Winston-Salem Staffer, Ward Swann, and his wife recently returned from an adventure in Brazil. Below is Ward’s recap on a few pieces of essential gear used during the trip.

My Wife and I just got back from a two week trip to Brazil. Part of the trip was inland in a wet flat area called the Pantanal. The other part of the trip was on an island called Ilha Grande. The Island has steep walking trails to get from community to community, no roads. We also had a little time in Rio while coming and going. In the process of this trip I learned a few things that made significant impacts to the enjoyment of our travels. Those discoveries are listed below in hopes others may benefit. Enjoy.

Astral Brewer

Days before I left on the trip I got a pair of Brewers. These are the new shoes from Astral. My intention was to wear some hiking boots, some nicer dress shoes for dinners and the Brewers were going to be for those times when I may be getting my feet wet; they are paddle shoes after all. They quickly became my go to shoe. They are comfortable on the plane and can be worn as slide-ins so TSA check points are a breeze. When I stepped out of the canoe into the piranha infested water of the Pantanal these shoes drained fast and dried fast. When hiking the tall hills or Ilha Grande these shoes hugged the terrain and let me scoot to places around waterfalls for shots that other people were not able to get. Their lightness allowed me to forget I had them on. And when I walked on sand they limited how much sand got in the shoe so I was not constantly shaking my foot like the folks nearby with sport sandals. In fact, the Brewers look so good and are so comfortable that I left my hiking boots in a trash can on Ilha Grande and never wore the dress shoes. The one caution I have on the Brewers is that with great rubber comes great responsibility. The 5.10 rubber bottoms left some marks occasionally. 95% of the surfaces out there this isn’t an issue. If I suspected the shoes might mark I just made sure that I didn’t scuff my feet.

Camelbak All Clear

It took me awhile to warm up to the idea of UV purification. When it was pointed out that just about all bottled water is treated with UV and some pools use UV to treat the water I then started to get on board. But most importantly I trust our customers who have bought our UV purifiers. Each have comeback with praises for the UV light. I took the Camelbak All Clear UV Purifier on this trip for the “just in case” and the “around the hotel room” needs. It became MUCH more important than that. The All Clear comes with a .75L bottle. I bought two more. We kept these bottles fairly full by filling from the tap. UV Filters require clear water for optimal light penetration, not clean water. Screw the Lighted cap on the top, turn upside down and hit the button. After a minute the light goes off and water is ready to drink. They say the battery will do this 80 times on one charge. We were there for two weeks and we never had to recharge the battery. We filled up from sinks, water fountains and streams.

That’s the preamble. Here’s what it meant to us. The businesses on Ilha Grande do not always take credit cards. The little businesses that sell water and snacks seldom take cards. We had planned to get more currency before we went to the island but had complications with the card. Once on island we were forced to conserve the cash we had. We managed to keep just enough cash to pay all the parties that would only take cash and charge the rest. In short, we saved our money by treating water instead of buying it in bottles. With the convenience and security of the All Clear and the cost of bottled water I feel that the unit just about paid for itself in this trip alone.

Power Monkey Extreme

I had thought of Solar powered battery chargers as things that only hard core, long trip, mountaineers and Sea Kayakers could use. WRONG! I have started seeing a trend to rechargeable batteries, good rechargeable batteries, move into the outdoor products. This is probably not a new trend but, hey, I can be hard headed. The battery on the Power Monkey Extreme can charge my phone, my ipod, my video camera, my GoPro camera, an Ipad the Camelbak All Clear (mentioned above) and just about anything else that is smaller than a full sized lap top. The Power Monkey Extreme Battery can be charged by the included Solar cells draped to your pack while moving or propped up in the window of your hotel room as you are out exploring. Or you can plug the battery into the wall. You can plug it into 220 or 110 volts and then use the battery to charge your stuff. In this way you never have to worry about frying your goodies because you THOUGHT it was 110 you were plugging into. The Power Monkey extreme gives you freedom from the grid and confidence when you want to use the grid even in distant regions.

Columbia shirts

Deep pockets to hold passports or those annoying custom forms yet comfortable and looks good when you get off a 9 hour overnight flight.

Wool Socks & Boxers

What Kind of underwear and socks to you take to the tropics? Wool! I was always comfortable in Brazil when wearing wool socks from FITS and wool PhD socks from SmartWool. Since wool moves moisture at a lower temperature then synthetic materials, I was constantly cooler in the wool than I was in synthetic. My SmartWool boxers never caused me to feel sticky or sweaty. Good stuff performs without you having to think about it. The wool items allowed me to think about the Giant Otters instead of worrying about discomfort.


GoPro cameras have always been the leader for catching that incredible shot mostly because it’s so tough that you are willing to put it into conditions that would make you think twice about using a different camera. Not only is the camera in HD, but you can also get a battery back that sticks on the camera and has a remote control function. The remote control that you can get from GoPro is really basic, but GoPro has an app that turns you smart phone or tablet or other portable wireless device into a remote control. Now here’s the big stuff, the image the camera is seeing can be shown on your device’s screen. Now you don’t get home and think… Oh, too bad that’s not level, or Oh, I wish that was just a little to the left. Now you can verify the camera angle, in a position that is comfortable to you before you hit “REC.” Get the right shot the first time because you may only have one shot. My biggest mistake on this trip was to not combat the moisture build up in the sealed waterproof case. Uncooked rice or the packet of Silica from GoPro will keep your lens clear from condensing humidity inside the case. The latest GoPro cameras (Silver Edition & Black Edition) have the wi-fi built in, is twice as powerful, and is smaller.

Opsrey Travel Packs

Just about our entire luggage selection is from Osprey. The core of that is made up of the Meridian and the Sojourn. When standing at the bottom of five flights of super steep stairs, so steep that my wife and I continually said “on Belay” before climbing and “on Repel” upon descent, I was happy to have an Osprey Sojourn. This is a pack that I could not only comfortably carry up those stairs on my back, but I was also able to throw the non-Osprey pack on top of the Sojourn using the retractable handle as a shelf. The steep hills of Santa Theresa flattened out when the comfort and convenience of Osprey is applied.

Thanks for reading –