfskin roper available in four colors – bourbon, chocolate, desert, and midnight.  I really liked the bourbon, a dark brown.  Price?  $225, roughly half the price of the Luccheses.  Sold!Tecovas The Earl

Tecovas operates on the direct to consumer model.  This means I would be buying the boots on faith, without trying them on first.  No fear, Tecovas offers an excellent refund or exchange program.  They even include a special card and return postage in the box.  My other boots are size 11 D, so that is what I ordered.

There was more good news.  Tecovas are based in Austin so I would be supporting a Texas company.   And they are made in Leon, Mexico.  Now for those not familiar with Leon, it is a city in the state of Guanajuato which is my favorite part of Mexico.  I have been to Leon several times and I know it has a strong reputation for manufacturing excellent leather goods.  These are skilled craftsmen with generations of tradition.

Tecovas The Earl

I anxiously awaited delivery.  When the shipment arrived, I was impressed with the attention to detail in all areas.  You can tell the company takes pride in their products.

Tecovas keeps the price at a reasonable price point through several good business decisions.  First is the direct-to-consumer model which is gaining popularity.  Internet shopping and fast home delivery make this possible.  Second, they have streamlined the product line.  You won’t find square-toe boots or a crazy variety of models.  They focus on making a straight-forward high-quality traditional cowboy boot.  A simpler model lineup results in lower production costs.

Tecovas The Earl

Everyone comments on how “soft” the Tecovas are.  And they are.  However, I also have boots that are not quite so “soft” and yet are very comfortable.  The fine leather surely makes a great first impression but how do they fit and wear?

Unfortunately, I do have a minor complaint about the Tecovas.  There is a bar (for lack of a better description) that runs across the front part of the heel.  This is noticeable to me and detracts from an otherwise comfortable cowboy boot.  You can see this in the photo below.  I did get used to it but I still notice it.  Not a deal killer by any means but if they could improve this I would give the Tecovas an A+ rating.  Tecovas The Earl

As I wore the boots around the house on carpet, it became apparent that they were too snug, or tight, for me.  I had ordered 11D because that is what I wear in Lucchese boots and Johnston & Murphy dress shoes.  However, that was not going to work.  This is where Tecovas customer service really shines.  The exchange process was super simple, fast, and free.  I returned the old pair, along with a card explaining the problem, and quickly received a replacement pair in 11.5 D.  The new pair fit perfectly!

Tecovas The Earl

I have worn The Earl for several months now in a variety of circumstances.  Around town, out on the ranch, and to the dance hall.  I very much like the Bourbon Calf color and overall high-quality appearance.  Great looking boot!

Tecovas The Earl.  $225.

Tecovas The Earl

OLD TOWN: Radical New Topwater™ Kayak Series

Old Town® Unveils Radical New Topwater™ Fishing Kayak Series at ICAST 2018

Old Town provides kayak anglers with large fishing kayak performance in a compact, nimble format

Old Town, Maine (July 10, 2018) – Old Town is proud to unveil its all-new Topwater™ Series, which offers great Old Town performance in a compact, nimble format. A marriage of stability and performance, the Topwater—with the all-new ultra-stable DoubleU™ hull—quietly glides through any water condition while providing a stable, comfortable stand-up fishing platform. Equipped with thoughtful onboard tackle and rod management and a revolutionary universal transducer mount, even the most discriminating anglers will be impressed by the overall fishability of the new Topwater Series: paddle versions Topwater 106 and Topwater 120; and a pedal-driven model, the Topwater PDL.

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Topwater PDL (Color: Photic)

“The growth and popularity of kayak fishing has brought many new companies into the marketplace but unfortunately we have seen a glut of poorly-made and engineered boats in the sub $1000 category,” says David Hadden, Brand Director, Johnson Outdoors Watercraft. “Our goal with the Topwater™ Series was to engineer a boat that gave a great on the water fishing experience, which would allow anglers to catch more fish and be more comfortable. We also wanted it to outperform other kayaks when not on the water and made it smaller in size and weight for easy transportation and storage. Too many of today’s stable fishing kayaks need a trailer to transport to your local boat launch. The small size and reduced weight of all models in the Topwater Series make car-topping realistic and negate the need for a kayak trailer.” Continue reading OLD TOWN: Radical New Topwater™ Kayak Series

Polaris Ranger SuperATV LED Light Bar

Installation of SuperATV 6″ LED Combination Spot / Flood Light Bar on 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

This project kicked off because I wanted to add a cargo bed light to my Polaris Ranger.  My initial thought was of a modest solution that would provide just enough light to see what I was doing at night.  I’m frequently out at night on the ranch.  As I started looking at possible solutions, it quickly became apparent that what I really wanted was not a minimal bed light but a robust work light that could illuminate a camp.

It didn’t take long to settle on the SuperATV 6″ LED light bar.

  • Combination Flood / Spot.
  • Kit comes complete with rocker switch and wiring harness.
  • 12 CREE LED bulbs.
  • 2880 Lumens.
  • IP67 Water resistant
  • MSRP $135.

    SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
    SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

I could have pieced together even cheaper options but SuperATV has a great reputation in the UTV community.

As with many projects, this took me longer to complete than anticipated.  That is mostly because I am a “measure twice, cut once” kind of guy.  I also wanted a clean installation.  From beginning to end I spent about 2.5 hours on the job but it could easily be done in half that time (or less).  For instance, I had to get the volt meter and confirm the busbar operation.

My first step was to mount the light bar.  Easy enough.  The kit did not include locking washers so I added those.  I did not want anything above the roof line so I made sure to position it in a sleek profile.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

Next was to install the rocker switch.  I simply used a utility knife and gradually cut away the opening large enough for the rocker switch to snap into place.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

I then removed the bottom two screws from the center panel and pulled it down,  then out to get at the wiring.  I ran the wire through the firewall and made the connections.  Bolted it back up.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

My 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Hunter Edition comes with a factory installed winch.  The side benefit is that means the under hood busbar is already wired hot.  Using a volt meter, I determined that the posts were Hot – Ground – Switched Hot (left to right).  I mounted the relay to the frame.  Black wire to Ground and Red wire to the Switched Hot.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

My biggest concern was how to run the harness from the hood to the light bar.  Ideally I wanted to run it inside the frame but then determined I could make a fairly neat installation by running the wire under the windshield and inside the metal roof.  Zip tied everything up neat and tight and installed the windshield.

All in all, very pleased with the installation.  The light is fantastic and is exactly what I want.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6″ Light Bar

 

Leupold LTO Tracker HD Thermal Viewer

The new Leupold LTO Tracker HD is their second generation thermal viewer.  Designed to detect heat signatures up to 750 yards away it should be an essential part of everyone’s kit.  From tracking downed game to finding your way back to camp a small handheld thermal is a worthwhile investment.  Handheld thermals around this price point are a hot market.

First impressions are of a high-quality aluminum flashlight, complete with crenelated bezel.  It feels substantial and solid in hand.

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Unlike many thermals, there is no rubber eyepiece like on the FLIR Scout line.  Instead, you simply hold the LTO Tracker HD out 8-10 inches within your line of sight.  I find this to be a more natural viewing experience and  less tiring than pressing against an eyepiece.   The one downside is that it therefore produces more of a visible light signature – which generally isn’t any big deal but would be a consideration in a security or home defense environment.

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Continue reading Leupold LTO Tracker HD Thermal Viewer