Hello, I’m Mr. General. It's good to see you here!

5 Reasons why I Love my Brand-New Orca Cooler


I mentioned in an earlier post about the absolute necessity of owning a quality camping cooler, for anyone who is serious about spending time in the outdoors.

I’ve thought to myself before, “wow, these cooler companies who are able to charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars for their coolers, are really marketing geniuses.”

I was a part of the clan who figured that surely there was no need to spend that sort of money on… a cooler!

Orca

But, lo and behold, once I broke down and decided to purchase one, I became a convert - like the thousands of others – and an advocate that every outdoorsman should own a high-quality ice chest.

But why? Are they really that much different than your run-of-the-mill Coleman cooler, or even a foam cooler?

Yes. They are. And I’ll get to the exact reasons why here very shortly.

First, however, I’ll make it known that I’m under no obligation to say anything – good or bad – about any of the following companies. All of my recommendations and advice are strictly based on personal decisions and opinions.

OK, so what initially sparked the thought of actually going out and buying one of these things? Well, it got to the point that I had heard from far too many friends about how great they were, and how well-worth the price they were, that I eventually figured even the best marketing scam couldn’t dupe that many people. They had to be good products.

So I started to do my research. Now, I admit that I get excited about buying new outdoor gear and looking into new products, but I will never spend money on something before thoroughly doing my homework.

Of course, the YETI name was the one that I had heard the most and was what I was most familiar with. I’d talked with plenty of hardcore hunter and fishermen friends that would just rant and rave about how great they were.

I also knew of a few buddies that had used Grizzly coolers, so I decided I would consider those as well.

Lastly, I had talked with a co-worker who had recently been in the same exact scenario as I was in now, and had settled on the Orca brand. So I decided it would be between those three: YETI, Grizzly, or Orca.

YETI is the most expensive of the three, but not by a huge margin. And if I’m considering investing in a quality product, I won’t disregard an option based on price alone. That being said, YETI would have to prove to be hands-down the best of the best, if I was going to go with them.

Size-wise, I had decided that a 40qt. cooler was going to be my best all-around option. (YETI offers a 35 and 45qt. option in its Tundra models).

Doing some general online searching and reading reviews, I seemed to come across noticeably more negative reviews for Grizzly than YETI or Orca. Not a ton of negative reviews, just a consistent amount about quality of materials, and about how they didn’t compete with the other top brands.

So based off of the online reviews like this one, I had narrowed it down to YETI or Orca.

Orca 40 qt

Price-wise, they are actually very similar. The 35qt. YETI Tundra has a retail price of $299.99 (+ shipping on the YETI site), the 45qt. Tundra at $349.99, and the Orca 40qt. at $339.99 with free shipping.

From there, it essentially came down to personal preference. In all of my online review research and word-of-mouth stories I’d heard, I had yet to really hear a bad thing about either YETI or Orca.

I decided on the Orca 40qt, based on the fractionally lower price and the fact that I had read several reviews saying their design made them slightly easier to transport and carry than the YETI Tundra models.

So without further ado, here is a list of 5 reasons why I love my new Orca cooler, and why I have become an advocate for the high-quality cooler craze.

1. They keep ice insanely long!

Hopefully, this is the #1 reason why anyone would consider spending hundreds of dollars on a cooler – that’s what coolers are for after all, isn’t it? In all seriousness, I have kept ice in my new Orca for over a week. And with the drain plugs, keeping water out is simple and you avoid getting what’s inside soggy.

2. Animal-proof

Bear proofThis is actually a pretty serious aspect to consider. Any real camper or outdoors person will be able to tell you a story about how a bear or raccoon put a damper on their trip by getting into their food. With the Orca, whatever you have inside is safe – from a baby raccoon to an adult Grizzly bear. (This being said, I still do not leave the cooler out in the campsite when we’re not around).

3. Durability

These suckers are bomb-proof. Not that I would ever do so intentionally, but the Orca could survive a fall of the boat, pickup truck or camper onto solid rock and hardly suffer a scratch. If you’re going to be strapping it on an ATV as I am, and hauling it deep into the backcountry, durability is an absolute must.

4. Multi-Functionality

Of course the #1 reason to have a cooler is to keep ice in it. But it’s nice for an expensive product to have a bit of range-of-use. I’ve used the Orca for a seat, a fishing platform, a ladder, a garage storage shelf, and surely many other things that I can’t recall.

5. Lifespan I plan on having my Orca for a long, long time. With its superbly durable build and replaceable parts (main seals, gaskets, and handles), there is no reason why it shouldn’t last for 10, 15, 20, 30+ years.

~ Mr. General

Date: August 7th at 10:07pm
Author: Mr. General
Tags: orca, brand, ice

Eco-friendly Dirt Bike or ATV Trail Riding with the Kids


In my experience, as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate more and more the tranquility of hiking, and the exercise benefits it provides. Kids, on the other hand, have much less patience for taking a stroll through the woods: they get tired, they got hot, and they complain. This is only natural.

A great compromise, I’ve discovered - as soon as I had kids that were old enough to participate - is ATV or dirtbike trail riding. (Well, I can’t really call it a compromise, because I love it too).

Regardless, trail riding has become one of our family’s favorite outdoor activities throughout the warmer months, and we’ve traveled to nearly every nook and cranny of Wisconsin checking out different trails.

ATV kidsThe kids love it, and it’s easy to understand why: they’re not walking, so they don’t complain about being bored or getting tired. More importantly, having their own dirtbike or ATV really gives them a sense of freedom and responsibility. This is important when trying to get your kids interested in the outdoors, as you don’t want them to feel as though you’re simply dragging them along on something that you want to do.

A major thing to consider when thinking about getting your kids into ATV riding, is not spoiling them. I know several parents who have gone out and spent thousands on top-of-the-line dirtbikes and quads for their 12, 10, or even 8 year old kids.

In my opinion, there’s no need for that.

Another major concern, at least for folks like myself who attempt to be eco-conscious, is pollution.

Granted, the amount of pollution created by gas-powered ATVs and dirtbikes is negligible when compared to automobiles, but it’s a concern nonetheless. Personally, I see just a little bit of fraud in the sense of riding along an ATV trail, enjoying nature, while burning gasoline and giving off carbon monoxide.

Fortunately, there’s a way to get around the concerns of both cost and pollution: go electric.

Because of their ease-of-use, safety, and limited capacities for speed, electric dirtbikes and ATVs are a great option for younger children, from ages 5 to 14 or so.

Once my oldest son had gotten to the age where he began complaining about hiking (pretty much as soon as he could walk!), I considered the idea of getting him a small ATV or dirtbike as a major Christmas or birthday gift.

I had been into trail riding before having kids, and I figured it might be a good option and generate excitement about wanting to get outdoors and hit the trails with me, without having to hike.

SX500For him, I settled on the Razor SX500 McGrath edition electric dirtbike. Online SX500 reviews will show that it really is a well-made product, and with a top speed of around 15mph, it is a thrill for any kid up to about 14 years old.

The authenticity of this bike is really what will make it special and exciting for your child – its steel frame, front and rear disc brakes, chain-driven motor, and twist throttle really gives the feel of an authentic, fully-powered gas dirtbike.

Not to mention, the frame design and geometry, as well as the large tires and appropriate wheelbase, make the bike a true performer out on real trails: it can climb, hop, and ride over rocks and rough terrain surprisingly well.

Of course, once I made the decision and bought the bike for my oldest boy, I had to consider getting one for his younger brother as well.

After talking with a friend who had bought one for his son, I decided on a Razor Dirt Quad for the younger one. (This is the same Razor company that became so popular in the scooter market).

This four-wheeler is better suited for younger riders, with a top speed of only around 10mph.

It doesn’t perform quite as well as the SX500 dirtbike, but for a small quad made for a young child (ages 6+), I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to. Not to mention, I don’t particularly want my 8 year old flying through the trail at 20mph on a full-performance quad.

With both the dirtbike and the quad at a price of right around $500, they’re a relatively substantial expense in regards to a gift for your kid, but if it gets them excited about hitting the trails and being outdoors, and it means we all get to be out there together, then I’m all for it.

Not to mention, you can have a clear conscious about not polluting or single-handedly destroying the forest while you’re riding through. ;)

~ Mr. General

Date: July 28th at 1:20pm
Author: Mr. General
Tags: dirt bike, ATV, kids

My Summertime Outdoor Activities in Wisconsin


In the native Ojibwe language, the word ‘Wisconsin’ translates roughly to ‘land where waters meet’. As you might assume, then, much of the state’s recreational summer offerings revolve around watersports, boating, lakeside picnicking, and of course, fishing.

While there are great opportunities all throughout the state to pursue these activities, plenty can be found to do right here in Stockholm – the tiny little historical town on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River.

Summers in Stockholm

The fantastic thing about an outdoor-loving family living in this little town, is we can enjoy ourselves and stay plenty active all summer long right here at home.

Stockholm sits on the banks of Lake Pepin, (which is technically part of the upper reaches of the Mississippi River), and is great for water-skiing or wakeboarding if you’ve got a boat. Walleye and Northern Pike fishing can also be excellent throughout the summer.

Lake Pepin If you’re visiting without a boat, Cedar Ridge Resort and Cabins about 20 minutes south of town rents small boats, canoes, and offers guided fishing trips.

Just outside town you can find the Tiffany Bottoms and Five-Mile Bluff State Natural Areas, on the banks of the Chippewa River. There’s an abundance of hiking trails and primitive camping sites throughout this expansive area. The family and I enjoy launching the canoe just north of the Tiffany Bottoms area, and taking a several mile float-trip fishing for smallmouth bass.

Outside of Stockholm and throughout the state, there’s of course plenty to do as well, and plenty of gorgeous natural areas to discover.

Great Lakes camping

With Lake Superior bordering the state to the north and Lake Michigan to the east, one cannot call a summer in Wisconsin complete without taking a trip to the spectacular Great Lakes. One of our favorite summertime family traditions has been taking a two or three-night camping trip to Door County, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

With rugged bluffs, lighthouses, and forested beaches, you wouldn’t be far mistaken from comparing the area to a quaint seaside town in the northeast.

Boutique storefronts line the streets of the charming little Sturgeon Bay village, where we usually stay at the Tranquil Timbers Camping Resort.

Glorious afternoons can be spent checking out wineries, orchards, and comfy home-style cafes. If you’re looking for nature and solitude, a day hike with the family through Cave Point in the Whitefish Dunes State Park can’t be beaten. Pack a picnic and enjoy glorious views through beech and pine trees, overlooking the shimmering Lake Michigan.

ATV trails

ATV trails Loading up the dirtbikes and ATV’s and hitting some of the state’s best trails has quickly become a favorite summertime activity for me and my sons.

About a 3 hour drive from Stockholm, the Flambeau Trail in Chequamegon National Forest is one of our favorite destinations. The over 450 miles of designated trails through Oconto County is also a spectacular trip.

Closer to Stockholm, the Cattail State Trail near Amery is another one of our frequented destinations.

State and National Parks

While the infamous wonders of Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite parks are well known, some of the nation’s most tranquil and beautiful natural areas can be found right here in Wisconsin.

Chequamegon National Park is one of our family’s favorites, and we spend many weekends here throughout the summer camping under tall pines and hiking deep into the park for backcountry fishing in one of the dozens of lakes and ponds that scattered throughout.

The Apostle Islands in the far north of the state also cannot go unmentioned. Jutting out into the hauntingly cold waters of Lake Superior, this is a truly majestic place - in my opinion, hands-down the most breathtakingly beautiful area in the state.

~ Mr. General

Date: July 21st at 6:35pm
Author: Mr. General

My 10 Tips for Camping with Kids


After dozens upon dozens of family camping trips with the kids, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The one major thing I’ve learned and that seems to prove true time after time, is that the end result is typically the same for both you and the kids: if you have a bad time, they have a bad time. However, if you are positive, inclusive, and are having fun, they almost certainly will too.

It all comes down to preparation, and your expectations going in.

My 10 Tips for Camping with Kids

Here’s a list of ten of the most effective things I’ve learned over the years, that will help to ensure your camping trip with the kids is an enjoyable and memorable trip for everyone.

1. Be Inclusive

Children love to feel included and to be given responsibility – especially when it comes to ‘adult’ stuff. On your next camping trip, include them and give them a level of responsibility in everything you do. Often times, this involves teaching them something, and putting a little trust in them. For example, buy them their own hatchet or small axe, and have them chop firewood right along with you. Of course there’s a line between safety and irresponsibility, but teach them the proper skills and show them how to do a job safely and effectively, and you’ll create quality, lasting memories.

2. Have them pack their own clothes/gear

Give your kids a heads up about the weather and terrain they’ll experience during the camping trip, and let them know that they’ll be responsible for packing all of their own things. This is a great way to give them responsibility and build excitement for the trip. Plus, they’ll learn pretty quickly that if you don’t prepare properly for the outdoors, you’ll be in for a pretty rough time.

3. Bring a friend

If you’re the parent of an only child, I would highly recommend trying to bring a friend along for them to share the experience with. They’ll be much more likely to go explore, play, and find something to do if they have a friend or sibling with them, rather than pester you if they get bored.

4. Bring Bikes / Scooters / Toys

This simply comes down to having something for them to do. Bikes are an obvious and excellent choice, but if they’ve got a drone, skateboord, a battery-powered scooter, or even an iPad - whatever they like to spend a lot of time on at home, have them bring it along. Oftentimes kids will be upset for having to abandon their favorite hobby for the weekend, so bringing along their favorite toy will not only be a savior in the event that boredom sets in, it will also divert them from being in a bad mood before the trip even begins.

5. Give them something special, just for the trip

This is especially pertinent if it’s their first time camping. A small folding knife, like this one, or pocket knife is a great idea, and is a must have for taking kids – especially boys – on a camping trip. Other ideas could be an inexpensive water-filtration device, a toy telescope to look at the stars at night, or a survival kit to have them try and make their own campfire with.

5. Practice at home before you go

This might seem a little corny, but give it a shot before you do the real deal. Or, better yet, simply mention it and see what kind of a read you get. If they’re excited and up for the prospect of pitching a tent in the back yard, you know they’ll be excited and rearing to go for a real camping trip.

6. Plan activities, and stay busy

This could involve any number of things; going to a park ranger presentation, taking them hiking or fishing, bringing an insect identification book and seeing how many species they can find. It could even mean giving them daily chores – for example, changing out the ice in the cooler. (A quality camping cooler is an absolute must-have item, by the way. More on that later). Staying busy and having activities planned will maintain their interest and keep them excited about being in the outdoors – rather than just sitting in a chair at the campsite all day.

7. Remember – it’s not about you

I’ll always remember a quote from legendary fishing/outdoor writer John Gierach – “never take a kid fishing with you, unless you like kids a lot more than you like fishing.” This statement is a little harsh, but the general message rings true: if you try and make the trip about you, your kids will most likely be miserable. Take an interest in them, and keep them involved. I guarantee it will be beneficial for the both of you.

8. Teach them something new

Whether it’s how to cast a fly rod, how to shoot a bow-and-arrow, how to set up the tent, or how to chop firewood, teaching your kids something new on a camping trip will create precious and long-lasting memories.

9. Build a campfire and tell stories

No camping trip is complete without a campfire. Some of my greatest-ever memories are of sitting around a campfire on a cool summer night, listening to my dad tell stories. Tell them stories about when you were younger, or about family members or old friends they’ve never met. If they’re not interested in that, ghost stories are a little bit cliché, but they always work!

~ Mr. General

Date: July 16th at 2:12pm
Author: Mr. General
Tags: camping, kids

Hello from Mr. General – and welcome to my blog!


Within these pages you’ll find an array of useful information, pointers, tips, and tid-bits on how to get the absolute most from your outdoor experience – built up from a lifetime of personal experiences and a passion for all things outdoors!

Beautiful Wisconsin

About me

The name ‘Mr. General’ goes as far back as I can remember, to my school days and childhood growing up in a small Wisconsin town. I remember being quite the G.I. Joe fanatic, and spending a fair amount of time getting scolded for playing with action figures in class when I should have been paying attention! I can also recall being the self-appointed commander in our neighborhood street hockey and football games, barking out orders and instructions to my teammates until one of them started calling me ‘General’. Needless to say, the nickname stuck like an ant in tree sap.

I’ve been fortunate enough to remain in the wondrously beautiful state of Wisconsin, where I currently reside in Stockholm with my wife and two boys. In my mind, there cannot be a better place to raise a family and introduce to them the same splendor of nature and the outdoors that I came to love as a child.

My greatest memories are of hiking and camping with mom, dad and my brothers, fishing for pike and walleye during beautiful summer days, and spending cool evenings around a campfire by the lakeside. It is now my joy to re-create those memories with my own family.

The blog - what can you expect to find?

My aim is to share with you the wealth of knowledge I’ve obtained through a lifetime of outdoor passion and experience. Much of this will be centered around outdoor gear: What works? What doesn’t? What’s worth spending money on?

Outdoor gear gets better and better with each season and as technology improves, but there is still plenty of junk out there to stay away from. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken a special interest in ATV sports – the kids and I love loading up the dirtbikes and four-wheelers and taking off early on Saturday mornings to hit our favorite trails.

I’ve also taken quite an interest in survival gear – from knives to tactical bags to ready-to-eat meals, I’ll be sharing my recommendations, as well as the good, the bad, and the ugly of all of it.

Cooking is another passion I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten a bit older and started to raise a family. From back porch barbecuing to roasting walleye fillets over an open campfire, I would love to share some of my favorite dishes and prime recipes, as well as the cooking tools and techniques you’ll need to master it all.

For anything and everything outdoors, you’ve come to the right spot for an abundance of useful information, tips, and how-to’s! Thanks for stopping in, and enjoy!

~ Mr. General

Date: July 14th at 8:55am
Author: Mr. General
Tags: blog