Testing ESBIT Boiling

One of the main requirements of winter ultramarathons is carrying a stove so that you can boil water/snow and cook food. Most participants carry one of three different types of stoves, with one of them being an ESBIT solid fuel stove. I’m not going to review stove types in this blog, but am going to talk about different techniques to help use your ESBIT stove more efficiently.

ESBIT is a solid fuel stove that uses tablets of fuel to heat water. You simply place a tablet into your stove and light it on fire and wait. It’s incredibly simple to use, and works at any temperature that you can make a flame. They are lightweight, and easy to pack into a kit, which makes them very popular for endurance events. However, they’re not without their challenges.

Many people experience issues trying to get water all the way to a roiling boil with an ESBIT stove, because similar to a campfire, they are not controlled and contained like a liquid fuel type stove. However, with a few adjustments you can get great results. In order to demonstrate a few different aspects of using an ESBIT stove, I did some testing of different configurations, and timed how long it took to get the water to boil.

One note: A full boil is around 212°F (100°C) at sea level, and a boil should always be your goal when doing any cooking, especially with unfiltered water. However, according to the WHO, you can make food safe at lower temperatures, even down to 150°F which is quite easy to obtain with any stove. Having said this, I’m not a scientist, so please endeavor to do some research on your own, and make your own determinations.

For this test I performed 5 different scenarios.

  1. Uncovered pot, no heat/wind shield, 1 ESBIT tablet
  2. Covered pot, no heat/wind shield, 1 ESBIT tablet
  3. Covered pot, no heat/wind shield, ESBIT tablet broken in two pieces
  4. Covered pot, heat/wind shield, 1 ESBIT tablet
  5. Covered pot, no heat/wind shield, 2 ESBIT tablets

For each test I set up just inside my garage with an air temperature around 52°F (11°C) and very, very light wind. I used a stainless steel GSI Glacier pot, and 2 cups (16oz/472ml) of room temperature water.

Uncovered pot, no heat/wind shield, 1 ESBIT tablet

For this first test I wanted to set a baseline of the simplest setup. This meant that there was nothing stopping the wind from causing issues, and the heat could escape from the top of the pot unrestricted.

I started seeing small bubbles around the 3-4 minute mark, and larger ones by minute 8. The ESBIT tablet burned out at just under 12 minutes, and the water reached a final temperature of 190°F (88°C). This is just above the temperature required for “simmering” and there were lots of little bubbles rising to the surface for the final 3 minutes.

Despite not reaching a full 212°F (100°C) boil, I would still be comfortable using this water to make my meal, depending on the source. If I was taking it from a stream I’d probably grab a second tablet (or half a tablet) and keep the heating going a bit longer, but if I was using a well, or clean snow, I’d feel OK.

I’m not surprised that this test did the worst, as the heat from the flame was being lost all over the place. For all the remaining tests, I added in a lid.

Covered pot, no heat/wind shield, 1 ESBIT tablet

The second test was the same as the first, but with an aluminum foil top to the pot. Many pots come with covers, but since I was using a steel cup, I had to fashion one on my own. The design of the lid isn’t the most important thing, simply stopping heat from escaping is the key.

I noticed the smaller bubbles much sooner in this test, closer to the 2-3 minute mark, and the larger bubbles near minute 7. Although the water never reached a rolling boil before the 12 minutes were up, it did get to 202°F (94°C) which is pretty darn close. I’d feel totally comfortable using this water for my meal as it spent many minutes in a simmer with large bubbles escaping consistently.

It makes a lot of sense that a cover on the pot would help, as heat travels up and if you trap it within the pot you’ll stop that warm air from escaping and cooling your water prematurely.

Covered pot, no heat/wind shield, ESBIT tablet broken in two pieces

I had read somewhere that if you break an ESBIT tablet into two, and place it on it’s ends, it provides more heat and can make your water boil quicker, so I decided to give it a try. Right off the bat I could see that it was providing a larger flame. I was getting small bubbles closer to 2 minutes, and by 6 minutes the large bubbles were going strong.

That’s when everything stopped though. With the tablet broken in half, the ESBIT died just under 7 minutes into the test. That meant that my water never got above 185°F (85°C). That’s the lowest temperature of all of my tests, and given how short the duration was, I’d probably not feel too great about using this water for cooking or drinking.

One option could be to use tongs and swap in more half-tablets, but that seems like a lot of work.

Covered pot, heat/wind shield, 1 ESBIT tablet

Finally, I got to the test I was most looking forward to. The issue with any stove in winter is that the air surrounding the cooking vessel and the stove itself is cold. Heat dissipates quickly, and by having so much surface area exposed to the open air, you lose tons of efficiency.

For this test I fashioned a simple wind and heat shield out of aluminum foil, and made sure it was high enough to not just cover the stove and protect it from wind, but also provide a heat barrier around the pot itself. The rationale is that by trapping heat around the pot, you diminish the energy loss of the system overall. This means your tablet provides way more heat in a lot less time.

The test proved this perfectly. The small bubbles appeared on schedule between 2.5-3 minutes, and the large bubbles were going strong by 7. However, by 9:10 I had a FULL rolling boil going with a temperature of around 210°F (99°C). Because I’m not at sea level, this is about the temp I needed for a full boil (also accounting for thermometer inaccuracies).

Because of how efficient this system was, I could actually boil water for a full two minutes longer, until the ESBIT tablet died. That means that any worry about contaminants was long gone, and there are no issues using this water for any purpose. This test ended up being the gold standard of all of my tests, turning in the best result by far.

However, I still had one more test that didn’t end up going quite to plan.

Covered pot, no heat/wind shield, 2 ESBIT tablets

For the final test I wanted to see what two ESBIT tablets would do, without a wind/heat shield. I loaded up my stove with two tablets and started the test. Soon I noticed that the flames were getting really intense. There were large licks of red and yellow making their way up the side of the pot.

I reached the small bubble phase between 2-3 minutes, but then I noticed a problem. The bottom of my ESBIT stove has holes in it for ventilation, and the ESBIT tablets were starting to melt through these holes and onto my workbench. I started seeing flames coming from under the stove and decided that this test was over.

I quickly extinguished the entire fire with some room temperature water (ESBIT’s die really fast in water) and carefully set the stove on the driveway to cool. My workbench had a couple scald marks, but, thankfully, seemed no worse for wear. I got everything cleaned up and decided I wouldn’t repeat this test. At least not with the current ESBIT stove that I own (pocket stove).

Even if you could fix the fire hazard, I don’t see a lot of advantage of this method. The flames were shooting everywhere, which is just wasted energy that isn’t helping heat your pot. The biggest issue isn’t the amount of heat, but the level of heat dissipation. Controlling that aspect is the key to success with a stove like this.

Conclusion

As you can see, the best method is to use a wind/heat shield, and a pot lid, to keep all of that energy contained where you want it to be. ESBIT tablets burn hot enough to get the job done, but you need to be cognizant of your environment.

Additionally, there are a lot of different options for stoves and pots that can do a better or worse job. ESBIT has a whole host of different options on their site that use different material and designs. Additionally, many camp meals don’t require a full 16oz (472ml) of water to cook. Often you can get by with a lot less water for simply eating food which is a lot quicker to heat.

I hope you found this testing informative, and maybe inspiring to try a stove method that you may not have worked with before. ESBIT’s are a great option in frigid cold, and can help keep you alive in the dead of winter. Plus, simple aluminum covers and wind/heat shields can be fashioned cheaply, and are very lightweight to carry. Add to this the really economical cost, and ESBIT stoves have a real advantage over some of the other stoves out there. Especially when dealing with the frigid cold of a January night in Minnesota.

Review/First Impressions: REI Quarter Dome SL2 backpacking tent

Full photo gallery of the tent in various setups

After my recent bike packing trip, I decided that I wanted to invest in a light weight backpacking tent. The one I used for bike packing was 5.2lbs, and I knew I could do better. It’s fortuitous that right before the trip I received an email from REI about their big Labor Day sale. Never wanting to pass up giving money to outdoor equipment stores, I did a bunch of research and decided to take the plunge on the REI Quarter Dome SL2. Thanks to the sale I managed to pay $244+tax, plus another $38 for the footprint.

It didn’t take a completely straight path though, as I first decided to try out the SL1 (1-person) version. However, when I got it home and set it up in the living room, I realized that it was far smaller than I was comfortable with, so I brought it back and got the SL2.

It’s worth noting that the SL series is different than the Quarter Dome series from a couple of years ago. Many of the YouTube videos I watched were reviewing the older model of tent, which is significantly different than the SL line. The older model was a free-standing tent, whereas the current SL is a semi-freestanding shelter. Additionally, the non-SL models were slightly bigger than the current editions, but also heavier. I’ll mention these changes as we move through the review, but the suffice it to say, make sure you’re reading the correct reviews for the tent you’re looking for.

Once I had procured the SL2 version of the tent I set it up and gave it a quick test on the living room floor. It seemed to be what I was looking for, so I told my wife, “Hey, let’s find a campsite for a night and try it out.” So on a Sunday evening before Labor Day my wife, myself, and our friend Mike, all gathered at a campsite at Afton State Park for a night under the stars.

We all brought our own tents, in order for me to properly test out the Quarter Dome SL2 as a solo use tent. I wanted to see how it felt with just one person, plus their gear. It was a little weird, and funny, to have my wife bringing her backpacking tent as well, but honestly, it was kinda nice that both of us were able to spread out a bit more. We’ve both slept in her Big Agnes Blacktail 2 tent before, and it’s fine, but even though it’s heavier, the floor space is pretty similar.

Setup

The REI Quarter Dome SL2 uses a set of poles that are all connected through a central spoke. You simply unfold all of the sticks and you’re ready to go. When assembled, the pole setup resembles a triangle with two supports for the head of the tent, and one at the foot. Everything is color coded, so figuring out which pole goes where is simple.

Because there are only three pole connection points, this tent is considered semi-freestanding. What that means is that the foot of the tent only has one pole supporting it. You then extend the corners on to the stakes for the full width at the foot of the tent. Although having four supported corners would have been nice, I understand why REI changed this design from the previous version, as it required another spoke and more pole, which increased the weight.

You have a choice of setting up two ways; either as a tent with (or without) the fly, or as a fly/footprint tarp setup. No matter which way you choose, the setup of the poles is the same, as they provide the primary support and structure to both the tent and the fly. There is a link to a gallery of photos of all the different setups at the end of this post.

Once you’ve constructed the poles, you insert the ends into the grommets, and simply hook the tent to the poles with the attached hooks. It’s dead simple, and within seconds, the tent takes shape. Once the tent is secured to the poles, staking out the foot of the tent completes the overall shape and structure. There are then multiple stake points that you can use to secure everything firmly to the ground. The stake bag also contains multiple guy lines for setting up the tent in windy conditions.

Attaching the fly involves putting it over the poles, securing with velcro, and then connecting the bottom to the appropriate buckles. These snap-in buckles also can be loosened or tightened to make sure your fly is secured appropriately. The fly needs to be staked out on the sides to complete the dual vestibules. Having two vestibules is another advantage of the SL2 vs. the SL1.

One thing to note, the footprint is sold separately, but I was happy I got it. Having the connection points already placed where they should be, made everything easier when staking the tent down. The footprint has cords for all the relevant staking points, so you can ensure that it doesn’t get bunched up under the tent.

Features

Once the tent is set up, you’re ready to tuck in and start using it. Since this is a backpacking tent, weight is at a premium. That means that you’re not going to find a lot of bells and whistles on the interior. Despite this, there are quite a few nice touches provided.

There are four pockets in the mesh, two on the top of the tent, and two on each side at the head of the bathtub. The ones near the head of the bathtub are really big, and I was able to fit my phone and charger in them with no issue. It’s also a great place to store a headlamp for easy access at night.

There are also a couple of loops on the top of the mesh that you can use to hang things, such as a small light. However, this is a very lightweight tent, and the material is not meant to withstand a heavy load. I felt OK using my inflatable solar light, but I wouldn’t do anything much heavier than a few ounces.

That’s about it for the features inside the tent. Once you move to the outside there are dual doors and vestibules for gear/shoe storage. One complaint I have is how high the vestibule is off the ground. The gap at the bottom feels like it could let in a lot of water splash if it was raining hard. Of all the weight saving design choices, I wish this one had gone in favor of just a bit lower extension on the vestibule material. I haven’t had to use this in the rain, so it might not be a big deal, but it’s something to be aware of.

The overall size of the tent is perfect for one person. At 88 x 52/42 (head/foot) I had tons of space to spread out, and since I’m only 5’8” there was plenty of room for all my gear at the foot of the tent. Two people can fit as well, but at that point you’re dependent on the vestibule for gear storage. There is not really an option for storage inside, in addition to two people. However, a furry friend might work just fine, depending on their size.

One final feature to mention is a roof vent on the fly. Even just one vent helps to bring in more airflow to the interior. In the previous version of the tent, there was a zipper to allow access to open/close the vent from inside. However, that feature was removed in the SL change.

Quality

I’m not a tent expert, so take my opinions on quality as just my opinions. However, when comparing this tent to our other, heavier, backpacking tent (Big Agnes Blacktail 2), this tent feels like it compares favorably. The seams appear to be sealed nicely, and the overall feel of the material appears to be strong. When I first stretched out the fly, I needed to put some oomph into it to get it where I wanted it. However, it didn’t feel like I was ever in danger of ripping or tearing any part of it. Once I had it set up for an hour the fabric stretched a little bit and everything felt good.

The zippers are fine. Nothing notable about them; they seem to work as intended. I didn’t get any snags when getting in or out of the tent, however, you do need to use a little bit of caution at the top end of the door zipper. The zipper on the door angles downward slightly right when you get to the end of it on the top. When trying to unzip, you need to go slowly for a moment, and pull upwards to get over this curve. It’s hard to explain, but when you feel it, you’ll understand what I’m getting at. Not huge issue, just a little odd.

The stakes provided are really nice v-stakes, and have cords attached to them for easy removal. They all come with reflective material sown into the cords (all the cords on the entire tent actually), which makes them easy to see in a headlamp. A really nice little touch.

Finally, the poles are actually really nice. I appreciate the fact that the longest of the poles has a double cord running through it for added strength. Although light weight, I never felt like these poles were fragile, and in fact they felt stronger than most of the cheap car camping tent poles I’ve used in the past. In this area, REI did a great job.

Conclusion

Let’s start with what I like about this tent.

  • The weight is awesome at just under 3lbs with the footprint.
  • The material feels light, but durable (ripstop nylon).
  • Setup is simple, despite needing stakes to fully stand it up.
  • Just enough pockets to be useful.
  • Dual doors and vestibules.
  • Good poles and stakes.
  • Price.

Now, let’s take a look at my disappointments list.

  • Vestibule is high off the ground.
  • Not fully freestanding
  • Door zipper is a little odd.

Buying this tent on sale for $244 makes it a no-brainer as a good deal. Even needing to purchase the footprint separately isn’t that bad (it was also on sale) when you consider that most backpacking tents in this class start over $400. However, let’s put price aside and ask if this tent is a good tent?

Based on setting it up a couple times, and using it for a trip, I would say yes, this is a good backpacking tent. The weight is nice, the material feels solid, and the setup and design isn’t overly complex. The fact that it isn’t fully freestanding doesn’t bother me, as I’m always going to be staking my tent down anyway. The staking pattern makes sense, and two small stakes to get the full shape isn’t really a big deal.

There are a couple small design choices that I don’t like, such as the door zipper shape and the vestibule height, but I can live with those. Although I wanted to set price aside, it’s really hard to not consider it. The competition for this tent are things like the Big Agnes Copper Spur ($450) and Nemo Dagger ($430). Even at full price for the Quarter Dome SL 2 ($350), it still packs a tremendous value.

Obviously, time will tell how this tent holds up. I’m hoping to come back in a year or so and see if this tent is still meeting all my expectations. From everything I’ve seen and experienced so far, I’m happy with this tent, and I think most casual backpackers will be too. It does what it’s advertised to do, and was a comfortable shelter for sleeping outside. Although the sale is done now, it’s worth adding this to your list of tents for consideration.

Now, it’s time for me to start thinking about more adventures to really put this tent through its paces.

Full photo gallery of the tent in various setups

BikeWing trailer hitch bike rack

For a while now, I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to transport two bikes in addition to my camper. One of the first things I tried was a hitch attached bike rack from Curt that used a spring loaded mechanism to hold it to the hitch post. As I stated in my review, it was somewhat lacking, and I haven’t really used it much since my initial outings.

We’ve also tried just putting the bikes inside the trailer, but that involves laying the bikes on top of each other, and if we wanted to access the bikes on a long trip, it would mean having to jack up the trailer and open it back up again. Also, laying the bikes on top of each other isn’t really something I like doing often. So it was back to the drawing board.

Then I came across the BikeWing bike rack which looks like it solved all of my problems. It’s a large v-shaped piece of metal that attaches to the hitch post, and you attach the bikes to the hooks on the V. I decided to order one up and check it out. I arrived I got it all set up.

First off, installation was dirt simple. Just some simple tools (that you probably own if you own a trailer) so secure the mounting post to the hitch. The four bolts that hold it down are very secure, and it feels incredibly solid. It was then time to assemble the V portion of the rack. This took a bit more fiddling, but once you understood what each part does, it wasn’t difficult at all. The nice thing is that many of the components just use lock pins, meaning that you can take the entire thing apart really easily for storage.

Once I had it assembled I grabbed my bikes, and came across my first problem. I had mounted the rack towards the back of the hitch, and it meant that the bikes bumped into the battery that is stored there. Thankfully, the product comes with an extender that lifts the rack higher, and angles it in one direction or another. However, it still wasn’t tall enough to get over the battery, so I reversed it and directed the rack the other way, moving it closer to the end of the hitch where it attaches to the car.

The next issue is that it’s apparent that this rack was designed for bikes that have a flat-bar design. Trying to get the drop bar handlebars on our two gravel bikes to line up appropriately was an exercise in frustration. I managed to get them on, but it wasn’t pretty or easy. Feeling frustrated I put the whole thing away for a while and decided to come back at it the next day.

In thinking about the problem overnight I decided to try something different. First, I moved the mount point from the back of the hitch to closer up front. That meant I could use the extender to push the rack closer to the trailer, but not so close that it interfered with the battery.

Second, I loosened the handlebar bolts and rotated the handlebars to the side. This got them out of the way of interfering with each other, and it’s a simple process to lock them down again when you take the bikes off. It’s an additional step I was hoping not to have to take, but the solution is simple enough.

Once I had done this I got both bikes mounted with minimal difficulty and the rack appeared to be far enough away from the car to not interfere with cornering. The real test will be an actual trip.

This past weekend we headed to Kilen Woods State Park, and even though we were only planning a short trip, we brought the bikes along anyway. I loosened the handlebars and rotated them to the side, and mounted each bike on the frame. It took a bit of fiddling to get all of the attachment points in just the right spot, but once I did, everything locked down secure. The only issue I ran in to was that things were a bit tight with the racks on our bikes. It still all fit, but it was snug.

Once loaded we headed out for a 3 hour trip. Although there appeared to be a fair amount of sway in the arms of the “V”, the actual rack components stayed put, and were solid the entire time. The bars that the bikes are attached to comes with padding that helps ensure your bike don’t bang around too much. When we arrived to our destination, it appeared that everything worked as advertised.

On Saturday I pulled the bikes off the rack and we did a short ride. It didn’t take very long at all to get them set back up, just tightening a couple of bolts. Putting them back on the race was also pretty simple. The entire process only took 5-10 minutes total.

Even though it’s only been one trip, I’m feeling pretty good about the Bikewing. It does what it’s advertised to do, and aside from dealing with the drop bars, it was simple and easy to work with. We got our bikes to and from our campsite with no issues, however, I do think a future purchase will be a cover for each bike for during travel. A lot of dirt and grit gets kicked up from behind the car, and some protection would be good.

It’s taken quite a while, but I think I’ve finally found something that will work well for our needs. Additionally, if we every upgrade our trailer, there’s a different mounting system that works with A-frame style hitches, so I’d just need to swap out that one part, and could continue to use the wing. If you’ve got a trailer and are struggling with how to transport your bikes, this is certainly something to check out.

Quick Review: The Outer Worlds

I’ve wanted to lose myself in a video game lately, and recently saw that The Outer Worlds was now available on the Nintendo Switch. It reminded me that the game existed, but the initial reviews of the Switch port were somewhat mediocre. So, I opted to pick it up on XBox One, which worked out in my favor since it was on sale on that platform.

The Outer Worlds is a first person RPG in an expansive set of worlds in the distant future. You’re awoken from cryo-sleep after being adrift for longer than intended. You wake up into a world where corporations control everything, and the colony you were destined for is struggling to survive. There’s not much time to figure things out before you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, trying to survive.

The gameplay is typical for titles in this genre. You have typical first person shooter controls and weapons for battles, but it’s augmented by a deeper interaction system, as well as a robust skill tree system. You can travel around and interact with the environment in an open-world format, learning more and more about where you are, and why you’re there. You meet companions on the way, each with a backstory that you can delve in to and explore.

The game is structured around completing an every expanding series of quests that helps unfold the story. You spend time going back and forth between different locations (and different planets) fulfilling tasks that slowly build upon one another. However, your path through the story is unique to you, and your choices allow you to craft your adventure in a way that you see fit. You may decide to be a lone wolf, or maybe you want to be a jerk to everyone. You’re given options to go into situations with guns blazing, or try your hand at diplomacy. Although I haven’t finished the game yet, I’ve been told there are multiple endings that you can achieve. It reminds me a lot of Deus Ex (the original) which ushered in this genre of gameplay and storytelling in a FPS context.

In terms of issues with the game, the combat system is pretty simplistic (at least on normal difficulty). I miss not having thrown weapons, but thankfully it’s never left me feeling like I can’t overpower a situation. The time dilatation mechanic is cool, but sometimes feels tacked on. I also wish there were more options for getting up and down surfaces, instead, many places are simply blocked with a wall, and you can’t do anything about it.

None of this detracts from the engaging story though. I’m really enjoying learning more about this world, and interacting with it. The writers have done a great job in crafting an engaging place to play, and I’ve found myself staying up way too late following clue after clue. One of the best compliments of a game (in my mind) is not wanting to put it down, and sacrificing sleep to play more and more. The Outer Worlds delivers on this engagement front, and I’m anxious to see how the second half finishes out. When I bought it, it was on sale on the XBox store, but really, any platform you play it on should be fine, since the story is what’s key.

Product Review: SP Connect Phone Mount

A year ago I decided I wanted to start using a phone mount on my bike. Sometimes I’m out and about and am looking for directions, or I need to send/receive text messages while I’m biking (via voice). Other times I want to be able to quickly grab my phone and take a picture of something I’m passing by, or perhaps I just want to play Pokémon Go while I’m biking around. For all of these reasons I decided to start searching for a mount for my bike to keep my phone front and center while riding.

My first attempt at a mount was a very inexpensive one I picked up off of Amazon. As with most cheap crap that you find online, this one performed as expected. It got the job done, but that was about it. It used elastic bands to hold the phone in place, and the mount secured to the handlebars with a simple clamp. This mount had some problems though. The rubber bands held the phone well enough, but getting the phone on and off the mount was a chore. It meant that stopping for a quick photo wasn’t really an option. In addition, the mount had a swivel head on it so that you could angle the phone in different positions. That swivel mechanism never was able to tighten very well, and so often the phone would flop forward or backwards while riding over bumps. It didn’t make me feel very comfortable about riding with my phone like that.

Thankfully, I have a deep bench of experience in my biking community, and my friend Abe suggested that I check out the SP Connect bike mounts. He’s been using them for years, and loves them, and said that they meet all of his needs. After hemming and hawing for way too long, I pulled the trigger and bought their kit. The basic kit comes with a mount, a case, a weather protector, and a small attachment that allows you to prop the phone up at an angle when sitting on a table. It came to $60, but that seemed to be standard across the market for a system like this.

DSC02121The kit arrived a few weeks ago, and I’ve had a chance to try it out on around a hundred miles of biking. The mount is a simple clamp mechanism that uses a plastic strap that you screw tighter by turning a small nut. It actually does a decent job holding the mount securely in place. In order to use the mount, you need to use the SP Connect case, which contains the other part of the mounting connection. There are two raised bars on the mount that secure to the back of the case. You set the phone on the mount and then turn 90 degrees to either side and the phone locks into place.

The mounting is really secure, and I’ve even (gently and momentarily) lifted the front of my bike off the ground by the mount. Lining up the case to the mount is pretty easy as well, and there’s only been a couple times where I’ve struggled to get it in the right place the first time. Those times have become less and less with more practice. Many times it involved me trying to set the phone on the mount at an odd angle that isn’t fully flat against the mount. I’ve gotten better at matching that up each time I do it.

DSC02124The case that you need to use is moderately ruggedized. It’s not at the same level as an Otterbox, but it does have some heft to it, and good protection around the edges. It fits my iPhone well and I’ve had no issue with slippage or things being blocked. All around, a decent case. In addition they send along a weather proof cover that you can put over your phone while it is mounted. The cover is a simple piece of fitted plastic that allows you to still touch your screen, but keeps the phone dry.

Finally, they send along a small stand that you can attach to the back of the case, and it allows you to sit the phone up on its side for (I assume) watching videos. It’s a cute little addition, but I’m not sure how useful it’ll be for me in the long run. Maybe it’ll be fun to use if I’m out biking but then stop to eat at a table and want to watch something.

Should you but the SP Connect? One of the things I haven’t mentioned yet is the competition. There were two other systems that I looked at when deciding on this mount. The first was Quad Lock. From everything I could see, there are very few differences between Quad Lock and SP Connect. They use similar locking mechanisms and the accessories and price are similar.

I also investigated Rockform, and it is still one that I might like to try some time. Some of the unique features of Rockform are it’s mounting mechanism which is a quarter turn, star-like system. It also utilizes a strong magnet in the case to secure the phone a second way to the mount. Rockform seems to be a great target for mountain bikers who are hitting some really serious terrain that might break other mounts. Since I didn’t need that much protection, I decided to save a few bucks and go with SP Connect. I did also see some online reviews that felt the Rockform was a bit harder to get used to attaching. Though, I’d want to get a kit myself and see if I can replicate that.

In the end, I’m very happy with the SP Connect. So much so that I got my wife a mounting kit for her phone and bike, and she loves it. The SP Connect is a capable mount that does what I want it to do. It allows me to quickly remove the phone from the mount on the go, and otherwise keeps the phone solidly connected and in place. Based on the last couple months, I have zero complaints about it, and would recommend folks check it out if they’re looking for a phone mount for their bike.