Most people know or recognize the name “New Balance” and associate it with running shoes. While the New Balance focus has largely remained on road running, over the past several years they have been making long strides in the trail running market. What used to be a token shoe or two for trail is now a solid line-up of trail shoe offerings.
I had the opportunity to run with run with New Balance, head-to-toe this past summer and here’s what I thought.
The New Balance 110v2 Trail Running Shoes rank high in my book. Overall it’s a more neutral shoe than your typical trail shoe. With the 110v2 New Balance has found a balance (no pun intended!) between minimalist shoes and your typical trail shoe. The 110v2 features 4mm of drop with a nice bed of REVlite foam. I found this combo to be great for longer runs or runs with a lot of vertical descent or rocky runs. One of the hardest things to overcome, I’ve found, with minimalist shoes is foot fatigue over long miles or rocky terrain. Didn’t really come across this with the 110v2.
The uppers feature a combination of mesh and synthetic covering providing great breathability. I found the synthetic overlay adds a lot of durability to the shoe and some additional protection. After of summer of trail running running the uppers are still in the great shape.
The 110v2 rounds out with a solid sole. Tread is fairly aggressive and knobby providing good traction all around. I put the traction to the test with a little bit of scrambling and didn’t experience any slipping. I also wore the 110v2 on a recent excursion up a 14er. We faced a lot of loose scree and the traction held true and the cushioning kept up, even with a full daypack.
The New Balance Minimus Zero v2 Trail Running Shoes are the most aggressive shoe of Minimus line. As the name implies it is a zero drop shoe. It doesn’t look like your typical zero drop shoe with the cushioning and aggressive tread. I really liked the aspect of this though. With previous Minimus trail offerings I felt restricted to smooth trails and paths, feeling like the shoe didn’t provide enough protection. This wasn’t the case with the Zero v2 Trail.
The Minimus Zero v2 is similar to the 110v2 in many ways. The upper features mostly breathable mesh with New Balance’s trademarked Toe Protect. Toe Protect is a great feature that lives up to its name. It seems that many minimal shoes are minimal in protection. I don’t know about you but I tend graze rocks a lot with my stride, especially when I’m tired. I like the extra protection to help soften the blow and keep toe-stubbing at bay.
The sole is extremely aggressive. Tread pattern is similar to the 110v2 but the lugs are deeper. Traction is definitely not an issue with the Minimus Zero v2.
All-around this is a great shoe. It performed well on the trail, the cushion helps provide comfort, especially on longer runs, and the upper is breathable and secure.
I am not a tank kind of guy (as reinforced by the farmer’s tan picture below). I was 100% skeptical when I opened the box from New Balance and pulled out the New Balance Ice Singlet. In the spirit of gear testing I gave it a solid go on the test.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The Ice Singlet is light, it’s comfy, and it does a good job of wicking. On hot runs it helped keep me cool; I felt cooler than I would have been with a short-sleeve shirt on.
New Balance did include some reflective detailing to help with low- light visibility, which is a nice touch. The fabric also includes an UPF 30+ treatment to help save your skin. Just be sure to remember to include some UPF treatment on your shoulders.
All in all the New Balance Ice Singlet is simple, light, and great for hot runs.
I’ve become picky over time when it comes to running shorts. I used to wear whatever I could find. Now I want a pair of shorts that fit great, are comfortable, have a good liner, and last. The New Balance 7 inch 2 in 1 Running Shorts are just that.
Coming in with a 7 inch inseam you know you’ll get the coverage you need from running shorts without turning any heads. The waistband is soft and comfortable. I didn’t experience any chafing or discomfort, even on two hour runs.
The liner is soft and comfortable, proving enough support without being restrictive. It is also long enough to help cover the usual chafing zone on the upper thighs. New Balance did include a tiny key pocket on the front, right side in the liner. It’s out of the way and a single key isn’t noticeable.
The outer is made with NB Lightning Dry fabric which is light, airy, and as the name implies, dries very quickly. For summer runs these shorts were great. Even in the black color I didn’t overheat. The side panels are a very tight mesh to help increase cooling. There is one zip pocket that is big enough to fit ID, a single key, and a gel. You’d be hard-pressed to get a phone in there. The outer rounds out with some light reflective detailing on the lower sides.
I made sure to put in a couple runs a week in these shorts. So far they have held up great! When it’s time to dig through the drawer to find a pair of shorts, I’m usually looking for the New Balance 7 inch 2 in 1 Running Shorts
Buy Now: Pick up the New Balance 110v2 Trail Running Shoes
Buy Now: Pick up the New Balance Minimus Zero v2 Trail Running Shoes
Buy Now: Pick up the New Balance Ice Singlet
Buy Now: Pick up the New Balance 7 inch 2 in 1 Running Shorts]]>
When it comes to taking care of the family for camping outings, Kelty has it dialed. Here’s how my family got out camping this summer with gear from Kelty.
Overall, in recent year’s Kelty has made big improvements to their family camping line and in my opinion they have hit their stride! Based on the product line and features available, you can tell they’ve done their research and know their market. When it comes to camping with the family, this past summer Kelty won me over and I’m a definite fan!
With 4 kids going with a smaller tent is not an option! The Kelty Granby 6 Car Camping Tent has more than enough room for all 6 of us. My kids are small now but we’ll still fit as they get bigger. Construction is solid, lots of great small features, and easy set up set the Granby apart. A nice roomy vestibule is almost full height and a big door is easy to get in and out of. There’s enough room for all of us to huddle when getting out of the rain without getting any rain inside. The vestibule also features a handful of pockets for organization. A couple of windows help you keep track of the weather and zip panels help increase ventilation.
Once inside you’re in one big room. At it’s peak it’s tall enough for all 6′ of me to stand without having to duck. A big open floor is roomy enough for a number of different arrangements for sleeping. On one particularly luxurious outing the wife and I slept on a full-size air mattress and the kids had plenty of room to spread out around the perimeter.
The ceiling does feature a hang loop for a lantern and a couple of small side pockets help organize the little things. A second door increases ventilation and helps reduce traffic through the front.
The rain fly is full coverage giving all the weather protection that you need. One note: when tightening down the adjustment straps on the stakes out loops, be careful to not cinch too hard. I did tear the fabric around one of the side loops.
Overall the Granby fit the bill for what my family of 6 need in a tent. It might be tempting to go with something less expensive but in terms of durability and features, the Granby is worth the money.
Car camping bags should be warm, comfy, and durable. The Kelty Discovery Sleeping Bag delivers on all of these. Best part is the bags zip together so you can get some quality snuggle time with your significant other (be sure to buy one left zip and one right zip). The rectangular shape gives you plenty of room to stretch, roll, and just plain sleep. One feature that would absolutely stellar? Flannel lining. That’s my one ask.
Zippers were smooth and it’s easy to zip the bags together or apart. Definitely won some points with the wife on the double-wide sleeping bag!
Kelty absolutely crushed it with the Kelty Big Dipper Sleeping Bag! You can read a previous review of the Kelty Big Dipper Sleeping Bag here. A sleeping bag that “grows” as your kids do? It’s fantastic! They are well made and will last a lot of years! Kelty did make a couple of updates since my first review. They dropped the fur collar, which isn’t a big deal in my book. The one thing I don’t like, they removed the attached stuff sack. That was one of my favorite features. I liked that I didn’t have to worry about my kids misplacing it. I’d love to see that come back.
The Big Dipper is rated to 30 degrees, which is warm enough for 3 season camping. My kids each have their favorite blankets, so pull those in and you’ll get a few extra degrees of warmth. My girls stayed toasty all night long!
In a lot of ways a folding camp chair is a folding camp chair. Here’s how the Kelty Essential Camp Chair is different and worth every penny. The fabric and stitching are heavy duty. No splitting seams the first time you sit down “hard”. The folding action is smooth, no catching. The cup holder is big. It seems like most chairs will only fit a can. The Essential Chair will fit a full-sized Nalgene! It also comes with an attached bottle opener. The carry case is stout with a wide, padded shoulder strap for comfortable carry.
Kelty once again stepped it up a notch with the Kelty LumaSpot Rhythm Lantern. It has your typical big, bright, LED and internal reflector. They put a second LED at the top of the lantern on a swivel so if you need directed light, just flip it up and point it where you need it.
My kids’ favorite feature is the three, smaller, colored LEDs. You can choose any of a number of colors or you can set it to cycle through all of the colors. They are dim enough that if you kids want a nightlight, you won’t be up all night with a bright light above your head.
The LumaSpot also comes with an AUX jack so you can connect your MP3 player and crank out some tunes. I will admit I didn’t try this out so I can’t comment on it.
It does take 4 D batteries. Run times are decent. For the main LEDs you’ll get 30 hours on high, 100 hours on low, and 300 hours on the colored LEDs.
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Granby 6 Car Camping Tent
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Discovery Sleeping Bag
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Big Dipper Sleeping Bag
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Essential Camp Chair
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty LumaSpot Rhythm Lantern
Here’s how I stayed active with Merrell this summer:
Merrell stayed on the barefoot theme with style and fit of the All Out Fuse. The look is definitely inspired from the Barefoot line. Unlike their Barefoot shoes the All Out Fuse does feature 4mm of drop and some cushioning. It isn’t like running on pillows. There is just enough cushion to take the edge off and help reduce foot fatigue over longer distances. The All Out Fuse is labelled as a trail running shoe, however, I found the traction to be lacking for a full-on trail shoe. It does great on hardback and on city trails, however on steep, loose, or mucky trails the traction isn’t quite enough. The shoes are very breathable. One feature that I really like that Merrell included in the All Out Fuse (they pulled this from the Barefoot line) is a wider toe box. My toes don’t feel cramped, especially on longer runs. I like the extra room and breathability. I’m a big fan of the Merrell Barefoot line (see reviews for the Sonic Glove and the Trail Glove) and I am now a big fan of the All Out Fuse.
I give the Register shorts an A+! I honestly can’t think of what would have made them better. They feature longer length, pockets that can fit a phone, key, or gel. Waistband was comfortable and liner comfy on the skin. I take it back, there is one thing: a secure pocket for keys would be nice for the trail. Still an A+. They currently aren’t available, I hope they come back in the spring.
I was really stoked on these but had a couple of letdown moments from the time I put them on. First thing: they run big, really big. I typically wear a 34 and have just a little bit of room around the waist. The size 34 in the Cruzer Water Short fit way too big. They basically fell off. A size 32 would have fit well. Second thing: belt loops are too far apart and too few. Given the problem with running large I had to wear a belt. But when cinching the belt down it made the waist bunch up and drop below the belt itself. A couple extra belt loops would have helped this. Merrell did include a inner cinch string, however, this also made the shorts bunch up. Third thing: the fabric is very slick (this is good, see below). But the same fabric is used in the pockets. When I sat down, whatever was in my pockets came sliding out. With all of that said the shorts performed well. The fabric did shed initial water but when they become wet they did dry fairly quickly. I could see how they would be great for hikes with river crossings or when hiking to a lake for the day.
This was like your typical synthetic performance shirt. It did great wicking moisture away and dried quickly. The seam across the chest was a little odd. I thought it might rub funny when running but I found that there weren’t any issues with it. One standout feature is Merrell included UPF/SPF protection in the fabric. This great when running on sunny, summer days.
My wife also tested out a few Merrell products this summer and here are her thoughts:
They are a great option for when you want something that is lightweight and flexible but is more supportive than a full minimalist shoe. There was no break-in period on the shoes. They fit great and performed right out of the box. The All Out Fuse Shoes are very breathable and dry very fast. They are fairly narrow, my feet are a little wider but they still fit great. I felt they had good traction, even on a 14er. The only drawback I found were the laces were too short for me to double knot, although they have yet to come untied with just a single knot. And lastly, I have received a ton of comments on “how cute those shoes are”. A shoe that looks great and performs well is a winner in my book!
This was an interesting shirt. I wasn’t sure if it’s a performance shirt or an everyday shirt. The style blends the two together. With that said it would be a great travel shirt for a warm climate. You could wear it sightseeing, hiking, and then out to dinner afterwards. It is lightweight and quick drying. One thing to note: because the fabric is lightweight the white color it is fairly see-through. Plan on wearing a cute bra or pair it with a thin tank. The other colors may not be as see-through.
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell All Out Fuse Running Shoes
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Claire Tee
The Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack is absolutely packed with features. The list is long. Osprey did a great job putting this pack together. Here are my favorite features (in no particular order):
The mesh back panel is awesome! The biggest downfall of commuting with a backpack is sweaty back. The mesh back panel comes pretty darn close to eliminating this. The pack bows away from your back with the mesh panel sitting against your back. It helps with airflow, especially when it’s windy. You’ll still end up with a little bit of a sweaty back but it’s won’t be as gnarly as other packs.
With the Radial you’ll get a lot of pockets and organization. You get a padded laptop sleeve with a zippered, padded tablet sleeve inside; a big main compartment with a handful of mesh pockets and buckle pocket; a front compartment with a bunch more pockets; a small zippered pocket; and an outer mesh, buckled stash pocket for your u lock or wet items. Two zippered stash/water bottle pockets round it out. There are so many options that after about six months of use I still haven’t used them all! It always seems with packs you could always use one more. Not in this case!
The LidLock Helmet Clip is pretty cool. I never have enough room in my pack to stash my helmet. The LidLock is a great solution. It’s a little tricky to get it in place but once it’s there your helmet isn’t going anywhere. The first couple times I used it I kept banging my helmet on the wall or desk or door because I wasn’t used to having to accommodate for it being on the outside. Definitely handy, especially if you’re going to the store or anywhere you need free hands to carry stuff around.
The tiny features. In a lot of ways these are what make or break a commuting pack for me. Osprey included a blinky light loop, tons of reflective accents on the back panel and shoulder straps, and the key fob. Don’t roll your eyes at the key fob. I have a paranoia about losing keys. The key fob keeps me sane.
It does come with a built in rain cover which is nice (and gives a ton of visibility). I have yet to use it, even after a full winter in CO and the big rain storms in the fall. The pack by itself has been sufficiently waterproof.
There’s a few things I wish the Radial had. The biggest (and almost deal breaker for me) is the bottom is not flat and cannot stand up on its own. When it comes to loading a commuter pack whether you’re at work, the market, the library, or wherever, being able to stand up on its own is key. The Radial can’t. I would have loved to see a cell phone pocket on the shoulder strap. It does have a loop you could attach to though. Lastly it doesn’t have any gear loops or many places to hook bungees. The commuter load gets big sometimes and you gotta bungee things on the back. You can make it work with existing straps but I haven’t felt totally confident that things are secure.
All that said, the pros definitely outweighed the cons for me. In short, the Radial is a great commuter pack.
Great pack for a commuter.
Buy Now: Pick up the Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack]]>
No matter how you cut it, the Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Hoody is a piece that is easily justified for a spot in your gear stash. It truly can be a year-round piece. I’ve had it out on cool weather trail runs, hikes, bike commutes and out on sub-zero bike commutes and other cold-weather outings. Come summer time, it’ll come out as the post-sundown layer for backpacking and hanging out on the patio.
The 6.5 oz merino is a good, versatile weight. In the fall and spring it’s just enough to wear solo when your out moving. When the temperatures drop it’s a great base and mid-layer piece. I’ve worn it on runs down to freezing solo (the key is no wind) and it’s kept me plenty warm.
Patagonia’s fine merino wool is soft and supple to touch. There is zero itch or irritation when wearing and rubbing against bare skin. Patagonia paired the Merino 3 Hoody with 20% of recycled polyester weaved in. This helps with wicking and reduces dry time. But it does pick up odors a little more than pure merino would. It’s not bad, but after my usual base layer test of multiple wears without washing I could pick up on the funk a little bit.
In a lot of ways a merino layer is a merino layer (if you don’t consider the quality of the merino, which in this case is top notch). So how does a brand differentiate their piece? I think Patagonia did a nice job on the Merino 3 Hoody. The most notable feature to me was the hood. It’s cut snug so it doesn’t require elastic to hold it in place or keep its shape. It is slim and would fit under a climbing or ski helmet (it fit under a bike helmet). It does feature full coverage down to your eyebrows. Pair that with the high-zipper and you can almost get full-face coverage, ninja-mask style.
One other small feature is hidden thumb loops for those who like them. They also feature offset seams to minimize chafing but I have to admit that this is something that I didn’t really notice (I didn’t chafe either).
If you don’t have a Patagonia Merino 3 Hoody you really should pick one up now.
Buy Now: Pick up the Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Hoody]]>
There’s a clear reason why the Outdoor Research Halogen Hoody won Outside magazine’s Gear of the Year award in 2014. It’s an extremely versatile piece that is well designed and constructed.
The Halogen features 60g Primaloft insulation which is key to it’s versatility. For me it was my go-to jacket for cool fall days down into low-50s, high-40s. Definitely wore it down to the cooler range of those temps with a long-sleeve layer underneath. In colder temps it makes for a good insulating layer underneath a shell.
The versatility continues with the Pertex outer-fabric and the Schoeller stretch panels. The Pertex fabric offers some water resistance which is great as a stand alone jacket when it’s a little damp out. It won’t hold up to rain though. The Schoeller stretch panels offer a number of benefits. First it provides additional range of motion for all your alpine activities. An additional benefit is it increases breathability of the jacket. Other similar jackets don’t have an element of breathability which makes the Halogen good for more active pursuits. One downside is the jacket solo in windy conditions will let wind through these panels.
Two hand pockets and one chest pocket help store your goods. One side benefit is on the inside of the jacket the hand pocket seams are sewn to the jacket which gives you two additional open pockets on the inside if you’d like.
The hood is nice. It features the same level of insulation, a drawstring, and a Schoeller “brim”. It’s not a brim per se but it helps with comfort under a helmet and helps keep the hood more in place in windy conditions.
The zippers are easy pulling and feature nice tabs which make zipping easy with gloves on.
I’m 6 feet and 180 lbs and the large fits me just right.
If you are looking for an extremely versatile insulating layer, look no further than the Outdoor Research Halogen Hoody.
Buy Now: Pick up the Outdoor Research Halogen Hoody]]>
I’ll admit, it feels a little weird to say “sleeping with Big Agnes” but you know what? I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed some of the best nights’ sleep that I’ve ever had camping thanks to the Big Agnes Fish Hawk Down Sleeping Bag and the Big Agnes Q Core Insulated Sleeping Pad.
I’m not kidding when I say I had some of my best nights’ sleep with the Big Agnes Fish Hawk Down Sleeping Bag and the Big Agnes Q Core Insulated Sleeping Pad. I’m a terrible sleeper when camping or backpacking. I roll off the pad, I feel every rock, I twist the sleeping bag around, and a host of other issues. It’s like a soap opera…
The Q Core is just about the next best thing to actually taking your bed with you. It a solid 3.5″ thick of comfy, air-filled, goodness. It’s more than thick enough to give coverage over rocky ground and I still didn’t feel a thing. The Q Core is insulated, a definitely requirement or those 3.5″ would be sucking all of your body heat away. It’s rated to keep you warm down to 15 degrees F.
It features a “quilted” pattern which helps to displace your bodyweight, even when rolling around. The welded seams are strong and meant to last a very long-time. You better pack your big lungs though. Those 3.5″ aren’t going to fill themselves with air. That is the one big downfall about the Q Core (and most all super thick pads), you have to blow them up. The bigger they are, the longer you’ll spend huffing them up. In my mind though, the Q Core is totally worth it.
The Q Core isn’t the most packable sleeping pad. Rolled up it’ll still take up quite a bit of room in your pack. I’m all for cutting weight and slimming down but I just can’t do it with my sleeping pad. I’ll lug the Q Core wherever I go. It does come with a stuff sack and a repair kit.
The Big Agnes Fish Hawk Down Sleeping Bag of course integrates nicely with the Q Core Insulated Sleeping Pad. Like all Big Agnes bags it comes with a sleeping pad sleeve instead of down on the backside. It that will fit any 20″ rectangular pad in it. The Fish Hawk fits in the “Classic Series” of sleeping pads from Big Agnes. It’s a good, all-around 30 degree F down bag. It’s not the slimmest or the lightest 30 degree bag out there but Big Agnes has a number of lighter-weight options available.
The Fish Hawk is a roomier sleeping bag with it’s rectangular cut. I don’t sleep in a straight line and the Fish Hawk allows enough room to bend, twist, and move without being restricted.
It also features DownTek water repellent down insulation. What this means is you don’t have to freak out about a little liquid getting on your bag. DownTek helps shed the water so you can stay warm without worries.
The zipper is truly snag-free and draft-free. The fun part for couples is the left and right zippered bags can zip together. The hood is cozy and the draft collar drawstring is easy to get to and you won’t feel like it’s going to strangle you in the night.
The 30 degree rating is accurate as far as I can tell. It kept me warm and cozy all night.
The Good – Q Core
The Bad – Q Core
The Good – Fish Hawk
The Bad – Fish Hawk
Sleep better with the Big Agnes Fish Hawk Down Sleeping Bag and the Big Agnes Q Core Insulated Sleeping Pad.
Buy Now: Pick up the Big Agnes Fish Hawk Down Sleeping Bag
Buy Now: Pick up the Big Agnes Q Core Insulated Sleeping Pad
Time for a new summer shoe? Get versatile with the lighter-weight, multi-sport KEEN Tunari CNX Shoes.
The KEEN Tunari CNX Shoes are part of the overall new CNX line that KEEN released earlier this year. KEEN slimmed and trimmed about a dozen styles to create lighter-weight, more versatile shoes. The Tunari is the multi-sport shoe in the mix.
While it is considered a multi-sport shoe it really fits the most into the “hiking” category of shoes. It didn’t perform as well as I would have hoped running so I’ve just stuck to hiking. But that is what you can expect from a multi-sport shoe, it does a number of functions okay.
On the trail it performed well. When looking at the sole it doesn’t look like your typical hiking sole. I was expecting to experience a lot of slippage but they held strong on packed trails, loose dirt, and gravel.
In terms of fit, they fit like most KEENs do. I’ve found that KEEN uses a wider last, thus making a wider shoe. My foot width is “medium” so I always have to cinch the laces down, which is usually fine. In this case it compresses the mesh venting, making for a “hot” shoe. My feet seemed more sweaty than usual in them.
While KEEN shaved weight with the CNX, they definitely did NOT shave comfort in the Tunari. From short hikes to all-day my feet were comfortable all the time.
The big annoyance: for whatever reason my particular pair of Tunari’s are creaky. I figured out that when I walk and the shoe flexes through a normal step it pulls on the laces. As the laces move through the fabric grommets, the rubbing creates a creaking sound. On the trail it’s not as noticeable but in enclosed spaces, you can definitely hear it with every step. I thought it would go away, but after months of use, it still does it.
Take a load off your feet, literally.
Buy Now: Pick up the KEEN Tunari CNX Shoes]]>
Thanks to the good folks at Sierra Designs I’ve been able to test out a couple pieces of gear this year. I was able to get out in the Sierra Designs Mojo 2 Tent and the Sierra Designs Zissou 12 Sleeping Bag. Both are fantastic pieces of gear.
Sierra Designs Mojo 2 Tent
The Mojo 2 Tent is part of Sierra Design’s Ultralight line. Coming in at 2 lbs 11 oz it’s light in the pack but it doesn’t sacrifice performance on the trail. It features a mix of single and double wall construction saving weight.
One major complain about single wall tents is breathability and condensation. The Mojo 2 has plenty of mesh to help combat both. In slightly humid conditions sleeping next to a lake in mosquito hell I woke in the morning with very little condensation on the inside of the tent. The “wing design” helps with airflow as well as all the mesh.
As expected with an ultralight, 2-person tent there isn’t a lot of wiggle room. If you’re sharing a tent I hope you like your partner and I hope they don’t smell. You will definitely be cozy all night. There was just enough height right at the peak for me to sit up straight but you’d be hard-pressed to have two tall people sit at the same time. The vestibule is just right for shoes and a couple other small items.
Set up was a breeze after figuring it out the first time. Overall it wasn’t bad but it takes just a little bit to get the pole structure down the first time. After that it’s a breeze. I also didn’t have any issue staking it out nice and taut.
Overall I was impressed with the Mojo 2. It’s has definitely made my “keeper” list.
Sierra Designs DriDown Zissou 12 Sleeping Bag
The most notable feature of the Zissou 12 is the DriDown fill. For those who aren’t familiar DriDown is goose down that has been treated to stay dry 10 times longer than untreated down. What this means is you don’t have to worry if the bag gets a little wet. You’ll still have plenty of warmth to go around. You still have to be careful of course but a little water isn’t going to live you shivering all night long.
The Zissou 12 is comfortable. It seems to be cut just a little wider than usual giving you a little more room to wiggle around which is huge for a wiggly, side sleeper. The ergonomic hood cinches down nice and tight eliminating drafts, keeping you warm. While I didn’t get it down to its limits, it kept me plenty warm when it dropped close to freezing.
Packability is decent too. It gets down to about the size of a loaf a bread and at 2 lbs 7 oz it won’t break your back.
It’s a small feature but the bright green inner fabric really helps with visibility in low light conditions. I know it sounds like it shouldn’t matter but it was a nice little touch to the design.
Sierra Designs is cranking out some serious gear and you should pay attention.
Buy Now: Pick up the Sierra Designs Mojo 2 Tent and get the Sierra Designs Zissou 12 Sleeping Bag.
I’ve been a Mountainsmith Day Pack user for the past 10 years. I’m a fan. I used mine throughout college for books, dayhikes, as a travel pack, and myriad of other uses. So you can imagine how excited I was was Mountainsmith sent me the updated Mountainsmith Day TLS Pack to test and review.
The Mountainsmith Day TLS Pack isn’t your weird uncle’s fanny pack. It doesn’t carry spare change, tokens for the bus, or Kleenex. Glad we got that out the way.
One of the reasons why I like the Day so much is it gives you the capacity of a smaller daypack but it doesn’t give you the shoulder fatigue or the sweaty back like your typical backpack. You can fully rely on the waistbelt to carry all of the weight if you’d like.
The waistbelt is cushy and comfortable. It’s not bulky but it has the right amount of padding to help ease the weight but it still conforms to your hips for a solid fit. The waistbelt does tuck way for the time when you don’t want it flapping around (like going through the airport).
The Day TLS features a two compartment design: the large main compartment and the smaller front compartment. Most of the capacity is in the main open compartment. It does feature a small, zippered pouch to hold valuables or small items. The inner is a bright yellow fabric to help with visibility. It also features a padded sleeve big enough for an iPad or a netbook. The front compartment is just one big, zippered pocket. It does have my favorite tiny feature: the key fob. I have a weird paranoia about losing my keys in the backcountry so I’m always happy to see the key fob.
The exterior is surprisingly feature heavy for being such a small pack. On the front you have a bungee for stashing your coat or other smallish soft items, bottom compression straps that could also fit smallish soft items, two water bottle pockets, dual carry handles, shoulder strap, two mesh pockets on the waist belt, and a hidden open pocket behind the backpanel.
A quick note on the water bottle pockets: they are big enough to fit a Nalgene, however, with the elastic tops one-handed entry with the pack strapped is a bit of a chore.
Mountainsmith also included some reflective accents for extra nighttime visibility on the bungee cord and the shoulder strap pad. The strap pad is very comfy but I found when hiking that it would shift out of position with normal hiking motions.
Mountainsmith also gets extra points for using recycled materials in the Day.
One of my favorite features of Mountainsmith is durability. They design packs that last. My 10 year old Day is going as strong as it did on day 1. I expect the Day TLS to do the same.
Break out of your backpack comfort zone with the Day TLS. It’ll give you the versatility you need from a small daypack without the shoulder fatigue or sweaty back.
Buy Now: Pick up the Mountainsmith Day TLS Pack]]>
If you’re a dedicated bike commuter and you ride in foul weather, you know the importance of bags and panniers actually keeping your stuff dry. This past winter I had the opportunity to test out the Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier. The Georgetown repelled everything that Mother Nature (and I) could throw at it.
First and foremost, the Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier is fully weatherproof. I had it out in heavy rains, snow, sleet, plowing through slushy puddles, and even dry, dusty dirt roads and it kept everything (truly everything) on the outside. The only thing I didn’t do, was fully submerge it. The Georgetown packs serious weather protection.
With the weather-protection comes durability. The pictures to the right are after the winter of use. I used the Georgetown almost daily all winter long and after it’s all said and done it looks almost brand new.
The Georgetown is very unassuming. Solid black, basic cube shape, and only a few key features. While it’s not a feature-heavy pannier, it excels at almost everything it does have.
It features a single, open compartment design. The interior does feature a slim, zip pocket and a lot of open space. The 850 cubic inches seemed to swallow gear. I could comfortably fit my lunch for the day, change of clothes, jacket, and some miscellaneous items with room to spare.
The main compartment is protected with a velcro, roll-top closure. In a pinch for large loads you can utilize the roll-top for extra room, you just might not be able to close the lid. Over the top of the roll-top closure is a lid that is secured with two buckles. The lid provides extra waterproofing and two webbing attachment points for lashing on extra gear. I would have loved to seen a telescoping lid so the roll-top could be fully utilized but that does add complexity to a design that works very well.
The front of the pack does feature a small velcro pocket which is good for keys or other small items you want to have handy. It does come with a shoulder strap, which to be honest, I didn’t use a single time, but liked the option.
Let’s get to the rack attachments. This is what makes or breaks a pannier in my opinion. For the Georgetown I’d give it a B and here’s why. For the top bar attachment, this was good. You have a single, spring clasp which is strong and sturdy plus two hooks. What brings the grade down for me is the lower attachment. It’s a hook on an elastic. The pro is it’ll fit a wide variety of racks. The con is it always requires two hands to take it on and off. When balancing a loaded bike, this was a pain. I did get use to it, but I’ve used other panniers that have a more “one hand” friendly attachment system.
Detours also included some nice reflective accents on the Georgetown. I will admit I err on the side of “more is better” but they do include some. They also include a rear-light strap on the back of the pannier which is my favorite “unspoken feature”. I love to see small features like this in design, especially for visibility.
The Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier is hard-working and fully weatherproof. It definitely needs to be in your consideration set for a general purpose pannier.
Buy Now: Pick up the Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier]]>
As spring is just around the corner it’s time to start thinking about trail time. Get out the old boots or better yet, shop for some new ones. If you like a stiffness of a boot but like the low cut of a shoe you’re going to love the LOWA Focus GTX LO Hiking Shoe
If a backpacking boot and a hiking shoe got together their offspring would be the LOWA Focus GTX LO Hiking Shoe. It is a nice blend of backpacking support and low hiker versatility.
The uppers feature the classic boot styling of leather. We all know the benefits of leather, longevity, comfort, durability. It does a good job of shedding water and dirt. The upper is lined with GORE-Tex making it fully waterproof, just don’t step too deep.
The Focus LO is cut low like a hiking shoe giving a greater range of movement and a less restrictive fit. To help support ankle the heel cup is quite stiff and the boot cradles your ankle for added support.
An aggressive Y-patterned tread provide plenty of on-trail traction on hardpack, sand, mud, and gravel. The sole is very stiff, the kind of stiffness you’d expect from a backpacking boot. You won’t be running in these shoes. From a load carrying standpoint, you will get the support needed for heavy days on the trail.
I had mixed feelings on the performance of the Focus LO. I can see the intent of marrying a lightweight hiking shoe with the core features of a boot but it didn’t work for me. If I want the support of a boot, give me a boot. If I want a versatile lightweight shoe, give me the shoe. I felt clunky on the trail.
There is no question on the quality and durability of the Focus LO. If you are looking for a shoe that can go and go and go the Focus LO is it. The quality, materials, and craftsmanship leave nothing to be desired and will last a long, long time.
If you are in the market for a shoe that performs like a boot, the LOWA Focus GTX LO is your shoe.
Buy Now: Pick up the LOWA Focus GTX LO Hiking Shoe]]>
I’ve been itching to test out some Patagonia trail run gear. This past winter Patagonia gave me the opportunity to test the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket, their lightweight, minimalist running and cycling jacket.
Off the hanger you can tell that the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket is packed with Patagonia quality and style. It features an athletic cut and fit, smooth seams and stitching, and is lightweight.
The Light Flyer is made with 3-layer GORE-TEX Active and weighs in at a scant 9.1 ounces. It offers full weather protection, laughing in the face of the storm. It sheds rain, wind, and snow with ease.
It features an athletic cut for optimal movement while running. Articulated sleeves help with comfort while running or riding the bike. The cuffs are cut long over the hands for some extra protection and also feature a fold-over mitt for even more protection. The Light Flyer also features a drop-tail, giving you extra protection when riding in wet conditions.
In terms of fit, I am 6 feet tall, weight 180 pounds, and have a positive ape index (arms are long). I typically wear a size large for the body but need an extra-large for sleeve length. The Light Flyer in large fit my perfectly. Snug enough to not be annoying when moving with just enough extra to not restrict movement, even with a midweight layer on. The sleeves were plenty long but I did find the fold-over cuffs to be very snug. For someone without long arms they likely would be fine.
GORE-TEX Active, as you can guess, is GORE’s most breathable technology. It did perform pretty well from a ventilation standpoint. To help with ventilation the Light Flyer features two long, vertical back vents that are always “on” and zippered vents in the upper arms. The back vents are a nice touch but I was let down with the arm vents. First, the zippers were extremely stiff. I wasn’t able to unzip them one handed, even after months of use. Next when running they almost always folded shut. It’s due to the natural curve of the fabric over my arm but they almost always stayed closed. The only times they stayed open was when there was wind, either from the wind or when riding.
The Light Flyer features a single pocket on the small of the back. Good placement for running, bad placement for biking if you ride with a pack. I found that the zipper would get pressed into the small of my back which was very uncomfortable. The pocket is small, literally big enough for an iPhone 4 (the iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S II wouldn’t fit) OR a single key and a gel. With the pocket being so small the utility of it was very low.
As a daily bike commuter, I always love to see reflective detailing. The logos on the front and back of the jacket are reflective. It’s not a lot, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have that extra visibility in low light.
Overall I have been impressed with the Light Flyer. Sure there are some smaller features that could be better but overall the jacket is fantastic.
For top performance and full weather protection for running and riding, pick up the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket.
Buy Now: Pick up the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket
The Columbia Ultrachange Parka is unlike any other Columbia jacket I’ve seen and tested. Columbia gave me the opportunity to test one this past winter and here’s what I thought.
The Columbia Ultrachange Parka truly is a few steps above any other Columbia jacket I’ve tested. I was very impressed with it.
The Ultrachange is 3 jackets in 1. It comes with an outer shell and a liner jacket. You can mix and match to get the protection that you need.
The shell is lightweight coming in at 11.2 ounces. It’s not the lightest on the market but that is still good for a protective shell. It is made with their Omni-Dry and Omni-Wick EVAP for weather protection and breathability. The jacket surface is textured which gives it a couple of extra design points.
From a performance standpoint the Ultrachange shell gets a 4 out of 5 stars from me. It is great with weather protection. In the rain water would bead up and run off. It shed snow and buffeted wind. It does lose a star on breathability. It did seem to perform better than other Columbia jackets I’ve tested but I still overheated pretty easily. To help with venting the oversized hand pockets are vented.
The shell is packed with other features as well. The arms are plenty long, no sleeve hiking when I extend my long arms. They do feature drop cuffs, giving your hands a little extra coverage. Velcro closures help keep the sleeves closed and in place. A full-sized, brimmed hood features three adjustments to keep the hood in place, even in the gnarliest winds. A drop-tail helps keep your rear dry and powder out. A rubber-lined bottom hem and two drawstrings also help keep the jacket in place.
All pockets feature waterproof zippers with generous pull tabs that are even big enough for winter gloves to use. Two hand and one chest pocket help keep your belongings organized. For the hikers out there the hand pockets are big enough to fit skins, though the mesh vents will let the melting water in.
From a durability standpoint I’d give the shell 3 out of 5 stars. After a winter of use water still beads up and runs off, however, the fabric is prone to tears. First run through the trees (not even gnarly trees) I came away with three little tears in the right sleeve. Nothing a little duct tape won’t fix, but for a $450 jacket, I’d like to not have to worry about skiing trees.
The liner jacket jacket is filled with synthetic insulation and lined with Omni-Heat. On it’s own, it’s a good cold weather jacket when you just need protection from the cold. The shell will give slight water protection but not much. It does feature stretch panels under the arms for cooling and movement which is a nice touch. It does feature two large, lined handwarmer pockets, which help the liner stand out on it’s own. The Omni-Heat lining helps give some extra warmth performance. The liner does fasten into the shell with three loop/snap closures.
Pair the shell with the liner and you have a formidable winter jacket. Fully weatherproof and extremely warm. I dug the full Ultrachange for night skiing trips and cold days at the resort. I usually wore just the shell when hiking for turns and the just the liner around town.
Each year Columbia gets better and better and the Ultrachange is the best I’ve seen from them yet.
Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Ultrachange Parka Review
In short the KEEN Incline Mid Boot is a good winter boot. The style is simple and they are warm. The KEEN Warm insulation is just that, warm. I have no idea what 200g means but it’s enough for general winter use. In temperatures in the teens, sledding with the kids,shoveling the driveway, walking around, my feet stayed plenty warm.
KEEN Dry is their proprietary waterproof membrane and it performed well. I took the opportunity to stomp through some puddles and wade through some slush and I didn’t get any water seepage. The height of the boot is good. High enough to keep all but the deepest snow out (that is if you aren’t wearing snow pants) but not so high to impede movement. The top of the boot isn’t very bulky. I could easily pull my jeans over top of the boots. I did have to loosen the boots a lot to get my foot to slide in. It would be nice to have a little more room to get in. They do feature a wide, thick pull loop so you can really yard on the boots if you need.
Traction was decent even on packed snow. Still experienced a fair amount of slipping on icy sidewalks but that is to be expected.
For the price, the Incline Mid Boot is a great choice and I’m looking forward to years of use out of them.
Warm, dry, comfortable, priced right.
Buy Now: Pick up the KEEN Incline Mid Boot
Enter the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife. I had the chance to test out the Ultimate Knife this past fall courtesy of Gerber.
Scoff if you’d like at a Bear Grylls branded item. Go ahead, I did when I first heard of the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife. Then I started reading about it and my opinion started to change. Then I got my hands on one and used it. I no longer scoff. This knife is the real deal.
It is designed by Bear and made by Gerber and it is an extremely handy tool to have with you. It’s an extremely well thought out design. It has just about everything you’d need in a tool. Where to begin…
The blade is 4.8 inches long and is fairly stout. The blade can come in straight or serrated variations. The smooth blade works extremely well for a lot of applications but sometimes you just want a little bit of serration to help speed things along. Although given the range of tasks you can take on with the Ultimate Knife, I think the serrated blade wouldn’t hold up as well. The blade is thick and up for cutting, chopping, hacking, etc.
To help keep the blade sharp there is a built in diamond sharpener on the blade cover. Just undo a Velcro strap, flip it over, and hone away.
The handle is a dense, textured, rubber grip. It’s sure in hand, even when the handle is wet or your palms are sweaty. The contours of grip make the knife comfortable in a number of grips. You have very little to worry about when working away with the knife in hand. The base of the handle serves as a waffled hammerhead. It’s stout enough to handle hammering abuse without compromising the entire knife. Just be sure be aware of who/what is around when hammering since the blade will be thrusting through the air. The handle also features a lanyard with an emergency whistle. I think the only purpose is for the whistle. The lanyard isn’t long enough to do anything with.
The sheath is about 10 inches along so the knife can be fully strapped to it. It does feature a single belt loop and two loops for fastening to a pack shoulder strap. The belt loop is tight. I would have liked to see it as Velcro so you didn’t have to partially take off your belt to put it on but it’s a minor thing. The blade protector is strong and holds the blade secure so it doesn’t rattle around. The handle is held with a Velcro strap as well for quick and easy access. The back of the sheath also has a stitched on infographic on basic rescue signals.
Attached to the sheath is a Ferrocerium fire starter. It pairs with a notch in the back of the knife blade for striking and starting fires. It locks securely into the sheath with no worries about it coming out. It is relatively easy to throw sparks but a little difficult to get substantial enough sparks to start a fire. The rod is about 1.5 inches long, which I think is too short to be truly effective. If it were longer you’d be able to have more striking range and get more going. The grip is also awkward to hold.
In addition to the rescue signals, the knife also comes with a waterproof pamphlet with basic survival skills on it. This is a great, simple guide for the budding survivalist and good refresher for the veteran. It covers protection, shelter, fire, rescue, navigation, water, food, and some basic knots. It’s by no means comprehensive but it’s a good starter guide. They even included an inch and centimeter ruler along the margins.
The Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife is one tool that just about anybody who ventures into the wilderness could find a use for.
Buy Now: Pick up the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife]]>
In short, Merrell nailed it with the Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants.
The biggest strength of the Vagaborne is the 2% elastane. It gives the pants just enough stretch that you can swing your leg over your bike without feeling like your legs are tied together. When riding they give just enough when pedaling that you don’t have to fight your pants. On top of that, the elastane makes for a very comfortable pant for everyday wear. The jeans feel softer than regular jeans but this doesn’t sacrifice durability.
My favorite small detail is the reflective seam on the inside of the pants. When you roll the cuffs you expose the reflective stitching on the inside seam that runs down the outside of your leg. It’s an added visibility bonus. By itself it’s not enough to keep you safe at night but it’s a nice addition to your reflective system.
Durability is strong. I thought with the softer feel the Vagaborne might wear out quickly. I’ve been commuting in them a couple times a week for a past few months and there are practically no signs of wear, even on the back where there’s the most friction with the bike seat. I do a lot of crawling around on the floor with my kids which is usually a death sentence for pants. There are no signs of wear or fading on the knees.
What would I have liked to have seen on the Vagaborne? As is, I think they are a great pant. To make them better I would have added a u-lock loop to the back of the pants. I’d also like to see a zippered option. I’m not particularly fond of the button fly. I’d also like to see an extra belt loop or two. The waist dips between the belt loops.
The Vagaborne does come in two colors in the denim version and you can also get them in twill.
The Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants are an awesome bike commuting pant. Don’t bike commute? They are ultra comfy too.
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants]]>
Hands down the Merrell Nanook Hoodie is one good looking jacket. The style is striking and doesn’t look like your standard down jacket. At least on the blue jacket the two tone body and shoulders gives great style. The shoulders are a slightly more durable fabric than the body, which is good if you wear a pack a lot. The orange accents of the zippers and chest rivets add nice variation.
The 600 fill down is a versatile down. Sure it’s not going to keep you toasty in arctic temperatures but that’s not the purpose of the jacket. It’s a good all around cold-weather jacket. It has kept me warm down to the low 20s yet I’ve been able to wear it up into 40s and have been comfortable.
I am skeptical of two of the tech specs. The first is the “downproof” fabric. For the first while I was pulling out single feathers that poked through. It wasn’t a lot, maybe a dozen or so, but far more than I’ve had come out of any other down jacket. The second is the water-resistant finish. In snowstorms it didn’t take much for the fabric to show wet spots. As the snowflakes would melt the water wouldn’t bead, it would soak into the fabric. Not sure if it made it to the down but it’s worth noting.
There are plenty of pockets all around. Two zippered hand pockets keep your hands warm and valuables secure. They both also double as inner pockets the way they are sewn into the jacket. They aren’t fully enclosed on the bottom so only use them for bulky items. The zippered chest pocket is ultra handy. One thing that would really set the hand pockets apart would have been making them fleece-lined.
The hood is awesome. 600 fill around your head keeps your head nice and warm. It does have an elastic hem which helps hold it in place a little bit. A drawcord would have been money though. Heading into a wind will blow the hood off.
The waist does feature a drawcord which should be a standard feature on all jackets.
Looking for a versatile down jacket with great style? Go with the Merrell Nanook Hoodie
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Nanook Hoodie
After what can only be deemed as an abysmal start to the ski season, with months of high pressure and facets, we’re finally seeing some precipitation up here in AK, and I’ve finally had a chance to get out and ski in my Outdoor Research Vanguard Pants.
The Vanguard Pants, new for winter 2012/2013 are a highly waterproof, highly breathable softshell ski pant with lots of sidecountry features such as a Recco reflector and a beacon pocket. Available in both Men’s and Women’s designs, the Vanguard looks to be the pant that will stand up to all sorts of weather, no matter who’s wearing it! Overall, I’m enjoying the pants. So far, they’re as waterproof as OR says they should be, offer great mobility for touring and appear to be fairly burly. Errant Alders are no match for the material on the Vanguards…
Outdoor Research Women’s Vanguard Pants or Outdoor Research Men’s Vanguard Pants]]>
When it comes to camping with the kids they have to sleep warm or everyone is going to be miserable. When it comes to kids’ sleeping bags Kelty crushes it. The Kelty Woobie 30 Sleeping Bag and the Kelty Big Dipper 30 Sleeping Bag sleeping bags knock it out of the park!
Kelty sent me these bags to test and review this summer and after they arrived my girls were so excited that they slept in them for a week on their bedroom floor! That helped bring the stoke when it was time to take them camping.
The Kelty Woobie 30 Sleeping Bag is quite possibly the cutest sleeping bag ever made. My 3 year old loves hers. Kelty really hit what is important to kids and what’s important for the parents.
For the kids: good colors. Sure they don’t have the rainbow spectrum but simplicity is good, pink for the girls, green and blue for the boys. The inside is cozy and fun. The flannel doesn’t feel as cold as nylon when your first get it and plush fleece helps them slide down into the bag. Its also soft on the face so your kids won’t mind being zipped all the way up.
For the parents: the Woobie is rated to 30 degrees. The coldest night we had was close to 32 degrees and my 3 year old stayed warm and cozy all night. Dual zippers make it easy to help the little ones in and out of their bag, no matter what side you af sleeping on. The bag is well made and will keep up with the use that only little kids have a way of bringing.
If you’re going to get the Woobie, get it while your child is young. At 36 inches long, they will outgrow it quickly. Next summer our three year old will be too big.
The full feature set is included at the bottom of this review.
For your small kids, the Woobie is the sleeping bag to get.
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Woobie 30 Sleeping Bag
The Kelty Big Dipper 30 Sleeping Bag hits the young kids market well. For the young girls (like my five year old) it has a few small touches that made her excited about her new sleeping bag. The faux fur hood gives a little bit of “grown-up” appeal and of course the two-tone pink. For the young boys it’s straight, simple blue. Both feature an internal pocket to stash a headlamp or other items. They also include a velcro pillow pouch on the underside to keep a pillow in place. Throw in some loops for keeping a sleeping pad in place and your child is going to sleep comfortably.
As a parent my favorite part is the zippered extension. The foot of the bag has a circular zipper. When your child is small, zip it up to shorten the bag by 12 inches to keep her warmer. As she grows taller, unzip it and you’ll get a few more years out of the bag. One bag, lasts through a few years of use before they outgrow it. Hands down the best feature.
My next favorite feature is the stuff sack. It is sewn to the foot of the sleeping bag so there’s no losing it! It also features a carry handle which also hits the “I’m bigger and I can help out by carrying my own stuff” mentality.
The Big Dipper is also rated to 30 degrees. On the same 32 degree night my 5 year old was nice and toasty inside with her jammies on. It does seem fairly wide which is good for wild sleepers but could produce cold spots. Keep that in mind.
The full feature set is included at the bottom of this review.
Get the sleeping bag that grows with your kids!
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Big Dipper 30 Sleeping Bag
Every season a ton of new shoes hit the market. This fall I’ve had a chance to sample some of the offerings from Patagonia Footwear and Chaco.
In short the Patagonia Advocate Plaid Lace Shoes are minimalist in build and full of style. A moccasin style shoe, there is only the thin sole between your foot and the ground. The lacing is elastic and flexes as you move throughout your day bringing all day comfort. The style looks a little bit retro, but classed up. The plaid inner and accents around the heel round it out.
Out of all four shoes I sampled the Advocate Plaid was the biggest attention getter. I received more compliments and comments on the Advocate Plaid than any other pair of shoes I’ve owned.
The Avocate is definitely a fair weather shoe. Wth basically no sole even in a light rain with hardly any water on the ground my feet were getting wet. It is an extremely packable shoe. You can roll the shoe up and it’s a little bigger then an adult fist. This would be a great travel shoe.
The Adocate Plaid Lace looks good with shorts or pants. It also features a removable insole.
Patagonia Advocate Plaid Lace Details:
I have a colleague who is a 20+ year veteran of the footwear industry. When he told me “nice shoes” when I was weaing the Patagonia Maui Woolzy Fold Shoes, I paid attention.
The Woolzy is an update to the Maui line of shoes. It’s made of wool (I think of it as felted wool) which is perfect for wintertime chills. The Woolzy is both casual and classy at the same time. Slip them on when heading to the store or wear them when meeting with the boss.
By far the best feature is the leather heel. It easily folds down when your slipping the Woolzy on to be a slide. I have a pair of older Maui shoes that didn’t have this. Over time the constant up and down wore the fabric prematurely. Wit the leather this isn’t going to be a issue.
The Woolzy would also make a great travel shoe. It’s comfy for all day wear and can bridge the gap between museum walking and dinner at a nice restaurant in the evening.
Patagonia Maui Woolzy Fold Details:
Each year the Chaco shoe selection gets better and better. The Chaco Brody Shoes are no exception.
The Brody is a good everyday shoe. It features a bit of skate shoe styling and all day comfort thanks to the Chaco LuvSeat XO2 platform (that’s fancy for foot support).
The embossed uppers feature a textured surface that increases abrasion resistance. The sole is 25% recycled materials and features good traction for wet conditions.
Chaco Brody Shoes Details:
I will admit, when I first received the Chaco Tedinho Waterproof Boots I thought they were kind of a joke. I thought they were going to be the boots that someone would wear to look outdoorsy. However, for those who like the feel and hiking performance of an all-leather boot, the Tedinho performs on the trail. I was happy to be proven wrong.
First look at the tread and I thought “no way this is going to get good traction”. All it took was 10 minutes of on-trail time for me to be proven wrong. It worked surprisingly well. I will admit, I didn’t get out on muddy, slick trails (we had basically no rain this fall). I did get plenty of time on dry, sandy, and/or steep trails and I didn’t experience any slippage, even with a heavy load on. They are fully waterproof and will keep your feet dry on stream crossing, rainy days on the trails, or if you like to go puddle stomping.
The Tedinho Boots do have a fashion-focused look to them. The leather does scuff and scratch easily so if you’re wearing them to look nice, keep a shine brush handy. The Tedinho Boots are comfortable for long days on the trail or at work thanks to the LuvSeat XO2 platform.
Chaco Tedinho Waterproof Boots Details:
For a family sized camping trip you need a family sized tent. The Kelty Hula House 6 Tent is a great option for the family that wants space and quality.
The Kelty Hula House 6 Tent is a big, spacious tent. Gone are the days of cramming the family into a small tent. The floor size is 10.5 feet by 10.5 feet and the ceiling is 6 feet 4 inches tall at the apex. There is enough room to fit 6 adults with a little extra room. We were able to fit our family of 6 easily with plenty of extra floor space for kids to roll around, store toys, and other kid necessities without bumping into each other and without feeling crammed.
Set up was relatively pain free. The two main poles are paired with sleeves to keep things simple. Erecting the poles is definitely easier with two people because of the size of the poles, however, I was able to manage it myself. The “hula” pole is interesting. It’s a big circular pole. Assembling it isn’t bad until you have to complete the circle. I found it easiest to brace the pole against the base of a tree or a big rock to flex the pole so the last connection could slide together. Once it’s done it clips into place on the tent. The only part that was a bit of a pain was putting on the fly. To attach it to the poles you have to duck under the fly to velcro it to the poles.
The inside of the tent features a couple of mesh pockets to stash small items, it has ceiling clips for a shelf, and a loop at the apex to hand a lantern. Other than that, the inside of the tent is very minimalist.
One of the first things I noticed is the floor of the tent is very thin. So thin in fact that after the first night of use it almost had holes where it rubbed on the pebbles beneath it. The thinness also damped out after a rainy night. We didn’t have puddles, just damp spots. My recommendation is to shell out the extra money for the footprint or a tarp. It will prolong the life of your tent (investment) and will help keep you more dry.
The Hula 6 features a lot of mesh. It basically runs from close to the ground all the way to the top. This is great for ventilation but bad for privacy. We spent a rainy trip in the Cascades and after an evening and night of rain we woke in the morning with very little condensation in the tent. Where it collected was on the fly but not on the tent itself. From a privacy standpoint, if you are in a campground with people close by, they’ll be able to see everything you do inside the tent if you don’t use the fly.
The fly worked well too. After all the rain from that trip the water was still beading up and running off. The fly comes with plenty of stake points and guy lines to keep it taut in windy weather.
The vestibule is the big area I saw for iimprovement. It was kind of small. There isn’t a lot of room for storing shoes and things for 6 people. It’s the type that zips from the top of the tent straight to the ground. For me it was hard to unzip from the inside. I had to stoop low and reach to get the zippers. With the little bit of condensation on the inside after the night of rain, I ended up with a wet back after rubbing against the fly as I unzipped it. The previous version of the Hula featured a vestibule room. I wish they’d bring this back. Sure it created extra weight and set up time, however, for the extra room (especially for kids who need to roam when the weather is bad) and for getting in and out, I think it would be well worth it.
The stakes that come with the tent are okay. They are a U-design which helps a little with rigidity but they still aren’t a match for compacted dirt. Just upgrade to Y-shaped stakes when you buy your tent.
The Hula 6 packs up nicely into a storage bag that has two handles.
Durability is decent. After a summer of use the Hula House 6 is showing light signs of wear and tear. Be careful of the floor and the mesh and it’ll last you for years (particularly if you pair it with the footprint). It’s tempting to buy a cheap low-name brand tent from a big box store. You’ll be glad you paid the extra for the quality and durability of the Hula House 6.
If you have a family and you want to get them out camping, the Kelty Hula House 6 Tent is great option. It’s big enough to fit the family of 6 with some room to move around.
Buy Now: Pick up the Kelty Hula House 6 Tent
You know the feeling. You’re worn out from a long day on the trail. All you want is to relax and get some food in your belly. You grab your steaming cup put it your lips and burn! Enter the Snow Peak Hotlips. Snow Peak sent me some Hotlips to test and review this summer.
It’s so simple. I’m sure there’s other products like this out there but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It makes so much sense. Just slip the Hotlips onto the rim of your Titanium 600 Mug and voila, no more burned lips. The silicone covers the hot metal thus saving your lips.
While the Hotlips are made specifically for the Titanium 600 single wall mug, I was able to get it to work on the Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug. They might work on other Snow Peak mugs as well.
The side benefit is for those who don’t like the feel of metal on their lips the Hotlips takes that annoyance away.
If you have a Snow Peak Mug or are considering getting one, do yourself a favor and get the Hotlips. Your lips will thank you.
Buy Now: Pick up the Snow Peak Hotlips
The H series of stacking mugs from Snow Peak is like the cool, adult, outdoor version of the tub toys many of us played with as kids. Only these are made of titanium, insulated, and way cooler. This summer I had the chance to test and review the Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug courtesy of Snow Peak.
Lightweight, insulated, packable are the three words that come to mind for the Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug. The H series includes 5 mugs and the H600 is the second largest. All five mugs nest together within the biggest one.
The H600 holds just over 20 ounces and weighs in at just over 4 ounces. It’s a good companion to your cook pot when going on two person trips. If you have the Snow Peak Trekker Kit or a number of other Snow Peak pots, it will nestle nicely inside along with your stove. It might not fit with the fuel canister though.
I love that it’s insulated, but not bulky. It gives just enough protection to keep your hands from burning when holding hot stuff and it’s just enough to maintain temperature while you eat or drink. For drinking, the Snow Peak Hotlips are a great companion. Yes, they weren’t made specifically to fit on the H series, however, they will work.
It’s a cool feature to have all five mugs in the series nestle together, however, I haven’t thought of a time when I’d have more than 2. It’s great for packing though. I did think the $55 price point is a little steep. Yes it is titanium but you must either really want the mug or you must really be out of other ways to shave weight.
The outer wall is lightly brushed which helps give a little added friction. Even with gloves on, it didn’t feel like it was going to slip out of my hand.
The H series has 5 mugs ranging from 7 ounces to 30 ounces. All are handle-less. If you want a mug with handles, check out the Snow Peak Titanium Double series. With handles you will lose the stackability.
The Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug will be more than happy to be at home in your pack. And you will be more than happy to have it.
Buy Now: Pick up the Snow Peak Ti-Double H600 Stacking Mug
All it takes is one look to know that Osprey poured a ton of thought and development into the the Osprey Variant 37 Backpack. My experiences with the Variant 37 this summer were great and I’m looking forward to a full winter of using it. Oh yeah, Osprey sent it to me to test and review a some Oregon summer ski mountaineering trips.
Out of the box I was stoked when I put the Osprey Variant 37 Backpack on for the first time and it fit me perfectly. I’m not that tall but I’ve had problems in the past with finding packs that fit.
The Variant is jam packed with the features you want and a none of stuff you don’t care about. The main compartment is big and open. The hydration sleeve is easy to access when empty and an easily fit a 100 oz resevoir. The top compression strap doubles as a rope strap. The extendable lid moves as your loads expands or shrinks. A spindrift collar rolls up under the lid but can unrolled to keep snow out. The lid also features top and under pockets.
The crampon compression sleeve is large enought to fit crampons and an avie shovel blade. Side compression straps help keep contents in the sleeve and a small mesh patch at the bottom lets water drain.
The “adjustable tool bungee y-clps” were a little funky to figure out but once I did I was a fan. When cinched down they are extremely secure. Definitely one of the better designs I’ve seen. The ice tool holsters are secure and have a beefier fabric behind them to protect from sharp edges and points. The tool holsters are versatile enough to hold an avie shovel handle.
Each side features a wand pocket that doubles as a bottle holder if your so inclined. The ski carry loops were wide enough to easily fit my 115mm tails and carry in the a-frame style. The waist belt is removeable/stowable and features two gear loops for your alpine rack. It is about 3 inches wide and comfortable over a ski jacket and pants or over just a shirt and pants. Shoulder straps were comfy as well and shaped to stay out of the way.
Performance was strong both on the uphills and on the down. The profile is slim enough that I didn’t bump my elbows when skinning or hiking. On my Mt Hood trip I carried a fair amount of gear and the heavy load was stable and carried well.
On ski descents I was able to cinch everything down tight enough to keep it from swaying around. The combination of all the compression straps, shoulder straps, and waist belt kept it secure on my torso. I was able to ski variable snow in variable terrain without worrying about the load.
The layout of everything on the pack made the process of “load skis, unload skis, get the ice axe and crampons, stow it all, etc” a relatively painless task.
One thing I did think was missing was some sort of side access. It always seems no matter how you pack you always need to fish something out of the bottom of the pack. On the side of the mountain, in the snow, it would have been nice to be able to get to the bottom of the pack without having to unload.
The Variant 37 is awesome. It’s a strong performer for ski mountaineering.
Buy Now: Pick up the Osprey Variant 37 Backpack]]>
The Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey is a bike jersey gone smell free. After a hot summer of testing here’s what I found. Oh yeah, Icebreaker kicked over the jersey for testing and review.
The Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey is almost like the anti-bike jersey. It’s loose fitting bike and not flashy. With that said, it’s probably more at home on a mountain bike ride than a road ride. I wore mine mainly on my daily bike commute.
For mild to hot temps the Roto Zip is light and airy enough to keep you comfortable. The Merino wool fabric is light and comfortable on the skin. For extra venting Icebreaker included the half zip (which is also fantastic for showing off your hairy chest) and some eyelet fabric under the arms and at the top of the back panel for increased airflow.
Performance was good. It kept me cool, wicked the sweat away, and stayed smell free. My longest time between washes came in July when I went three weeks riding daily in the Roto. Three weeks of hot summer riding and the Roto was virtually smell free. It was like the Royal Gardens compared to the smell of your typical jersey after 20 minutes of riding.
A single pocket on the bottom right side is just the right size for a gel or bar or keys. I found the loose nature of the fit wasn’t good for putting your phone back there. It just bounced and tugged all over the place.
I like that the Roto isn’t flashy, it isn’t skin tight, and it performs exceptionally well.
Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey is awesome for a commute or mountain bike jersey.
Buy Now: Pick up the Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey]]>
The SteriPEN Freedom is light, compact, rechargeable, and easy to use.
The Freedom really can’t be any easier to use. Fill up a container with water, insert the light of Freedom, and swirl around until the green indicator light turns on. It’s made to purify a half liter at a time. A built in timer keeps track of the 48 seconds it takes to treat so you don’t half to. You an purify a liter by treating it twice. You won’t be able to do more than a liter at a time though.
The UV light will kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including giardia and crypto. One thing that was hard for me to get over is visually or tasting you don’t notice a difference. With a filter you an see what was caught in the filter. With drops or tablets you can taste the treatment. With UV light you don’t have any indication, visually or taste, that it’s been purified.
There aren’t any switches to worry about leaving on. The base of the UV lamp features two metal connectors. When inserted into water the water connects the circuit and the lamp powers on. The base of the unit includes LEDs to indicate progress or errors. When finished, just dry off the unit and replace the protective cover and you don’t have to worry about accidentally turning it on. The cover protects the bulb from breaking and an included neoprene sleeve protects the full unit.
The battery is a rechargeable lithium battery and uses a micro USB cable, which is great for charging versatility. Battery life is good. On a full chage you get up to 40 treatments. For most trips you’ll be more than covered. For longer trips you’ll need a way to recharge. That is one downfall of the rechageable battery. If it runs out while in the field and you don’t have a power source, you’re hosed.
Both the battery and lamp are rated for 8000 uses each. At which point both can be replaced by sending it in to Hydro Photon for repair.
At 2.6 ounces it’s extremely lightweight and makes it ideal for hiking, backpacking, and adventure travel.
A handy little feature is a built in LED flashlight. Just rotate the unit side to side to turn it on and off. It is bright enough for task work while purifying, which is nice if you forget your headlamp. Keep in mind though that light use will reduce the number of treatments you can get from a charge.
A few notes of caution:
1. The Freedom (or any SteriPEN product for that matter) works best in clean and clear water. Debris in the water reduces purifying effectiveness and could keep it from being fully purified. Turbid water must be filtered. On that note, SteriPEN does make a small prefilter which is handy (though I didn’t test it out).
2. I always used a Nalgene. Anything more narrow than this will be challenging to keep the unit submerged and good swirl action going. The swirling is what ensures all the water is purified.
3. Water trapped in the lid or on the threads won’t be purified. Take care to full wipe and dry these areas or use another container to fill the bottle or purify in your cook pot.
Overall the Freedom was awesome to use.
The SteriPEN Freedom is awesome. It is now my go to water treatment method for backpacking, camping, and hiking. Definitely worth the money.
Buy Now: Pick up the SteriPEN Freedom]]>
Made for trail-side lunch and snacking the Innate Shiru Vacuum Food Container won’t let you down by letting your food go cold. Innate sent me a Shiru to test and review and here’s what I thought.
The Innate Shiru Vacuum Food Container is made to be a lunch container. The short and squat shape makes it ideal for eating your warm (or cold) meals. Unlike your typical thermos for liquid, the opening is wide enough to eat out of without feeling like your fishing for your food. No need to dump your lunch out either. The short nature allows you to easily scrap the bottom to get all of your lunch.
The Shiru is made of double-wall stainless steel. It’s rated to keep your food hot for up to 5 hours, especially if you take 10 minutes to “preheat” it before you put your hot lunch in. It can double as a cooler to keep your lunch cold for up to 10 hours. In testing I’ve had food in it for close to the 5 hour limit and when I opened it up, it was still hot.
The inner lid features a steam release valve to both depressurize the container and prevent steam burns when as you open the container. The inner lid is also insulated to help control heat loss through the top. The inner lid is wide, making it easier to open, even with gloves on. A rubber gasket seals the liquid inside so even if it tips, it won’t leak. I didn’t experience any leaking, but stay on the safe side and make sure it remains upright in your pack.
The outer cap is also insulated, providing even more heat-retaining value. Keep an eye on it though, it can loosen on it’s own because it only has a couple threads
I’ve used it in my pack for cool weather hiking and skiing. Although my biggest use has been for breakfast at work. I typically mix my oatmeal in it and by the time I get to work it’s ready to eat.
The Shiru is the container to use to keep your lunch warm.
Buy Now: Pick up the Innate Shiru Vacuum Food Container
As temps drop and we start seeing snow on our higher peaks in Alaska, winter is officially on the brain. Early fall is one of my favorite times of the year- not because of the changing leaves or cool, crisp mornings, but rather because early fall means new gear! Time to play with all the new toys coming out for the 2012/2013 winter! So far, here’s what I’m getting stoked about for ski season:
Say who? Praxis? If you aren’t familiar with Keith O’Meara’s custom shaped skis out of Tahoe, get familiar, and fast. Praxis has been around for years, cranking out some of the most innovative ski technology with incredibly high quality. As world class caliber skiers such as Drew Tabke and Kevin O’Meara begin to ski Praxis skis and bring notoriety to the name, more and more people have been drawn to the brand. Keith, the man behind the curtain, has directed his focus towards making smaller batch, custom skis designed to fit a variety of riders. For my season-long pleasure, I will be skiing a pair of 163 Most Valuable Praxis, or MVP skis, in the “soft” flex with the graphic of my choosing. All of Keith’s skis are available for immediate purchase as his original designed model, or available to be custom ordered for flex (choices of soft, medium, medium/stiff and stiff), layup (triaxial fiberglass or a carbon/triaxial fiberglass blend), length, and graphic. Choose from Praxis’s badass graphic library or upload your own! Best part? All this customization comes at little to no extra price. Pick your own flex and graphic for free. If you’d like to add the carbon there is a nominal materials fee increase, and if you’d like to upload your own graphic, there’s a small fee for that as well. Look to hear more about Praxis and my new MVPs later in the season.
In the past 2 years, Outdoor Research has expanded their apparel line by 60%, and they seem to be doing a helluva job. The Vanguard Pants, new for winter 2012/2013 are a highly waterproof, highly breathable softshell ski pant with lots of sidecountry features such as a Recco reflector and a beacon pocket. Available in both Men’s and Women’s designs, the Vanguard looks to be the pant that will stand up to all sorts of weather, no matter who’s wearing it! I’m excited to test out the GoreTex softshell material up here in AK, and see how it holds up to our heavy wet snow.
Not only has Outdoor Research expanded their apparel line, but they also continue to make killer handwear, headwear, gatiers and the like. This season I’ll be rockin the Point ‘n Chute Mitts, a fully insulated leather mitt with an under-the-cuff design. Most important feature? The snot wiper. Yup, the Point ‘n Chutes come with a “soft nose wipe,” an feature that I consider mandatory in all glove, mitten and other handwear purchases. The Point ‘n Chutes are also available in a Men’s version, which features a lobster-claw style 3 finger glove design.
Because who doesn’t love a good beanie with a big pom-pom? My ultimate winter wear and skiing staple, I am always excited for a new beanie. Remember the kid who was always excited about getting new pencils because it meant that school started soon? Kind of like that, except instead of math problems, new beanies mean pow skiing.
I’m sure as more and more winter gear starts hitting the shelves, my list of stoke will get longer and longer, but for now, that’s what I’m most excited to be checking out this winter!]]>
Looking for a lightweight cooking system? The Snow Peak Trekker Kit is a great option for someone starting out backpacking but is also a great upgrade kit for the seasoned backpacker as well. I’ve had the chance this summer, courtesy of Snow Peak, to test and review the Trekker Kit.
The Snow Peak Trekker Kit includes just about everything you need to get started with camp cooking. You get the stove, windscreen, and pot all in one.
The stove is the Snow Peak GigaPower Stove. It folds down small, about 2x2x4 inches in an included plastic case. I’m a fan of the case because it helps protect the stove within the pot, however, you can ditch it to save a few grams. At 3.75 ounces (without case) the stove is decently light. The Piezo ignition saves the need for matches and is high quality. I’d say 80% of the time it would ignite on the first try and 19% of the time on the second try.
The stove arms are wide enough to provide enough stability for the cookset. As will all canister stoves you need to be careful to not tip the whole thing over, but with the GigaPower it’s not a precarious balancing act. The burner has good control. It can boil a quart of in just under 5 minutes (4:48) and can be adjusted down to get a slow simmer.
Made out of stainless steel it’s going to be able to handle bumps and jostling without falling apart.
Included in the Trekker Kit is the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Cookset. The cookset includes a 47 oz pot (about 1.5L) and a frying pan lid (will hold 17 oz). Made of titanium the Trek 1400 weighs in at a scant 7.4 oz. Each piece features folding handles. Watch out for the pot handles when cooking on high, they will get hot. Also note that they don’t lock into place. The pan features a squeeze handle does lock into place which is nice. Keep a watchful eye, the bottom of the pot is smooth so it will slide around on your stove if you aren’t careful.
The pot is large enough to fit a 250 gram fuel canister and the GigaPower stove inside with room to spare. I was also able to sneak in a long Titanium Spork. Snow Peak does make more cups and pots that will nest into the 1400 but you will end up sacrificing storing the stove and fuel canister inside. With that said, the storage bag is big enough that you can fit the canister on top of the pot and still be in the bag, keeping everything together.
Snow Peak does back up the cookset with a lifetime warranty.
My biggest gripe with canister stoves is the lack of windscreens. A slight breeze would drive down efficiency. The windscreen integrates with the GigaPower stove and nestles tightly into place. I have no idea what the efficiency gains are in numerical terms, but it does provide noticeable performance gains in the wind. It is well worth the extra weight.
The Snow Peak Trekker Kit is a great additional to any backpacking kit. It’s lightweight, has what you need, and performs well.
Buy Now: Pick up the Snow Peak Trekker Kit
I’ve been slowly getting turned to Princeton Tec headlamps. The Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp is one more light that is winning my favor. I’ve had the chance to test the Remix this summer thanks to Princeton Tec.
The Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp is a powerful light in a little package. The MaxBright LED can reach up to 73m on high (so they say, I didn’t get out the tape measure). It’s bright enough that when running you don’t have to worry about out running the light and I was able to spotlight considerable distances. On a Mt Hood attempt earlier this summer it was definitely bright enough to scout ahead. The dim, early morning light.
The three 5mm LEDs are perfect for task work. They provide just enough light when setting up the tent, cooking a late meal, or reading the tent. We are seeing more and more combo lights and there’s a good reason. You can get white, red, or green LEDs.
With two setting modes for both sets of LEDs you can find the level of light you need while conserving batteries. On high the MaxBright LED will last 28 hours. The 5mm LEDs will last 200 hours on low. The lamp is powered with three AAA batteries. Ordinarily I’d give negative feedback for not being rechargeable, but for a versatile light like this I think it makes sense. Just use rechargeable AAAs.
The headband is wide and comfy, even after a few hours of use on the trail. The pivot for the head is solid. Once set it won’t bounce out of place. The head is close to being too heavy for the band though. I did experience some bouncing while running but it was manageable.
The Princeton Tec Remix is a versatile, powerful little light.
Buy Now: Pick up the Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp]]>
The Icebreaker SS Quest Crewe Shirt isn’t your typical wool running shirt. Paired with a small amount of LYCRA you get a shirt that is comfortable, moves with you, and remains relatively stink free. Icebreaker sent me SS Quest Crewe to test this summer and here’s what I thought.
By now I’m sure we all know the benefits of Merino wool over synthetic fabrics. The Icebreaker SS Quest Crewe Shirt is made of 96% Merino and 4% LYCRA. The combination provides a comfortable fit and feel on the skin and the shirt has more stretch, which is great for activities that require more dynamic upper-body movement. From long runs to Crossfit inspired workout, the SS Quest Crewe was able to keep up and move with me.
One downside to the LYCRA is it does hold body odor. With only 4% of the shirt being LYCRA it’s not a huge issue, but the shirt does hold onto it more than a 100% Merino shirt. To put it into context: I wore the SS Quest Crewe shirt for my daily, noontime workouts in 90+ degree heat for five days in a row without washing. By the end of the week the shirt was starting to smell some but it wasn’t overpowering.
The GT150 fabric is lightweight and quick drying, perfect for hot weather activities. The underarms feature an eyelet type meshy fabric to help with venting.
Icebreaker included a small zipper pocket on the back of the shirt. Great idea, but with the loose nature of the shirt anything heavier than a gel or two was too much. Even at a light run the contents would bounce and tug and it was highly annoying. The inside of the pocket includes a headphone cord port so you can keep the cord contained under the shirt (great feature).
The fit is more on the loose side than the tight side. At 6′ and 180 lbs, the large fits me loosely. Meaning that it fits me the way a large shirt should, it’s not body hugging.
The SS Quest Crewe has good styling. The different colored stitching provides a nice visual break over a solid colored shirt.
The Icebreaker SS Quest Crewe Shirt is a fantastic, active shirt. I wear it all the time now.
Buy Now: Pick up the Icebreaker SS Quest Crewe Shirt
KEEN has been continuing to update and expand their line of bike specific shoes. The KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe is no exception. At home on the trail or the commute, the Springwater will give you year-round performance.
The KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe is a versatile shoe at a great price point. It provides good performance for the money and has held up well over a summer of daily bike commutes and other rides.
On the performance side the Springwater II does well. The combination of the stiff, EVA midsole and triple velcro straps provides good power transfer to the pedals. It’s not going to be all-star performance, but then again it’s not made to be an all-star shoe. As a bike commuting shoe or a recreational MTB shoe, it performs well.
I’ve found conflicting info on sizing. A little bit of research found that KEEN advises to size up a half size but this wasn’t the case for me. I typically wear an 11 and the size 11 fit me perfectly.
The lugged sole provided good traction in the dirt and sand for the times when pedaling wasn’t an option.
Riding comfort was high. The shoe has some nice padding in the upper. This does make the shoe “warmer” on hot days but is great on cool mornings. I also think it’s going to do well on dry, winter commute days.
My big complaint is with the velcro enclosures. I have a “normal” volume foot. To get a snug fit, I had to cinch the straps down so tight and practically ran out of velcro. The two lower straps are held on by maybe a half-inch. This has led to considerable fraying of the end of the closure with the rest of the strap practically brand new (see pic to the right).
My other complaint is the shoe is very bulky. It’s a very wide shoe. I couldn’t find a performance disadvantage to this but it’s worth noting.
For the money, the KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe is a strong performer and a great buy.
Buy Now: Pick up the KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe]]>
After a year long hiatus to do some redesigning and ensure top safety for your hound, Ruffwear’s Headwater Collar is back on the shelves! Featuring the same great features as the first release, the Headwater is a perfect collar for anyone living in a damp environment, or anyone who’s dog spends a fair amount of time in the water!
Buy Now! Ruff Wear Headwater Collar]]>
The Sugoi RPM Jacket is a hardworking, full protection jacket. It’ll keep you dry, even in the strongest of downpours.
The Sugoi RPM Jacket does exactly what it was made to do: keep water out. The DWR coated shell shed water, even in heavy rains. Off the hanger I didn’t notice the jacket “wetting out” at all. I give high marks for keeping water out.
Unfortunately the RPM also kept water in. It doesn’t do a good job at all with breathability. Pit zips help with venting your core but thats it. The positioning of the vents isn’t conducive to strong cross airflow but you do get some. Once I started sweating it was game over. Combine that with humidity from the air and you have a recipe for getting wet. The inside doesn’t have a liner so the sleeves stick your arms.
One feature I do like a lot is the reflective accents. They are very bright and great for getting attention of drivers in low light conditions. The accents are along the main zipper, a line design down the sleeves, and down the back.
The collar is a microfleece that is extremely comfortable on your face and neck, even when it’s soaking wet.
The wrist cuffs are elastic and velcro. They were easy to pull on over gloves and the velcro is enough to keep the cuffs tight and prevent them from pulling up. The back of the jacket is cut a little longer for additional coverage.
Great at weather protection and reflection, bad on breathability. Sugoi got many of the tiny details right on the RPM though.
Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi RPM Jacket
Looking for a shoe that won’t hold water? One that won’t do it, no matter how much water wants to held? Very well then. Reader meet Columbia Powerdrain Water Shoes. Columbia Powerdrain Water Shoes meet Reader.
Columbia sent me a pair of ‘Drains to test and review and here are my thoughts.
I can’t help but to think of the Columbia Powerdrain Water Shoes as a collander. It’s exactly how they operate. Water goes in and immediately drains out. Watching Columbia’s “Bean Salad” video didn’t help change my perception.
As it turns out the Powerdrain is great at what it’s supposed to do…get water out! Rivers, lakes, oceans, you name it, if it’s water the Powerdrain is right at home. Pick up a fully submerged shoe and in a second or so its empty.
Drainage is facilitated by key port placement in the heel and forefoot. The footbed and midsole essentially have a bunch of holes in them to let the water through (see pictures to the right or bottom of the post). If you look at the midsole it looks like a waffle. The mesh upper increases drain performance and doesn’t hold water in the fabric.
The shoe and upper dry quickly enough to help prevent the blisters you’d expect to get from a wet shoe. If you are going to be hiking longer distance take a few minutes to let your feet fully dry out. The footbed is easily removable to help facilitate fully drying out and cleaning.
Great, it drains well, but what about other performance? The Omni-Grip sole helps keep traction on wet, slippery surfaces. Still be weary of mossy covered rocks though. Traction felt better than other shoes but I still experienced some slippage. The lugged sole performed decently on trail as well. It’s not as aggressive as a hiking shoe sole but it held its own. I only experienced a little more slippage than a hiking or trail running shoe.
I was skeptical of the elastic lacing. I doubted it could keep the shoe on in a strong current. With snug tension it kept the ‘Drains on my feet in rivers, swimming in the ocean, and even through some shoe-sucking mud.
Don’t expect to be free of sand and pebbles in your shoes. Some sand will get carried out with the water but some will linger, especially in the ocean.
One side benefit is you do get a little bit of warmth from the shoe in cold water. I was definitely able to stay in cold water considerably longer than without the shoes. Also the painful transition to numb feet wasnt as drastic, i.e. it wasn’t as painful.
The Columbia Powerdrain Water Shoes are awesome at what they are supposed to do.
Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Powerdrain Water Shoes]]>
What exactly is a “Compounder”? Adhesive substances? Nope. Fractions? Nope. An awesome jacket meant for whatever you can throw at it? Yep.
Columbia continues to step up their game. The Columbia Compounder Jacket is great all-around jacket for those who like to get out doing a lot of different things. Columbia sent me the Compounder to review this spring and summer.
The Columbia Compounder Jacket would fit well in the “all-around” jacket category. It is a strong performer in a lot of different conditions.
The combination of the 2.5 layer Omni-Dry construction was more than enough to keep the weather out. From rain storms, to blizzards, to 40 mph winds, the Compounder kept the weather at bay. I had full confidence when I wore it.
The thing that sets it apart from other jackets is the Omni-Wick Evap technology. This is supposed to make the Compounder ultra breathable by using “a special compound that disperses sweat quickly across a broad surface area for accelerated evaporation.”. I’m a sweat machine so I was very excited about this. I came away from testing with mixed feelings. Overall it does a decent job. In cold conditions it did well moving moisture. When temps were warmer I was sweating more than the jacket could move. It’s definitely not an “active” jacket for running but it does well for hiking, backcountry skiing, resort skiing, or other activities that don’t have high levels of output. To be completely fair, other shells have a hard time keeping up with moisture management. With that in mind, though, the Compounder is one of the better performing jackets when it comes to moisture management.
It does come with full pit zips which help with additional ventilation. The hand pockets are mesh lined so if things get bad you can open them up as well. The downfall to the mesh pockets is when you get sweaty whatever is in your pockets will get soaked.
The two hand warmer, two inside pouch, and one chest pocket allow you to carry way more than you need in your pockets. The fleece lined chin area keeps your face from getting rubbed raw. The drawcord hem will help keep the weather out.
The Compounder is relatively lightweight and packs down pretty small. I’ve kept it stashed away in my pack for when I need it. Once again it’s a good all-around jacket so it won’t get as small or as lightweight as some shells out there.
The hood is big and adjustable. It will fit over many helmets and can snug down tight. It handled 40 mph crosswinds on Mt Hood without shaking or flapping loose. I was able to adjust it small enough to give good coverage of my face.
The length is long enough to give good coverage for when your skiing but not so long that you look like a dork when you wear it around town.
The Columbia Compounder is a strong contender. It’s a good all-around jacket.
Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Compounder Jacket]]>
The Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights are excellent examples of bike lights that don’t look lame. They are sleek, powerful, and extremely bright. I’ve been using the Urban lights for about 6 months and here’s what I thought.
There are three options in the Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights line-up: the Urban 550, the Urban 400, and the Urban 200. They all sport similar feature sets, the biggest (only) differences are the number of lumens and battery life.
The Urban line is sleek, extremely durable, and very powerful. The metal case can handle bumps, dings, and drops. Commuter lights need to be durable to get the full value and life out of them and the Urban lights are super durable. A lot of other bike lights look clunky, but not the Urban lights.
With three lumen options you can choose the level of light you need. All three models boast 4 settings: high, medium, low, and flash. They are controlled with an easy-to-push button on the top of the case (operable even with gloves on). On the higher powered models you can feel confident riding at higher speeds with the amount of light given. I didn’t feel like I was “outriding the light”. The case features two yellow “side lights” to give 180 degree visibility. They are nice to have but they are only eye-catching at close distances.
I am a big fan of the handlebar attachment. It is a rubber strap and hook closure. It’s highly adjustable and easy to swap to other bikes. My biggest grip with other lights is use them on multiple bikes you have to track down other mounts, which can be a pain. The rubber strap pulls double duty keeping the light on the bar and holding it in place. Not once did I experience the light shifting while riding. If the strap breaks you can pick up extras from Light & Motion. After months of use mine is still going strong.
Second favorite feature is the rechargeable battery. Light and Motion had the forethought to use the mini-USB for charging. I no longer have to carry a special cord to charge my light. The mini-USB is the same size as many cellphone and other chargers. From dead to full expect charge time to range 5-6 hours depending on your model.
Battery life is decent, depending on the model and mode being used. Below is a chart of battery life, by model. An indicator light on the back alerts you to when battery life is getting short.
|Urban 550||Urban 400||Urban 200|
The Urban line is fully waterproof. This is a base to even get into the game. I’m happy to say that after a winter and a spring I had zero issues.
The Light and Motion Urban line of bike lights is well worth the money.
Buy Now: Pick up the Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights]]>
“What a weird back panel” is the first thought that popped into my head when I saw the redesigned Mountainsmith Wraith 25 Daypack. Mountainsmith redesigned the Wraith for 2012 and I had the chance to test it out and review it this summer.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Mountainsmith Wraith 25 Daypack is the Breezeway™ Suspension system. The pack curves away from your back creating a “BreezeWay” with a padded, mesh back panel. It looks gimmicky but it actually works fairly well. It does increase airflow which is really nice. You’ll really notice the difference if it’s a breezy day. You’ll still get sweaty back but it won’t be as intense and you get a nice cooling effect from your sweat.
The downfall of the curved back panel is it all but renders the hydration sleeve useless. I was unable to get my 3L reservoir in the sleeve. First I tried with it full and it definitely wasn’t happening. I tried half and then empty. When it was empty I could get it fully into the sleeve, however, I would have to pull it partway out to fill it. Then I couldn’t get it back in. The sleeve is also so tight that I couldn’t get it to fill to the full 3L.
The shoulder straps are a light mesh. The goal here, again, is increased airflow. I didn’t notice that much of a difference but if I had one of the mesh shoulder straps and a different strap to compare at the same time I’m sure the difference would be more pronounced. I will say, though, that the shoulder straps are comfortable.
The Wraith is fairly voluminous for a daypack. For some reason it seemed larger then 25L. It gobbled everything I needed for a day hike with room to spare. Depending on how light you go it could be stretched into an ultralight overnight. It features one large, zippered compartment that contains a hydration sleeve that will fit up to a 3 liter reservoir (reservoir not included). If you have bulkier items you will have to fully unzip and unbuckle the side compression straps to get them in around the curving back panel. This is a little bit of a pain but not bad overall.
A small zippered pocket on the outside has a few organizer details for your small stuff and a key fob. I’ve learned to not underestimate the key fob. I have an innate fear of losing my keys out in the wilderness. Not having a key fob is almost a deal breaker for me. It’s odd but I was unnaturally excited when I saw the key fob on the Wraith.
A number of smaller features make the Wraith extremely versatile as a daypack. It features ice tool and dual trekking pole loops, the waist belt is easily removable, mesh side pockets are good for bottles, wet or extra clothing, and two daisy loops for lashing on gear. The tool/pole loops are small, easy to use, and don’t get in the way. The bottom loops are static so make note if the grips on your poles are wide. To get my in it was a bit of a squeeze.
The overall fit of a pack seems a little small. I don’t have a long torso but unless I really loosen the shoulder straps the waist belt always ends up too high. I think have it dialed in now but still seems a little small.
Want an extremely versatile, comfortable daypack? Get the Mountainsmith Wraith 25 Daypack.
Buy Now: Pick up the Mountainsmith Wraith 25 Daypack]]>
Let’s face it, when it comes to camp cooking packing pots, utensils, bowls, cups, stove, and fuel can be a pain. Integrated systems have been around for awhile but I finally had my chance to test one out. GSI Outdoors sent me the GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Dualist to review and it is awesome!
First and foremost I love not having to track down my spork or bowl, or whatever. In the GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Dualist everything is all in one. It’s compact, all together, and it doesn’t rattle around in your pack.
The Glacier Dualist gives you everything you need. The 1.8L pot is big enough for most meals you’ll cook for two people. It does get difficult to manage bulky meals like pasta (I burned one and it sucked…totally my fault too) but as long as you’re diligent you should be fine. The folding handle is sturdy and locks into place. Even with a full pot I didn’t feel like I was on the verge of having it break in two. The lock is facilitated by squeezing the handle together and rotating it past a couple of tabs. It serves a dual purpose of keeping the lid on and everything in place when packing it up.
The strainer lid is a good feature but there are a couple of improvements I would like to see: 1. The top ring doesn’t stay in place very well. Sometimes you can get it balance in the upright position but a lot of times it tipped over which meant burning my fingers when grabbing it to lift the lid. 2. Something to help hold the lid in place when using the strainer. I don’t always want to use the corner of my shirt or beanie or whatever to hold the lid in place.
I liked the bowls. They are simple, lightly insulated, and can work as a cup with the integrated lid. The insulation is a thin neoprene sleeve and is just enough to keep your meal warm (or cold) just long enough to get through it. Paired with the lid you can let it sit for a few but don’t wait too long. You can still get some hand-warming effect when the temps are cool but you don’t have to worry about burning your hands. The bowl does separate into to pieces. When washing if you fully submerge the bowl water will get in to the insulation. This isn’t a negative for me, I am just making note. I made it a point to keep an eye on it and take it apart if it got wet.
I really liked how the bowl doubled as a cup with the lid. There’s nothing worse than using a bowl as a cup and spilling [insert beverage name here] all over yourself. The lid snaps snugly into place. It’s not totally bozo-proof so don’t expect miracles.
Telescoping Foons. Sounds like a medical device or perhaps something from a sci-fi movie. I like the concept of the telescoping Foon but I found them inadequate. First, when using them with the pot, they don’t reach all the way to the bottom without sticking your hand in. If you’ve got a full pot you’ll be hosed. Secondly, they break very easily. The part where the spork meets the handle is very thin plastic. I reached snappage dishing up chili. I just held too far up on the handle. Just be careful. I like the idea of telescope action. It’s what allows the Foons to fit in the pot.
If you have kids you get some additional side benefits. My girls loved the “crazy forks” and they loved the telescoping action. Then they thought it was fun because on our trips they each had their own color.
Everything is made to fit together including a canister stove and single fuel canister. I was able to fit an MSR Pocket Rocket and an 8 oz canister. GSI does include a thin sleeve to protect the stove and cookware from scratching each other. With the 8 oz canister it does take some finagling to get everything to fit just right. Take care to not bend your stove.
Once everything is put together it fits into a welded storage sack. Once again, it all fits together and I love it. The sack also doubles as a kitchen sink or water holder for purifying.
It’s stainless so it’s going to weigh more. If you’re concerned about weight check out some of the other options to save a little weight. To have a system all in one, I didn’t mind the extra weight.
Buy Now: Pick up the GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Dualist]]>
I can take pain and discomfort. I can push my limits to the point of breaking. I like the feeling, I like pushing myself. But when it comes to putting my feet in frigid water I’m a sally. For whatever reason I can’t stand the pain before my feet go numb. Thank goodness for the Chaco Ponsul Water Shoe.
The Chaco Ponsul Water Shoe is essentially a Z1 sandal with a neoprene sock added to it. You get the same great footbed, adjustable straps, comfort, fit, and durability of the signature Chaco sandal.
The Ponsul is great for early season water adventures, cold water, or if you’re like me and you’re feet freeze in moderately cold water. The neoprene sock acts as it should and traps water around your feet so it can warm up from your body heat. I found that while walking around colder water would flush in but my feet stayed warmer and I could stay in the water longer.
The one downside I found was after leaving the water I had to take off the sandals to drain them if I was going to be walking around for awhile. As I was walking I could tell that a blister disaster was waiting to happen if I spent a lot in them without draining.
Adjustability remained fairly strong with the Ponsul. The front strap adjusts the same as the Z/1, just be conscious that if you go too tight the neoprene sock will bunch up a little. One area I felt was lacking was heel adjustments…there aren’t any. For me the heel hangs too loose. I’d like to see a simple adjustment strap here to help snug down the fit.
The LUVSEAT™ XO3 Platform is a removable insole. Some may balk at this but trust me, it’s good. It is still shaped and molded like the traditional Chaco footbed but by being removable it allows the sandals to dry out faster.
The Vibram® Bulloo Outsole is a good sole. It does provide good traction in water although you still have to tread carefully over mossy rocks. I did find the tread not agreesive enough for extended trail use, but it did fine in the water.
For a water shoe one of my favorite features is the toe bumper. Gone are the days of stubbing bare toes on rocks (especially cold toes). I like the added protection.
If you love Chacos but need a water shoe, the Ponsul is the way to go.
Buy Now: Pick up the Chaco Ponsul Water Shoe]]>
The Patagonia Fore Runner Trail Running Shoes are the most lightweight shoe in Patagonia’s running line this year. While they aren’t a “true” minimalist shoe, they are a great lightweight runner that doesn’t compromise on performance or comfort. Patagonia sent me a pair to test this spring and here are my thoughts.
Let’s quickly get the minimalist thing out of the way. The Patagonia Fore Runner Trail Running Shoes are lightweight (9.2 oz is pretty good) but for you purists out there you likely won’t be happy. They do feature 4 mm in drop and do have a cushioned midsole. What does make them minimalist is their weight but also the amount of cushion provided. It does begin to force one to be even more selective on their running path. The Fore Runner would make a good transition shoe for someone looking to start the path to minimalist running. Performance in the Fore Runner was strong. The lugged sole provided sufficient traction for dry, compact, wet, and light sandy trails. I didn’t notice much slippage on the ups or the downs. Between the sole and midsole my feet were protected from all but the biggest and sharpest of rocks. The air mesh upper is very airy (no pun intended). This is great for fair weather runs, hot runs, and even mild, dry days. If you want to run in inclement weather or on extremely wet trails, your feet are going to get soaked. My feet sweat a ton and the mesh kept me comfortable on warmer runs. One downside to the mesh is it does stretch and flex. I had to cinch the lacing down extra tight to reduce the stretching factor for the downs. I do need to play around with the lacing configuration to see if I can reduce the stretch even more. Overall, Patagonia is making strong strides in the trail running market and the Fore Runner is an excellent shoe. I’ve run in them for couple of months now and so far the quality has remained strong. I haven’t noticed any fraying in the mesh, stitching, or anything else coming apart. The Good
For a lightweight, non-minimalist (zero drop) shoe the Patagonia Fore Runner is an excellent choice. Buy Now: Pick up the Patagonia Fore Runner Trail Running Shoes]]>
The feature that sets the Julbo Dust Sunglasses apart from other sunglasses is the Zebra Antifog Photochromic lens. It is a lens that can literally span most all conditions. For those not familiar with photochromic lenses, they change based on the amount of light, i.e. they get darker as the sun gets brighter. With the Dust riding in low-light (not night) conditions it allows enough light to pass through so you can see. When it gets bright the lenses get nice and dark. Pair that with a reflective coating and even on the brightest days here in Central OR I haven’t gotten eye fatigue. I haven’t ever had to squint while wearing the Dust. The one thing that is missing in my opinion is the Zebra lens isn’t polarized. If Julbo could include that I’d be 100% happy. Yes, I want my cake and I want to eat it too.
The Dust does come with a removable lens option that includes a polarized lens, a low-to-medium light lens, and a clear lens.
Next on my list of “extremely important” features are the “rubber” nose piece and temple pieces. They kept the glasses in place, even on my sweatiest rides and runs. Nothing like cranking through some downhill singletrack and have to push your glasses up. It wasn’t an issue at all with the Dust.
The frame is very comfortable and somewhat flexible. A couple of color options are available. My preference was the very “Euro” blue. The Dust is fairly lightweight, meaning that I put them on and I didn’t notice them. I’m not a weight weenie so I don’t know if it truly is “lightweight” compared to other frames out there.
On the quality spectrum, the Dust is high. Julbo has been around for while and their background in glacier glasses have set the ground nicely for high quality products.
The Julbo Dust has become my go-to all around sunglasses for bike commuting, running, and other two-wheeled pursuits.
Buy Now: Pick up the Julbo Dust Sunglasses
A couple of weeks ago I made my first climbing attempt of Mt Hood in northern Oregon. The weather conspired against us with snowstorms and 45 mph winds. It was planned to be a ski mountaineering trip. The plan was to skin as high as possible then don crampons and ice axes for the summit push. The descent would be skis from the top of the Hogsback to the base.
While the weather wasn’t our friend we still skinned our way up through the resort and had a good ski descent. Another attempt later this month will be likely.
Here’s my gear list for the trip. I err on the side of caution and may have carried a little more than others would.
The Vapur Element Water Bottle truly is an “anti-bottle”. It’s a bottle without being a bottle. It’s sleek, compact, and great to use. It takes away your excuses for not carrying a bottle with you. Vapur gave me a bottle to test and here’s what I thought.
The most striking feature of the Vapur Element Water Bottle is how it folds down. This is the “anti-bottle” element (no pun intended). I think the biggest complaint people have with carrying a typical bottle is they are too bulky and a pain to carry. The Element folds down super small. It’s small enough to easily fit into a jacket pocket, daypack, or in a purse. It weighs next to nothing when empty.
The biggest excuse is no longer valid.
My first thought when I first saw the Element was “that’s going to be a pain to clean”. I didn’t realize that the cap unscrews and the inside is easily scrubbed with a bottle brush. It is dishwasher safe too if you want to go that route. My second concern was the cap accidentally being opened. The cap fits tightly and in most cases shouldn’t come open. If you throw it in your pack with a bunch of other stuff you’ll be tempting the fates. Just be smart.
Vapur threw on a plastic carabiner to help with portability. Clip it to the outside of your pack, climbing harness, or if you want to be super cool, your belt loops. I’m not a fan of clipping it when it’s full, but when it’s empty it’s a good option. The biner folds down around the lid when not in use.
My next concern was with leakage. With 3-ply construction the Element is durable. You’d really have to work hard to randomly puncture it. It can also withstand freezing.
Lastly, and it threw me for a loop, I actually had people tell me how cool the bottle was. It is cool but to receive compliments was unexpected. Just don’t buy the bottle thinking it will make people like you or notice you. That’s what the convertible is for.
You no longer have any excuses to not carry a reusable water (anti)bottle.
Buy Now: Pick up the Vapur Element Water Bottle]]>
Timbuk2 really brought it home with the Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag diaper bag. Finally a diaper bag that isn’t lame. Let’s face it, at some point most of us will have kids and we no longer have to succumb to bags that suck.
The first thing you’ll notice is the Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag looks like a regular messenger bag on the outside. Not to sound like the person says “its what on the inside that counts” but the inside of the Stork is awesome. Timbuk2 put a lot of time, effort, research, and planning to knock it out of the park with the Stork.
Holy pockets galore! Timbuk2 put in pockets, the added more pockets, then added a few more just for fun. There is literally a place for everything. My favorite pockets (my wife’s too) are the clear zipper pockets. The “bottle bottle” pocket is lightly insulated to help keep the bottles warm. Then more pockets to help keep you organized. Now if only you could remember where you put the pacifier…
I had mixed feelings on the changing pad. It’s large and very cushy which makes changing diapers a nicer job. Where I found the pad fell short was when it was packed with diapers or wipes. I could fit two size 1 diapers and a thin plastic wipe container. With just those few things the Velcro barely closed. I like to carry more than 2 diapers in a changing pad. The changing pad does have a couple of nice features: a carry handle to take it solo, a stretchy pocket for keys or pacifier, and a long, clear zippered pocket. The pocket does face the same space issue. If you put much into it the Velcro won’t close.
The Stork is also a great size. You can fit a ton in it, but when it’s empty it doesn’t look bulky. Our latest addition is twin girls and we can fit everything we need for a day about with the twins plus some items for the big sisters in the Stork plus have some room to spare.
When fully loaded the wide strap and matching shoulder pad keep the Stork riding comfortably. Of course, being a Timbuk2 bag it rides exceptionally well when carried via bike.
My wife commented on wishing it came in different colors…I like that it doesn’t look like a typical diaper bag. I love the inside fabric. The tricycles help round out the looks and add a little fun to the design.
Best diaper bag, EVER! Timbuk2 really knocked it out of the park.
Buy Now: Pick up the Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag]]>
The Solio Bolt Solar Charger is a great way to power your small devices when on the go, in the wilderness, or if you just want to start playing the solar game a little bit. Solio gave me the opportunity to test the Bolt this spring.
Overall I thought the Solio Bolt Solar Charger was decent.
The compact swivel design keeps the footprint in your pack or pocket small, a little bigger than a pack of playing cards. When closed one of the panels is protected but the outer is always exposed. At 5.3 ounces it doesn’t cause much of a weight issue.
Battery life is great. Once charged the Bolt holds battery life for a relatively long time without losing the charge. Recharging capabilities are decent, depending on what device you have. Off of a full Bolt charge I could charge my iPod Touch 2 full times. I hear you can get similar performance for the iPhone. I had challenges charging my Samsung Galaxy 2s. I could never get a full charge off of the Bolt. The last time I charged it, it only got from 0 to about 50% charge and stopped. There was still charge left in the Bolt so I started charging again and reached 65% charge. That was it.
Solar charging time is okay. It takes 8-10 hours of full, direct sunlight to charge the Bolt. It does require you to shift its position so it’s always in the direct sun path. I don’t know about you but I never did that. At home it stayed in the kitchen window and took a few days to fully charge. If you think about wilderness trips this would be more difficult to achieve. If your backpacking you’d have constantly move it around which would be a hassle.
Additionally, clouds, shadows, or not being in the direct path of sun rays (I.e. the angle is slightly off) decreases efficiency to the point of potentially not charging. The panels are made of inexpensive materials that really contribute to this drop in performance. More expensive panels can still charge if partially blocked or if not in the direct path of sunlight.
The Bolt has a solid base to hold position for charging when paired with the included pencil to get the desired angle. Charging on the move is a challenge. The single hole makes for difficult lashing. If you are stationary, it does great.
Solio has made a huge leap forward putting the USB port directly on the Bolt. Past models required you to buy a bunch of different adapters to fit your device. Now you can use whatever standard USB cord you already use.
While charging on the move is difficult I really like the Bolt as my backup battery. I like to make sure it’s fully charged when I leave and when I run out of juice, I just plug into the Bolt to get the charge I need.
The Solio Bolt is a great way to get into the solar game and is a great backup battery.
Buy Now: Pick up the Solio Bolt Solar Charger]]>
For whatever reason when gearing up for cold or wet rides i never thought about my feet. I don’t know how many times I finished a ride with frozen feet. Those days are gone now thanks to the Sugoi Resistor Booties
The Sugoi Resistor Booties are very simple, yet effective in design. They slip over most technical bike shoes and are held in place by stretchy fabric, elastic, and a rear zipper. I tried them over my Keen commuter shoes and they didn’t fit, at all. On road shoes or technical MTB shoes they fit snugly.
The PU coating does a good job with shedding water and wind. After a 3 hour wet ride my feet were still dry. The fleece lining provides some warmth, but it isn’t substantial. On super cold days I’ll pair the Resistor Booties with thick socks to keep my toes toasty.
Sugoi included a couple of reflective accents, which are nice, but as a commuter I’d like to see more. If you need the booties it’s probably raining which means visibility is lower. More reflective details would be a nice add.
Great option for weather protection for your feet on cold, wet rides.
Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Resistor Booties
Beyond Coastal Active Daily SPF 30 Sunscreen: the Active SPF Sunscreen is a great sunscreen for the outdoor athlete. It’s SPF 30 for long and intense UVA/UVB protection. It’s water (sweat) resistant which is huge for your forehead. There’s no sunscreen running into your eyes when you start sweating.
Some sunscreens feel thick when you put them on. Active Sunscreen goes on smooth and easy. It contains aloe, rose hips, Shea butter, green tea, and Yerba mate, all of which are suppose to moisturize and nourish your skin.
Overall I really liked the Active Sunscreen. It was enough for at least a couple hours of protection before reapplication was necessary. It was “comfortable” and I didn’t feel like I was wearing sunscreen.
Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick: I love the concept of the Face Stick sunscreen. It’s compact, lightweight, and mess free. You can stash it in your pocket or in your pack and you ar good to go. No worries about the lid popping open filling your pack with sunscreen.
Application is easy…just apply like you would deodorant. Go easy though and massage it in with your fingers. It’s easy to go overboard. The Face Stick falls into the Active line of sunscreen and shares many of the properties as the sunscreen above. It’s water and sweat resistant, provides UVA and UVB protection, and has the same nourishing and moisturizing properties. It does feel a little heavier on the skin than the Active Daily sunscreen above.
Beyond Coastal makes a solid line of sun protection products.
Buy Now: Beyond Coastal Active Daily SPF 30 Sunscreen or Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick]]>
While most of the Lower 48 is enjoying summer climbing weather already, we’re just barely transitioning out of full on winter up here in AK. Unfortunately, that transition means some rainy days amidst the snow. To keep me warm in the rain or the snow, I’ve been reaching for my Outdoor Research Havoc Jacket.
The Havoc is a synthetic insulated jacket, taken to the “next level” with Windstopper material integrated into the exterior of the jacket. What a great idea! Eric raves about this also in his own review of the Havoc. Why don’t all synthetic puffy coats come with Windstopper? No added weight or bulk, and added warmth. Good thinking on Outdoor Research’s part. I used the Havoc as my primary insulation layer for ski touring, and often used it as my outer layer as well. The Windstopper material made it so that I didn’t need a shell over the insulation to keep the wind chill out. Awesome.
When I heard about the Havoc, I was a bit concerned that it might be less packable/pliable due to the Windstopper shell. Not so. My Havoc packs down smaller than my old Patagonia MicroPuff does, and comes with the added benefit of the Windstopper shell. Win win!
A well designed synthetic insulation jacket with the added bonus of a Windstopper shell. Check out the Havoc here!]]>
The Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders are nice. Out of the box you’ll take one look, give a little whistle, and say “those ae nice!”. The natural look of the bamboo give the Grasshopper a visual aesthetic that other fenders don’t have. I don’t know how many compliments I’ve received on the fenders. ”Woah, look at those fenders!” is a common response I’ve heard. If you are going for a nicer look, consider the Grasshopper.
Aesthetics are one thing but if they don’t perform then what good would they be as fenders? On the performance side the Grasshopper did well. I’d say 3.5-4 stars. First off I’m using them on tires that are pushing the size limit. I have them on my 29er commuter rig which run 700×38 tires. Even at that larger size performance was decent. If you stay with the recommended size limit performance will be better (obviously).
I did note a few things. On plastic fenders they have more of a lip on the edges which helps channel then water down the fender. The Grasshopper has a small channel down the center but no lips on the edges. I did get some spray off the edges. It might be less with smaller tires but worth noting.
One other thing I noticed, particularly on the front wheel, is I really need a mud flap. The fender doesn’t quite extend low enough and my feet catch a lot spray. This could be product of running slightly bigger tires. In central OR we don’t get “that” much rain so I can get by without them. If you live in wetter climes then pair the Grasshopper with some mud flaps.
Being made of bamboo the Grasshopper fenders are extremely durable and hold up to the elements in a way plastic can’t. After one winter of use they look just as good the day I mounted them. Installation was a cinch and Planet Bike has good supply of small parts if you ever need to replace anything.
The Planet Bike Grasshopper fenders look great, are durable, and can perform really well with the right sized tires.
Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders]]>
The Stoic Wraith Shell is the shell that’s almost not there. Coming in at a mere 2.5 ounces it literally is almost not there. It is the perfect “emergency” or back up jacket to have. It packs down super small, small enough to easily fit in your pocket. When it’s in your pocket you hardly notice that it’s there.
It is the ideal jacket to cut the wind or shed a light rain. While it’s not fully waterproof it is DWR coated and will offer protection from light precipitation.
I was skeptical on how well it’d breathe. I thought for sure that it would be a sweat lodge. To test breathability I wore it on a warmer day paired with a baselayer, a long-sleeve merino layer, and then the Wraith. I was pleasantly surprised to see that when I was running the Wraith did a good job of breathing. Then came the real test. Once I was nice and warm I removed the long-sleeve layer to see if the Wraith would stick to my arms and be uncomfortable. Once again whenever I was on the move the Wraith was breathing and moving moisture. Once I’d stop, though, all bets were off.
The full time hood is nice and just big enough to cover your head. It is full-time and needs to get tucked inside so it doesn’t flow in the wind like a tiny parachute.
One thing to note that I didn’t think of is because the jacket is nylon it will pick up your funk. I haven’t washed mine yet so I don’t know how it will do in the washer. Washing in Nikwax Tech Wash or something similar should do the trick.
The Wraith is a great back up shell, great for trail running, great to go in the pack.
Buy Now: Pick up the Stoic Wraith Shell]]>
I’ve been a fan of Chaco for a long time. Z1s are my preferred footwear 9 months out of the year. The Chaco Otis Boots had some tall shoes to fill (pun may or may not have been intended).
One of my favorite features of Chacos is the footbed. They carried the same support structure and contours of the sandal and put it in the Otis. They call this LUVSEAT. The footbed has been made more cushy than the sandal footbed but is still super comfortable.
The Otis is a nice looking boot. Casual enough to not feel dressy and nice enough to pass for fancy boots. The perfect combo in my opinion. The suede upper kept my feet warm and dry throughout winter. The downside of course is lack of breathability.
The Vibram Icetrek sole gives good traction in the snow and ice.
One thing that I did find was a little odd is the boots were a little tough to put on. Not bad but I always had to work them a little bit to get them on (maybe this is what you have to do with boots and maybe I’m just used to slipping on sandals). Once on though they were very comfortable. I could wear them all day without getting foot fatigue.
Overall the Otis is a good boot and may have won me over to wearing boots in the winter.
Good boot for the money AND you get the Chaco footbed
Buy Now: Pick up the Chaco Otis Boots]]>
The Detours D2R Trunk Bag is a nice addition to your cargo hauling quiver. At 800 cu in it has enough capacity to be flexible. It can easily fit lunch, a light jacket, your small gadgets, wallet, keys, water bottle, and a few miscellaneous items. The main compartment is big and open also has an expansion zipper to give a little extra space. The outside features two slim zipper pockets. On the very back is a water bottle pocket. All in all quite a bit of versatility in such a small package.
It attaches securely to a rear bike rack via four quick release buckles (two on each side) and a Velcro strap on the front. I was skeptical on the four buckles at first. I thought they’d slip over time but after a few months worth of riding they didn’t slip at all.
One downfall of the attachment system is it doesn’t allow for quick on and off. If I have it full of stuff and need to run a few errands I don’t want to leave it on the bike. It was a bit of a pain to take it on and off frequently.
To help with portability Detours did include a removable padded shoulder strap and a carry handle.
Detours did a stellar job with the visibility of the Trunk Bag. The sides each feature reflective strips and the water bottle pocket also has a reflective strip and swatch on it. I am a huge proponent of “being seen” when commuting. So many pieces of gear only provide a token piece a piping. The Trunk Bag has good reflective coverage.
A removable rain cover is included. I never used it though. In the light rains I rode through the bag stayed dry enough. I’m sure it’ll come in handy in deluges. The cover is bright yellow to help increase your visibility in the rain.
Overall the Trunk Bag is a great way to get a little extra cargo capacity on your bike.
Buy Now: Pick up the Detours D2R Trunk Bag]]>
Whether you’re on groomers, knees deep in powder tree skiing/riding or skinning up a peak for a little backcountry — here are my Top 3 snowboard pants for 2011/12 and beyond.
3. The North Face Women’s Skinster Pants
When The North Face came out with their Cryptic line I was a bit skeptical, but since most of my fleece and hiking apparel is North Face I thought why not give it a try. The rest is history. The Skinster pants are a new low-rise boot cut fit, which is nice for us snowboarders! The pants are equipped with waterproofing, good breathability and are fully seam sealed to keep you dry. Only bummer — available in just one color.
2. Ride Cappel Outerwear Wasted Pant
I’ve been rockin’ ride bindings and board for a few seasons now and finally gave their Cappel line a try. The line offers skiers and snowboarders a like some stylish pieces this season. The wasted pant is a slim pant with subtle style, but not too tight. Ride designers left plenty of room for movement. Paired with my Columbia baselayers they were perfect during the early season low temps. Available in seven colors, but I love the teal or raisin wool.
1. 686 Smarty Fave Pant
The 686 Smarty Fave pant are my all-time favorite pant. Up until this year I rocked the Smarty Low Rise and OG Cargo pant. With the fleece smarty liner you can take these pants from pow to bluebird skies. The Fave Pant isn’t too tight or bulky giving you ample amount of room to maneuver down the mountain. Available in seven fun colors I’m sticking with plum or red.
What are your favorite snowboard pants this season?]]>
Need a good all-weather minimalist running shoe? Want waterproof protection? Want good performance? Look no further than the Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe
UPPER / LINING
MIDSOLE / OUTSOLE
The Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe is the cold/all weather shoe in Merrell’s Barefoot line. It comes fully lined with Gore-tex making it waterproof and warm.
At the base the Embark is very similar to the Merrell Trail Glove and the Merrell Sonic Glove (click links for reviews. Same last, same overall look and feel, same running performance.
The running performance is high, same as the other models. Running in them just feels good. The sole is similar to the Trail Glove and Sonic Glove. Four mm thick, zero drop, and good tread pattern. The Gore-tex keeps your feet fully dry on wet or snowy runs. Just don’t step in deep puddles. One thing of note on the Gore-tex, it really holds in heat (i.e. doesn’t breathe as well as a non-lined shoe) which for me means it is a cold-weather only shoe. The heat retention is a great benefit on frigid days.
For all the similarities to the other models that I love I did find some drawbacks that I wasn’t super stoked on. Some are big and some are minor.
First the Embark has more volume than the Trail and Sonic Gloves. It’s not a lot but it’s noticeable. As a result I had to cinch down the laces to the max to get the fit I wanted. Maybe the additional volume is to accommodate thicker socks for cold weather running? I’m not sure on this one.
The foot opening is stiffer than other models too. This wouldn’t be an issue except the back side is turned in just enough that it rubs on my Achilles. Maybe it’s just my pair but it hasn’t “self-corrected” with use. I either have to tape my Achilles or get blisters every time I wear them. This is close to a deal breaker for me. They felt better on today’s run so maybe they need more time. See my picture to the right to see how much the back is angled in. You can also tell on the “Tex” that the side curves in as well. This also rubs but hasn’t caused blisters. This could just be my pair.
Last thing, it’s minor, but the shoelaces are twice as long as they need to be. I have to tie seven knots so the laces don’t drag on the ground. I know it’s just the shoelaces but it’s a pain.
The Embark is a good all-weather show. Just try it on to make sure you won’t get any rubbing on the Achilles.
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Embark Glove Gore-Tex Barefoot Running Shoe]]>
Baselayers are essential to a good ride or run. So why not get one that works, is comfortable, and is technical? You’ll get just that with the Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt. Sugoi gave me the chance this past winter to test out the Carbon zip and here’s what I thought about it.
I thought the Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt was just going to be another typical baselayer but I was pleasantly surprised. The first thing I noticed pulling it out the packaging was how soft the fabric felt. Putting it on, it’s very comfortable. Scoff if you’d like at the “softness” comment but if I’m going to be moving, sweating, and pushing myself, I don’t want my shirt to be uncomfortable.
The fit is great. It is definitely slim and hugs your body. It’s great for performance. I am 6 feet and 180 lbs and the large fits me nicely. I have long arms and the sleeves were long enough for me. One thing I think is missing though is thumb loops. I’m a fan of the thumb loops, especially on colder days.
The Carbon Zip did a good job with moisture management. On my sweatiest days it kept up. The FinoCarbon fabric is infused with carbon to help control odor. It is awesome at controlling smells! I could pull multiple uses between washings without making myself wretch each time I pulled it over my head.
All in all the Carbon Zip is a great baselayer. I’ve used it mostly running but have used it biking as well. It works as a good mid-layer on the bike as the fit isn’t quite long enough to cover your back on the bike.
Get a baselayer that works. The Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt is awesome. It’s comfortable, has high performance, and isn’t as smelly as other synthetic layers.
Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt]]>
Recognize this scenario? Time to load the car for the family trip. Ah crap, we over packed! Get the extra cargo capacity you need with the Yakima Rocketbox Pro 11 Cargo Box.
The Yakima Rocketbox Pro 11 Cargo Box is the mid-size choice in the Rocketbox line and it’s the most economical. Technically it has the smallest capacity, however, it is longer than the Rocketbox 12.
The “Pro” in the name refers to the upgrades to the line from previous models. It comes with features like for dual-side opening, a push button latch, and an upgraded bar connection system. The exterior is also more sleek in appearance.
The Rocketbox Pro 11 is good sized box. It’s long enough to hold skis and has enough capacity to haul a bunch of gear. I’ve been able to fit three pairs of skis, poles, and a snowboard in it at the same time with room to spare.
If you purchase it through the mail you will have to assemble the box yourself. Have no fear it’s a straight forward process. Yakima does provide easy-to-follow, detailed instructions and there is a short video available on Yakima’s website as well. One thing to note: the keys are taped to the box, not inside with the other parts. Took me a few to find them.
The roof mounting system has been changed up from the previous Rocketbox line. The old style was a combo knob and camming lever to secure the clamp. The new style is just a red knob. Adjust the clamps forward or back and then tighten. This simplifies the system. I will say though, if you take your cargo box on and off frequently the new system won’t be quite as efficient.
One big benefit is the Pro 11 is dual-side opening. Gone are the days of only mounting the box on the passenger side of the car or having to walk around to load/unload. It also comes with a push button to make opening easier. It features a more narrow profile so you can actually fit other attachments on your roof rack with the box on. It will also fit round, square, and factory crossbars.
To facilitate the dual-side Yakima has employed pivoting hinges on the inside. They are made of plastic and it seems this could be a potential point of failure. Chances are unlikely but it’s worth noting. You’d either have to really yard on the lid or use it excessively.
All in all the Rocketbox Pro 11 is money. I’ve been using it all winter and it’s been a trip saver. Well worth the investment.
Great box, good versatility, most economical choice in the line. It’s been a trip saver for me.
Buy Now: Yakima Rocketbox Pro 11 Cargo Box]]>
Don’t trust your typical detergent to get your technical clothing clean. Enter Nikwax. With a myriad of specialized products they’ll have something to fit your washing needs. Nikwax gave me the opportunity to test out their Nikwax Tech Wash, Nikwax Base Wash, and Nikwax Wool Wash.
First and foremost: Nikwax works!
Tech Wash: is what you want to use to wash your technical outerwear (jackets, pants, packs). Basically anything that’s waterproof. It’s formulated to lift and remove dirt out of the fabric and waterproof membrane. Thus revitalizing the waterproof properties of the jacket. Even on old jackets, you’ll see an improvement of the waterproof performance. What happens is the dirt and grime gets into the fabric and interferes with the waterproof treatments ability to repel water. Remove the dirt and grime and voila! Using Tech Wash is also the preferable first step to re-waterproofing your jacket.
Base Wash: Base Wash is specially formulated for washing your synethic base layers. It will get the funk out of your shirts. It is also supposed to help your base layers wick better, but I haven’t noticed a difference. I preferred to not wash my layers in this every time, only periodically. The scent of the base wash is strong and lingers on the garments, even after drying (don’t worry it’s a “clean” scent).
Wool Wash: you guessed it, Wool Wash is made for washing your merino layers and clothes. It’s formulated to clean and soften your wool garments and enhance the wool’s natural wicking properties. One odd thing I noticed with the Wool Wash is it didn’t get the stink out of one of my shirts. I know that merino isn’t supposed to hold odors but one of my shirts does. After washing with Wool Wash my shirt was soft and clean but the funk was still lingering. It did wonders on my wife’s merino coat though.
Want to get more life out of your gear? Get Nikwax.
Buy Now: Pick up Nikwax Tech Wash, Nikwax Base Wash, or Nikwax Wool Wash.]]>
The Columbia Triple Trail Jacket isn’t like Columbia jackets of old. Prior to the Triple Trail my only other Columbia jacket was the Bugaboo with the zip out fleece when I was 12. That Bugaboo set my perception of Columbia, which remained for 18 years. The Triple Trail has changed that perspective for the better.
The Triple Trail features a three-layer nylon laminate with strategically placed stretch panels so the jacket moves with you. The seams are all fully seam sealed to give true waterproof protection. The Omni-Tech finish keeps water at bay. Columbia used waterproof zippers throughout the entire jacket (helps with the clean look) and the zipper pulls are substantial enough that you can grab them, even when wearing a thick winter glove like the Columbia Omni-Heat Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves.
The Triple Trail is fully lined (including the hood) with Omni-Heat reflective fabric. The tiny dots reflect back body heat (similar to a space blanket) but the space between the dots allows for breathability. The Omni-Heat lining keeps you warmer.
It features two zippered hand pockets which are HUGE! They literally span from the hem to your shoulders. The first thing I thought of when I put my hands in was “these would be perfect pockets for your skins when running laps”. But the interior isn’t waterproof so you’ll just end up soaking your layers. They are extra roomy. I would have loved to see a chest pocket on the jacket, but I don’t know how it would have fit with the big pockets. The interior features one zippered pocket and open top pocket.
As with most all “waterproof, breathable jackets” the Triple Trail is solid on the waterproof, but not as much so on the breathability. It does feature long pit-zips to help cool you down but I did overheat and sweat when exertion levels started to rise. Maybe I’m just warm, but I still have yet to find a shell I can wear when skinning without overheating.
Both the hem and hood are adjustable. The hood features a stiff brim which will keep it from sagging when things start to get wet. The hood fits well but won’t fit over a helmet.
The Triple Trail would be a good jacket for 4 season use. Keep in mind, with the versatility there are compromises that are made. It is less packable than a dedicated rain jacket. But, you can wear the Triple Trail skiing and have full weather protection. The Omni-Heat lining adds bulk and weight, but it’s warmer. If you want one jacket, the Triple Trail is a good way to go.
The fit is good. I’m 6′ tall and 180 lbs and the large fits me nicely. There is enough room that I can wear a medium weight mid-layer and still have free movement. I have long arms and I can extend them without the sleeves pulling up over my gloves (this makes a big difference for me). The jacket is cut long which makes it extremely nice for skiing.
Overall I was extremely impressed with the Triple Trail Jacket. My perception of Columbia changed from that a mediocre outdoor brand to a brand that is now making premium outerwear.
The Triple Trail Jacket is a solid jacket. It’s well-made and a versatile jacket. If you want 4-season protection, you’ve got it.
Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Triple Trail Jacket]]>
As Brig delineated in his Osprey Karve Review, Osprey really is the backpack brand that other companies aspire to be. Quality, durability, thoughtful features and extreme attention to detail allow Osprey to market some of the higher end packs available. The Sirrus series, with packs available in a 24L or 36L size, is no exception.
I was able to spend some time testing out a Sirrus 24L pack for Gear.com, and was quite impressed with all the small features that show true attention to detail. The oversized “o” shaped zipper pulls seem to really embody Osprey’s approach to pack development- what a tiny thing to focus on! However, it becomes obvious why that was a good idea when you’re fumbling to open your pack with gloves on. No problem. Worried about your gear getting wet in an unexpected downpour? Don’t worry, the Sirrus packs both come with an integrated rain cover.
Other features I enjoyed included the small stash pockets on the hip belt (great for stashing a CLIF Shot or two) and the side mesh pockets- finally, a pack whose pockets are big enough to accommodate a Nalgene! The available front pocket is just the right size for a small lunch, so you aren’t rifling through the main compartment to look for your Pb&j. Also included is a smaller pocket for stashing your keys or other valuables. The main compartment of the 24L pack is big enough to hold some essentials for a day hike- a rain jacket, maybe an extra layer or two, and a small first aid kit fit comfortably in mine. However, this is where my only complaint for the Sirrus comes in- all these incredible features almost seem to be overkill in a pack of such small size. Yes, it’s got great suspension and a mesh panel to help distribute weight, but how much distribution do you really need in a 24L pack. Unless you’re packing rocks in there, the amount of space inside of the Sirrus 24L compared to the beefy design doesn’t seem to even out.
That being said, I imagine that the 36L pack would be a great choice for quick overnights! The 36L is a top loading pack as opposed to the panel loading 24L, which always seems to offer more space (compare a panel loading 24L to a top loading 24L. In every test I’ve done, I can always fit way more in the top loader). With that being the only major difference, the 36L would offer all the awesome, beefy features of the 24L, with enough usable space to actually need them! I’ve taken my 24L on several longer day hikes and cross-country ski adventures in the Chugach up here, an it’s great. Durable material, features out the wazoo, lightweight… It just seems to feel like a large profile pack for the small amount of gear you need on a day hike. An area it really excels in is day hikes requiring technical equipment. Because the pack’s frame is quite sturdy, and because it includes a single ice axe loop, tossing a mountaineering axe onto the Sirrus 24 is a breeze, and you don’t have to worry about it flopping all over as you hike.
A beefy, featured filled day pack in the 24L, or an overnight pack in the 36L.
Check it out: Osprey Sirrus Packs or the Men’s Osprey Stratos Series
Looking for a good all-around softshell jacket? The Merrell Moab Softshell Jacket will fit the bill. From running, to urban cycling, skiing, and hanging out the Moab brings solid performance.
The Merrell Moab Softshell Jacket is a versatile softshell. The Aeroblock fabric provides good protection from the elements but actually breathes fairly decently too. It truly keeps pace with you as you begin to heat up. Of course in the most stenuous of exertions you’ll get too warm but you should just take your jacket off anyway. During moderate exertion I didn’t sweat out of the jacket. The DWR finish provides some rain protection but it won’t keep pace in anything more than a light rain. The Moab is definitely at home in cold, dry, or snowy conditions. I typically won’t run in jackets but with the Moab on cold days I could run in it without getting too warm.
The fit is good. I’m 6′ tall, 180 lbs and the large fit me nicely. It does fit a little loose so you have some room for mid-layers.
The chest pocket and hand warmer pockets are fleece insulated but the inside of the pocket is the smooth side of the fleece. All pockets feature weatherproof zippers which are nice addition. I would have liked to see more substantial zipper pulls though. The thin pulls are a little awkward when wearing winter gloves.
The clean design and lines of the jacket keep it simple and you can pull off wearing the Moab out to dinner after a day on the hill without looking like you’re wearing a ski jacket.
One thing that I would to have love to see with the Moab is a hooded option. On a versatile jacket a hood would cap the deal for me.
The Merrell Moab Softshell Jacket is a versatile jacket and a great price point.
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Moab Softshell Jacket]]>
Make your baselayers work a little bit harder. The Columbia Midweight Baselayers work harder for you with the addition of their Omni-Heat lining.
The Columbia Midweight Baselayers are a good all around baselayer for multi-season activities. In the fall and spring they work as stand alone layering pieces for cool weather exploits. I’ve found the top to be sufficient by itself for trail runs down into the 30s. In the winter they pair well as part of a layering system.
The Omni-Heat reflective lining helps keep in additional warmth. As Columbia says “keeping you up to 20% warmer”. When I first looked at the lining as I pulled the pieces out of the package I was skeptical. I thought it was going to feel like tin foil rubbing on my skin. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Omni-Heat lining is smooth and soft on the skin. I didn’t notice it at all and it’s surprisingly comfortable.
The 4-way comfort stretch fabric helps with mobility and keeps you from feeling restricted when you’re moving. The antimicrobial properties work wonders and you can even get away with wearing the pieces multiple times between washings. You know how typically with synthetic layers as you pull on your shirt for the second time you get repulsed by the stench? This isn’t the case with the Columbia Midweight baselayer. The antimicrobial properties keep the smell at bay.
The fit is definitely athletic. I’m 6 feet tall and 180 lbs and the large top and bottom fit me perfectly. One thing I will say on the fit is the arms are cut a little high so fits tight through the armpits.
On the bottoms, do yourselves a favor gents and get the pair with the fly. I don’t get why they’d make them without.
Looking for a solid baselayer to span multiple seasons? Get the Columbia Midweight Baselayers.
Buy Now: Columbia Midweight Baselayers]]>
I used to only think of Julbo as the glacier sunglasses company. That’s not the case anymore. Julbo gave me the chance to test and review the Julbo Orbiter Goggles and here’s what I thought.
First off, out of the box the Julbo Orbiter Goggles look great! Let’s face it, if you’re going to shell out more than $30 for goggles, you want a pair that look good. The Orbiter has good styles and the frame designs are clean.
The Orbiter is made to fit bigger faces, so ladies you’ll want to check out something like the Julbo Eclipse Goggles. I found the Orbiter extremely comfortable and can thank the breathable foam for that. After all day wear, I didn’t get any goggle fatigue. The Orbiter is also comfortable with a helmet. The strap “wings” (as I call them) position the strap to go with the curve of the helmet instead of making the strap stretch straight from the frame. This was huge in terms of on-helmet comfort. The Orbiter also comes with a strap extender so you don’t end up with foam imprints after wearing the goggles for awhile.
The strongest and most notable feature is the Camel lens. The Orbiter comes with a couple of lens options but just move past the rest and go straight for the Camel. The Camel lens is a polarized photochromatic lens. For the uninitiated, photochromatic is essentially a “transition” lens that changes from light to dark based on the amount of sunlight. The Camel lens is rated as a “2-4″ on the scale which means it does well in relatively low-light conditions to bright conditions. The product photo shows the lens at the lightest and my photo shows it at it’s darkest. Throw in the polarized coating and you have a lens that is hard to beat.
All that combined makes the Orbiter an awesome goggle. I already have a favorite goggle but now I am having to reconsider my choice.
The Julbo Orbiter Goggles is a great goggle and worth every penny.
Buy Now: Pick up the Julbo Orbiter Goggles]]>
As temperatures have been steadily in the negative twenties for the past couple of weeks up here in the Great White North, I’ve taken up a new hobby to thaw out- hot yoga. Nothing reminds your body of its own capability to sweat like working out in a 105 degree room for an hour and a half. For yoga class as of late, I’ve been wearing my new Moving Comfort Flow pants and Charity Sports bra to give them a good test.
Check ‘em out: Moving Comfort Flow Pants
Check it out: Moving Comfort Charity Sports Bra
For just a couple of seasons now, Sierra Designs has been turning out some great gloves. But in my opinion with the Transporter glove they have now hit the mark almost dead-on, design-wise. Let me tell you why these gloves have become my go-to glove every day this ski season…
First of all, they are an under-the-cuff design. I prefer under-the-cuff, for the simple look it provides and that you don’t have a gauntlet bunching up all your jacket around your wrist. Sure, sometimes when you take a digger you’ll get some snow on your wrist. But that’s not a big price to pay for much more comfort, in my view.
Second, the leather (which covers about 80% of the exterior of the glove) is very soft and supple. The touch they provide is perfect when holding ski poles or buckling boots, or trying to blindly grasp a zipper pull on your pit zips. Many gloves think that stuffing the glove with lots of insulation and wrapping it in Cordura and tough rubber palms will make them perfect for skiing. But the fact is, no matter how insulated your gloves are, your hands will get cold real quickly if they are so bulky that you constantly have to take them off to zip your jacket, buckle your boots, etc, etc, etc. The Transporter eliminate this practice of off-and-on almost entirely, because the fine leather makes them perfect for all-day use.
Third, the gloves have burly knuckle guards — which I always appreciate. Good for smacking away tree branches when skiing in the glades gets a little tight. The burly knuckle guard on the back of the hand are about the only piece of non-leather material on the gloves. The knuckle guards on the back of the fingers are black leather.
Also, I love the lining material — very plush, without pulling inside-out when you take the gloves on and off. This is a huge advantage over so many other gloves. If they come inside-out, for me that is a real annoyance — sometimes a deal breaker. You won’t find that with the Transporter glove.
Finally, I love the out-stitching on the palm-side of the fingers. Almost everywhere else on the glove it uses normal sleek stitching (so that the bead of the closure is internal and not visible). But the out-stitching on the palm-side edges of the fingers provides just enough grippy feel to make it much easier carrying skis than if they used the same smooth seam the rest of the glove uses.
I really only have one complaint — and that is that I wish it came in some really bold colors. I don’t mind the tan “work glove” sort of look. Kind of a cool, utilitarian “ski patroller” look. A tough guy look. Pretty cool. But I do get people joking that it looks like I have my yard gloves on, and I’m going to go rake some leaves once the lifts close! But honey badger don’t care. When I was working at the slope-side ski shop cranking bindings for tourists, I skied in my tan all leather work gloves most of the time! So I could do my ski shop work, and blaze out the door for some turns whenever a free minute came up without taking a minute to change gloves. But I think this Transporter glove is so well built, a great glove that many folks would love, that instead of just tan & black leather I would absolutely love to see this glove in red and black leather. Or blue and white leather. Or hey —- why not lime green? It is a great glove that performs, and as such it can afford to amp up the colors of the leather if it wants to.
If you are in the market for gloves, I very highly recommend these gloves. They aren’t big heater gloves for polar expeditions, but for almost any sort of ski day in the Rockies they are certainly warm enough and the all-leather feel gives them great dexterity.
SHOP NOW: Search for Sierra Designs gear.]]>
You may not personally be familiar with all of Baffin‘s gear, but if you’ve ever watched National Geographic shows about the North and South Poles, you have certainly seen it in action. Baffin builds what many consider to be the world’s burliest boots for polar expeditions. They also build the yellow down puffy winter suits that many polar explorers rely on to stay warm and protected in the harshest conditions on the planet. They certainly deserve the brand name Baffin, named after Baffin Island in the Arctic regions of Canada.
Baffin has now tapped much of the same design expertise that makes their polar gear exceptional and built an impressive set of snowmobile boots for you sledheads out there. Top of the line is the Baffin Pivot, and it is an exceptional boot for riding — head and shoulders above the recreational boots you’ll find out there.
The Baffin Pivot is built with very tough carbon weave leather throughout, as well as injected rubber and a toothy sole with multi-directional tread. It has a very plush and warm interior build, especially the footbed, and is rated to -97F. Though I’m not an ice road trucker, I’ve been in some bitterly cold conditions and this boot is up to the task.
In addition to the warmth and the general toughness of this boot, there are a couple of things that really impressed me. First of all, the sole is sturdy to the point of being able to toe-punch into tough uphill conditions when necessary. If you’ve ever been in this situation before, you know how frustrating it can be trying to stomp up a slick hill in more flexibly-soled shoes.
Secondly, while the shin area isn’t hard-shell impact material, it certainly is tough enough to possibly save you some bad bruises should you do an unexpected “flip over the handlebars” dismount from your machine. I am not (ahem) necessarily admitting (ahem) to having taken many such ungraceful tumbles…but this boot does make you feel more comfortable should such an event occur.
Lastly, the closure for the Baffin Pivot is a boa-style dial closure. I love it. It is very convenient, and creates a very snug and minutely-customizable fit. It is super easy to use, once you realize that to release the boa you just pull it outward and the whole dial just pops out a little bit to allow you to spread open the boot leg. Very convenient, well-built. You do need to be aware that the dial on the back Achilles area of the boot sticks out about a quarter inch or so, which means if the lower-leg of your pants is a slim fit style then it can get hung up on the dial. But usually your riding pants will be baggy so this shouldn’t be a concern. One other note: If you have to hop onto your 4-wheeler to plow the driveway to the cabin or something, the size of the toe of the Pivot makes it a bit difficult to shift a manual transmission. This, obviously, isn’t really a concern for snowmobile riding.
All in all, I was quite impressed. I’m a size 12 or 12.5 in street shoes, and the size 13 boot was the right thing for me to be able to fit a warm wool sock. If you are a fellow sledhead, I can’t think of a better (or warmer) boot for most riding conditions.
SHOP NOW: Search for more Baffin gear.]]>
With the Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves gone are the days of frozen hands and fingers. Columbia gave me a pair of gloves to test this winter and here’s what I thought.
When I first heard about the Columbia Electric products I was highly skeptical. Adding electric heat to products has been tried in the past, rather unsuccesfully. This time around though, I think Columbia is on to something.
The Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves are an all around good glove. First let’s look at the heat. Operation is easy, just press the Columbia logo on the back of each glove. The heat comes in three modes: high, medium, and low. The button alternates colors when on: red for high, yellow for medium, green for low. On a full battery charge you’ll get 2.5 hours on high, 3 hours on medium, 4 hours on low. The heat that is produced is more of a slow, radiating heat as opposed to a burst of heat. I’ve found the best heat performance comes from preheating the gloves before my hands were cold. The gloves will heat your hands back up after they are cold, but with the slow, radiating heat it does take some time. It won’t be quick like a typical hand warmer.
The gloves charge via micro-USB and take about 3 hours to charge. What I like about the cords is they are a micro-USB to USB combo which gives you a few different options for charging using the single cord and any available USB port. The gloves do come with everything necesary to charge, including 2 USB cables, 1 USB wall adapter, plus international adapter plugs.
The gloves are lined with Omni-Heat reflective fabric which is supposed to reflect the heat that would ordinarily dissipate out of the glove back into the glove. I did find that the thumbs aren’t heated. A little research shows a heating wire may cross the thumb but my thumbs still got cold.
Without the heat, the Bugaglove is still a great winter glove. I found it preferrable for skiing. The goatskin leather is durable and very weather resistent. It’s pliable, even in cold conditions. The gauntlets are long which is great when skiing or anytime you have to dig around in the snow. The gloves are bulky so dexterity is compromised similar to what you see for most winter gloves. The Outdry fabric is awesome and it definitely keeps your hands dry.
My biggest gripe with the glove is there isn’t a soft nose wipe. The specs say it’s there but it’s not. Any amount of time spend outside, especially skiing, and your nose is going to run. Goatskin leather isn’t very good at wiping or absorbing.
Sizing is good. I normally wear a size XL glove because I have long fingers. The XL in the Bugaglove fits me perfectly.
Overall I’ve had a good experience with the Bugaglove. Are they worth $399? I’d be hard-pressed to say yes. It’s a cool concept but I don’t think it’s worth it, yet. If you have the money to burn, go for it.
Columbia is definitely on to something and I’m looking forward to future iterations of Electric.
Warm glove, good glove, cool concept. If you have the money, spend it.
Buy Now: Pick up the Columbia Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves]]>
I’ve been sold on minimalist running shoes for about a year now. The Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe is a nice addition to your running shoe arsenal.
The Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe is very similar to the Trail Glove shoes. You can read my review of the Trail Glove here.
The Sonic Glove and the Trail Glove are very similar. The Sonic Glove shoes are relatively lightweight, the Omni-Fit lacing allows for a precise fit, and soles are very similar. The soles give great performance on dry trails but do slip around a little on muddy trails and in the snow.
The biggest differences between the Sonic Glove and the Trail Glove are: upper, lacing, and breatheability.
The upper is a softshell material. It provides greater protection over the mesh of the Trail Glove from the elements. While not totally waterproof, it does shed some water. It’s also great for dusty trails. It really helps keep the dust out of the shoe. One potential drawback that I’ve found is the breatheability isn’t quite as good as mesh. On hot days, this could be an issue. But for cooler weather I’ve liked it.
The lacing changed up a little too. The biggest difference is there are four “loop” eyelets vs five on the Trail Glove. I haven’t noticed any performance differences between 4 vs 5. I still get a great fit when tying my shoes. I don’t have to cinch them quite as tight since the softshell doesn’t stretch as much as the mesh.
Sizing still runs about the same, a little big. If you’re between sizes, you could likely go a half size down and be fine.
I think Merrell hit a home run with the Trail Glove and Sonic Glove is no exception. Very similar shoe but will fit a different set of needs.
The Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe is a great minimalist shoe. Good for running in variable weather.
Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Sonic Glove Running Shoe]]>
The highly versatile Outdoor Research Havoc Jacket is a jacket that could fit just about everyone’s needs.
In short, the Outdoor Research Havoc Jacket is one of the best jackets I own. It’s lightweight, versatile, and extremely comfortable. Outdoor Research got so many things right with the Havoc.
The lightweight Primaloft insulation is just enough to help take the chill off on chilly fall days and when paired with a nice mid-layer it’s great for cold winter days. The Havoc packs down to be about the size of small loaf of bread so it won’t take up much room in your pack.
I was skeptical of the value on Windstopper on an insulated jacket. I’m sold though. I think the lightweight nature of the jacket would let the wind though. The combo of the insulation and the Windstopper gives the Havoc an edge on the cold.
I couldn’t believe how comfortable the Havoc is. I’ve worn it all day (literally all day) and I didn’t get of of the typical annoyances you get with other jackets when you wear them all day. It’s also at home just anywhere from keeping you warm on the chair, as a belay jacket, hiking, and camping (even works for biking around town in the winter time).
A couple of notes on the hood: it’s insulated, adjustable, can fit over a climbing helmet (but not a ski helmet), and it’s non-removable. It also doesn’t “stow away” at all.
Hand warmer pockets are fleece-lined and roomy. Internal pocket does has a headphone port if you’re into that sort of thing. The jacket stows in one of the hand pockets.
The fit is nice as well. It does run “true to size”. I’m 6 feet, 180 lbs, and the large fits me nicely. It does have room so if you wear a mid-layer (I’ve worn it with a fleece before) you won’t be feeling squeezed.
Hands down the Outdoor Research Havoc Jacket is one of the best jackets I’ve owned. It’s made it’s way into my permanent collection.
Buy Now: Pick up the Outdoor Research Havoc Jacket]]>
Keep your feet toasty warm and comfortable with the Keen Howser Wool Slip On shoe.
Keen has been on a roll lately. Every pair of shoes or boots I’ve tested, I’ve loved. The Wool Howser is no exception. Intended to be a slipper, I’ve taken to wearing it to work on a semi-regular basis. The Wool Howser is comfortable slip on shoe, and offers just the right amount of warmth. Your feet won’t be sweating but they won’t be freezing either. I love them! The elastic side panels allow for easy entry into the shoes. I have mid-height arches and the Howsers fit fine and are easy to slip on and off.
Check ‘em Out: Keen Howser Wool Slippers]]>
Osprey is the backpack brand that many others aspire to be. It is focused squarely on extremely well-designed high end packs as a primary competence. As such, it can charge more than many other brands can. Because if you’ve ever tried an Osprey pack, you know that it is built like a German car — endlessly engineered for performance, above all. My favorite Osprey feature? The easy-to-grab zipper pulls, shaped like an O. It’s an ingenious tiny little thing that makes them so much easier to use.
With a long-time reputation for performance long-trek backpacks, Osprey also offers packs for the growing segment of backcountry skiers and snowboarders who simply need a sidecountry excursion pack. The Osprey Karve 16 is precisely that: an excursion pack.
The Karve 16 is named as such because in the M/L size it has a gear capacity of 16 liters (or, 980 cubic inches). That makes it quite small — not a full daypack, compared with most backcountry ski packs (for comparison, the ubiquitous Dakine Heli Pro ski pack is 1200 cubic inches). But definitely a nice, compact size for resort skiing at Alta or Alpental when you never know if you might pop out to the backcountry for a run. So the Karve is appropriately dubbed as a sidecountry pack, and that’s what I believe it to be ideal for: carrying your hydration pouch, skins, a small avy shovel and probe, and that’s about it. Maybe a ProBar or two.
But for being such a compact pack, it has some excellent features. It has a diagonal ski carry system which, once you get it figured out, is ideal for carrying today’s wider skis. Thankfully most Osprey gear comes with a small instruction manual that you’ll want to study to get the most out of it.
The Karve is lightweight, which is one of its best qualities. It weighs in at just an ounce over two pounds. It sports a pocket for your hydration bladder, and stowage for your straw in the shoulder strap to save it from freezing. It also has external sleeves that are just large enough for a probe and a shovel handle, with a back panel for the shovel blade. The Karve also boasts diagonal compression straps and a small “personals” pocket on the back for wallet, cell phone, keys, etc. The main panel compartment can hold your skins, but not much else. And of course the pack’s suspension has a hip belt and sternum strap, and a well-structured spine panel.
As a sidecountry pack, the Osprey Karve 16 is an excellent pack. For full days in the backcountry, you’ll probably want something more sizable. But for trips out into the North and South backcountry at Crystal Mountain for example? Or a quick spin on a snowmobile? Osprey appears to have hit the high mark once again.
SHOP: Search for more Osprey gear.]]>
With 100% recycled polyester lining, 650 fill power down filling and a stylish design, Horny Toad’s Geisha Vest attempts to merge stylish form and function into one.
Normally, I am quite a fan of Horny Toad’s clothes and designs. On paper, the Geisha vest looked like a super cute idea. However, when I got the vest, I was a bit disappointed. While the design looks cute, the sizing was super off and the exterior material was not my favorite texture. Usually a size “small” in most clothing items/gear, I was swimming in the Small Geisha Vest. I think that even an Extra Small would have been quite large. Both the torso length and the width were inches too big. Sorry Horny Toad, while I normally love your products, this one is a swing and a miss for me!
That being said, the Geisha vest has a lot of great features, and would be a great, stylish-yet-functional piece if it fit! The asymmetrical zipper adds a bit of flair to your average down vest that you don’t usually see. I love that Horny Toad has moved towards using recycled materials in their clothing, including the 100% recycled lining of the Geisha Vest.
Horny Toad Geisha Vest]]>
Looking to film your latest epic? Consider the Drift HD Point-of-View Camera for your filming needs, especially if you’ve got some mad filming skills and are looking for a camera that can keep up with them.
Never having owned a Point-of-View camera before (or a video camera, for that matter), I was super stoked to take the Drift out backcountry skiing with me to chronicle some of the amazing terrain I have the opportunity to be skiing right now. After about a month of use, I have what is far from epic footage and a healthy respect for people who can make their own helmet cam videos look remotely cool. While the Drift is relatively easy to operate, capturing that perfect segment of shredding from an angle that makes it look rad as opposed to flat and boring is not nearly so simple. I’m definitely still working on that! However, since I’m reviewing the Drift and not my own personal cinematography skills, lets get to that.
Overall, the Drift has some amazing features. The 170 degree lens allows you to really get the scope of the terrain you’re in or on. The remote allows for easy on and off of the camera, and saves you battery life and editing time later on. The Drift is also the only POV camera that comes with an LCD screen, which I love! You can see what you’re filming, ensure that the camera is in fact on and ready to go, and you can also navigate the menu from looking at that LCD screen. The menu allows you to edit the camera settings, the settings of the video itself (1080p or 720p, adjust frames per second, etc), and the settings of the still photo mode (frame rate).
While I like (ok, LOVE) the remote, and like the LCD display, I honestly didn’t use too many of the other features. I’d toss the camera on my goggles at the top of the climb, press the button to turn it on, and then use the remote to start recording. Overall, that’s about what I wanted out a point of view camera- just point and shoot. I’m hoping to continue to learn about the features and utilize them more, but at this point, they just weren’t something I needed.
Drift seems to have gone above and beyond in their selection of features for the Drift HD. The remote (yup, we’re talking about that again) not only allows you to start and stop video without banging at your head, but it provides a “beep” noise when the button has been pushed to let you know that you’ve started/stopped filming. The lens itself is replaceable, so if you accidentally scratch it, your whole camera isn’t trashed. The rotating lens allows for mounting on the side of a helmet or the top of a helmet while still filming the same thing. The Drift HD comes with a low-light/night filming mode, which is awesome up here when the sun doesn’t come up til 10:30am. Along with an integrated microphone, the Drift HD comes with the capability of hooking up an external mic, so you could get clear, crisp narration if you wanted. All of these smaller features really indicate that Drift has put a lot of thought into the Drift HD.
Drift HD Camera]]>
New for the 2011/2012 season, the K2 SideKick is just wider than the GotBacks (102 underfoot), but not as wide as any of the twin-tipped team skis, like the MissDirected (117 underfoot). A member of k2′s Backside Adventure series, the Sidekick became my primary backcountry ski for the beginning of the season. After a few months of skiing it, here’s my general impression.
The largest ski in K2′s Backside Adventure series, the Sidekick is advertised as the “do-it-all” pow slaying machine that will also keep a good, quick turn in the trees. After skiing on it for a few months, I’d say that’s mostly true. We’ve had an epic start to our season up here in AK, with each Sunday for the past 5 weeks bringing a massive storm that dumps between 30 and 40 inches. However, we’ve also had some crazy wind events, so I’ve had an opportunity to ski the SideKicks in both feet of fresh and on some more variable terrain. So far, I’ve been impressed. They have super decent float in deep snow, especially considering that they’re only 108 underfoot. The traditional camber helps for the hard pack sections, and All Terrain rocker keeps your tips up in both the pow and crud. I was most surprised at how “turny” the ski was on harder snow. I own a few other pairs of skis with a similar sidecut, but the combination of progressive sidecut and traditional camber on the SideKick makes it quite a snappy little ski. If you’re not really on the ski, you’ll suddenly find yourself facing uphill and wondering how the hell that happened. After skiing a few runs in-bounds, I got a much better feel for how to initiate a turn with the SideKicks, but that did seem to be the case across all conditions. She makes nice, tight turns if you’re on top of things, or runs amok the opposite direction if you’re half-a$*ing it. That being said, the SideKick maintains its float in the powder, and has no trouble straightlining down bigger lines and making beautiful, swooping, faceshot instigating turns. The All Terrain Rockered/early rise tip handled speed well- you won’t see the chatter that you often see with bigger, full rocker, non-cambered skis.
I mounted my SideKicks with a pair of the new Dynafit Radical ST bindings, so overall, it’s a lightweight and very backcountry oriented set-up. The features of all of K2′s BackSide Adventure series skis include flat tails, for easy plunging into the snow for anchor construction and holes drilled in the tip and tail which allows for emergency sled construction if need be. I have yet to need to utilize either of these features, but it seems like a sweet idea. I do, however, miss the rockered tails that most all my other skis have, which is sacrificed for the flat tail design of the BackSide Adventure series skis.
As I mentioned in my initial blurb about the SideKicks, K2′s skis seem to run long. I own a pair of Moment Reagans, size 168, an older pair of Karhu Berths, size 165, and when I stood my new K2s up next to them, I assumed that at 167, they’d sit right in the middle. Not so. They tower over the Reagans. I checked in with our local ski shop and the 167 seems to be on par with what all other ski companies call a 172-173. So, definitely check the skis out in person. They still skied great for me, but be sure to get a look at the ski before you order one- you might want to size down from what is your normal size, even with that All Terrain Rocker and early rise tip.
Overall, seems to be a great intermediate to advanced level ski. Skis the pow well, and turns well on hard pack if you know how to drive it.
K2 Sidekick Skis]]>
Seen any ladies running around in what looks like a puffy jacket, but they’re wearing it as a skirt? It’s most likely a Skhoop Skirt, an insulated, water resistant skirt made to be worn over your regular layers. A little skeptical about the idea of a skirt as a functional piece of clothing? So was I. Read on and you won’t be!
I am the first to admit that the idea of skirts for outdoor pursuits irritates me. The whole “running skirt” phenomenon was something I never understood. Why can’t you just wear shorts like everyone else? So, when I spent my first winter in Alaska and I saw the ENTIRE town that I live in wearing these Skhoop down skirts in the Fall and Winter, I was, of course, flummoxed. Here were these women that I considered rational, non-cutesy fashion obsessed, normal people, and they were all wearing some form of Skhoop skirt. Either it was the Rain Skirt in the fall, Insulated Long Skirt or the Short Down Skirts in the winter, but they were everywhere. What was I missing? Naturally, curiosity got the better of me, and I contacted Skhoop to see if I could test one for Gear.com and get the scoop (no pun intended) on these things.
As it turns out, Skhoop and all the ladies of Girdwood, AK were on to something. Unlike the running skirt craze, these Skhoop skirts are actually quite functional. Based out of Sweeden, Skhoop understands what living in a cold environment is like. When I wake up every morning and go to take my dog on a walk, there are usually several layers of down, a shell, mittens and a hat that come along with us. Even with all that, when the high is in the single digits, it’s still a bit chilly. Wearing a Skhoop skirt is much like wearing snow pants- it keeps your legs warm and insulated. However, there’s no battle with putting on a marshmellow-eqse pair of insulated pants over your jeans. Simply zip the skirt open, step in, and zip it closed. No pants changing required. Back in from your walk? Zip, slip off, done.
I am a down skirt convert. Like snow pants for adults, but more functional and less “marshmallow man” looking.
Skhoop makes several different types of skirts, and REI has just started carrying a selection of them:
Skhoop Skirts at REI
Or, for the one that I tried and loved:
Skhoop Short Down Skirt
Even more choices at www.Skhoop.us, Skhoop’s website.]]>
I’ve been running long distances in dark, early morning hours since I was in junior high in Seattle. And when you’re that far north, in the colder seasons it stays dark until late in the morning and the sun goes down early in the afternoon. My mother was always concerned when I ran the streets in the early morning, or in the evening after dark, and would insist I wear something white.
I haven’t given up my exercise routines as I’ve gotten older — the main difference is that now it’s my wife who is concerned when I run in the dark before work. And with good reason: some estimate that as many as 122,000 runners, pedestrians and cyclists are struck by cars each year. Often this happens as a result of poor visibility during low light conditions. But as this video shows, white clothing is not adequate. As you can see, only those wearing appropriate reflective material are visible from 1,000 feet away. Wearing white, you only begin to be visible at 250 feet — which is not adequate distance for a car to correct themselves to avoid hitting you. That is why 3M has launched a campaign to have everyone remember to wear “no white at night.”
New Balance collaborated with 3M to produce an exercise jacket that adheres to best practice principles of visibility, using Scotchlite Relfective Material. But New Balance isn’t just using a touch of it hear and there on a relfective logo as some manufacturers are. Instead, they have some principles that they are adhering to around using reflective material in enough quantity and in the right locations for cars to know that you are a living person and not just a reflective bit of material on a road sign or something. The jacket is 360 degree certified for visibility when viewed from any direction. To ensure cars can recognize you as such, it is important to have reflective material on the chest, back, and on your arms as they swing so that cars can notice the human motion as you run. For pants, according to 3M it’s important to have reflective material near the ankles and perhaps the knees and legs as well to show the motion of your body, too.
For the 360 Degree Jacket, New Balance has adhered to these principles. The jacket is a glossy black nylon material that is extremely lightweight — perfect as a windbreaker when exercising. But in addition they have striped it on the chest, back, and down the arms with 3M Scotchlite Reflective material. This gives me (and my wife) a lot more comfort when I run at the hours I have to run (early before work, or in the evening after dark). The inner mesh lining of this New Balance jacket is also a Hi-Viz flourescent yellow material, which can be turned inside out for emergency situations. Flourescent colors are most visible at dawn and twilight.
Beyond the safety features of the jacket, the fit is perfect for me. I am 5′ 11″ and 170 lbs, and the body allows movement without being baggy or boxy. The back is vented, and the sleeves have elastic wrists and aren’t too short (a pet peeve of mine). I have been using this jacket very happily from fall into December, even on very cold mornings, and my one complaint with the jacket is that when you put your hands through the sleeves the flourescent lining sometimes comes out the ends of the wrists a bit. The collar is a stand-up collar (not a hoodie) with a soft material on the edge of the neck.
Taken altogether, this jacket is an excellent jacket in my opinion for athletic activity along the roads in dark or darkening conditions. The jacket has an internal pocket for your mp3 player, as well as front pockets and an ICE (In Case of Emergency) identification tag. It retails at $90, and can sometimes be found for less.
SHOP: Search for more New Balance gear.]]>
I’ve been on the quest to find my “ideal” bike commuting rig. With the Marin Hamilton 29er (2011 model) I’ve come extremely close.
First off, I’ve been riding the 2011 model and when comparing specs to the 2012 model, they are basically identical with some “accent” differences. With that said, here we go!
All around, as a commuting bike, the Marin Hamilton 29er is awesome. It’s steel so it can handle the abuse of the daily commute through the streets, it comes with all the attachment points for your various accessories, it’s simple in design and components, and almost most importantly, it’s fun to ride! Everything I’d expect from a commuting bike.
Taking a deeper dive…The Hamilton 29er features a more upright riding position. It’s great for around to check your surroundings, looking over/around cars, and other obstacles to your view. The WTB Vigo seat is comfortable, after a few hours running errands I wasn’t saddle sore. The bars are fairly wide. If I had the time, I’d probably chop an inch off each end. If I rode in heavy traffic or was riding between lines of cars, I’d go for shorter bars. That said, the wide bars give good control and add to the comfortable riding stance.
The Hamilton 29er does come with all the attachment points I’d expect for a commute bike: Front and rear fender mounts and front and rear rack mounts. For being a commute focused bike, Marin did miss a couple things in regards to the mounts. One, on the front fork the distance from the crown to the top of the tire is almost 3 inches! To get my fender close to the tire, I had to go buy a metal mounting plate strap from the hardware store to close the distance (photo to the right). Then the spacing on the rear was a little off and the rear fender didn’t fit quite right. I had to do a little tweaking to get it to sit just right.
In terms of components, I think Marin did a great job picking most of what went on the bike. Most all of it (exception for rear cog, more on that later) have held strong and I haven’t had to do a lot of adjusting. I’ve put about 500 miles on the bike and there aren’t many signs of wear. Sure the components are on the lower end of the spectrum but they are sturdy and I wouldn’t want expensive stuff on my commuter.
My biggest gripe with the bike is the Sturmey-Archer kickback 2 speed hub and the cog that came with the bike. I love the idea of the kickback two speed. It’s extremely handy. You still get the simplicity of riding a single speed but you have a little flexibility in terms of gearing. I love the idea. The problem was, the hub was very finicky at the start. First, a seal came loose and I was dropping grease. I got that fixed. Then it wouldn’t shift. It was almost as if something internally broke. I don’t know, I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t dare take it apart. I was given a new hub. Then twice, the rear cog stripped off of the rear axle. The cog that comes with the bike is flimsy. It is held to the axle via three small teeth. When cranking hard (from a stop) the teeth were shorn clean off. I went through two cogs before the bike shop bought me a nice Shimano cog. I haven’t had issues with this since. I also haven’t had any more issues with the kickback hub.
Now more on the kickback hub: it took a little getting use to. It was hard to get the right motion down, the right amount of kickback to change gears. Then I had times where I’d roll back just a hair (not noticing when coasting) and all of a sudden I’d be in the easy gear. Once I got the motions down though it’s been great. I mostly ride in the hard gear. The easy gear lets up just enough for hills, headwinds, or tired days.
The wheels and tires have been awesome too. Once again, Marin nailed it. Yes they aren’t expensive, flashy wheels, but you don’t want that for the commuter. You want workhorse and workhorse is exactly what you get. The Alex doublewall rims have run true over the 500 miles I’ve put them, even after hitting a couple potholes and catching curbs. The Continental Town Ride tires are more puncture resistant that your typical tire which is nice. I have flatted from a staple (you’ll flat anyway with from a staple) and a couple of goatheads though. The Town Ride tires are going to be long lasting too. 500 miles and they barely show any wear and tear. My guess is I’ll get a couple of thousand miles on them, easy.
Front tire attaches via quick release, rear features horizontal, track style dropouts with a threaded axle.
Weight wise, it’s pretty heavy. Once again though, I don’t care for the commuter bike. I’m not weight conscious, especially with the front and rear racks, slime tubes, and Mr. Tuffy Strips.
The Hamilton 29er does come with basic platform pedals, I quickly changed these out for some Crank Brothers Candy Pedals.
Overall, the Hamilton 29er is an awesome commuting bike. Yes it does have its shortcomings but the pros far outweigh the cons. This is the best commuting bike I’ve owned and I look forward to years of use out of it.
The Marin Hamilton 29er is an awesome commuting bike. It’s sturdy, has the features to make it versatile to your commute, and hits a great price point. You’d be hard pressed to go wrong with it as your commuting bike.
Buy Now: Pick up a Marin Hamilton 29er]]>
Looking to take on any trail? The LOWA S-Cruise GTX Trail Running Shoes will take on just about anything you can throw at them.
The LOWA S-Cruise GTX Trail Running Shoes are inspired by the LOWA hiking boot line but with a focus on “fast”. I did find, though, that the S-Cruise is more of a hiking shoe than a trail running shoe. The last, footbed, and shank are more conducive to hiking than running. For hiking I found it performed very well. For running I didn’t like as much. For short distances they were all right. Anything longer than a couple of miles and I was wishing I was wearing a different trail running shoe.
Taking that frame of mind, the S-Cruise GTX is a good hiking shoe. The aggressive tread and stiff shank provide a stable platform. Lateral stability is high. The GORE-Tex keeps your feet dry when it’s wet out. It even helps keep your feet a little warmer when it’s cold. On hot days though, the GORE-Tex doesn’t breathe as well as a shoes without it (that’s a given, it makes sense).
The S-Cruise has a great fit. They run “true to size” and conform nicely to your foot. They were comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I didn’t ever run into issues with rubbing or hot spots on my feet. The Ortholite footbed hugs the bottom of your foot providing good arch support.
The S-Cruise is a well-made shoe. Construction is sturdy and I haven’t seen any signs of excessive wear in my time testing it.
The LOWA S-Cruise GTX Trail Running Shoe is a good shoe for all around trail tackling with more of an emphasis on hiking.
Buy Now: Pick up some LOWA S-Cruise GTX Trail Running Shoes]]>
Icebreaker, the veritable king of the wool world, has your back if you still don’t have a gift for that active individual on your holiday gift list. The Icebreaker Tech Top, a midweight base layer, has almost all the functional features you’d want, and will keep the winter chill away for any outdoor activity.
After making the Tech Top my go to piece for my last several ski tours, I am loving it! I have worn it for 10+ tours and haven’t washed it yet- no stench! For my full “wool vs. synthetic” commentary, see my review of the Icebreaker GT 260 Express Leggings (which, coincidentally, I have worn on all the tours I’ve had the Tech Top out for). The heavier weight wool provides ample warmth on the cooler days, but might be overkill for the milder days.
A great cool weather layering piece that keeps the stink at bay.
Icebreaker Tech Top]]>
Looking for a gift for the lady on your list who likes to look stylish but only if it doesn’t mean sacrificing functionality and comfort? The Keen Shelby High Boots might be right up her alley. A fully waterproof leather boot without a heel, the Shelby looks super style-y with a corduroy skirt and some tights, yet doesn’t require changing into snow boots each time you need to walk outside.
I have always loved Keen’s outdoor oriented shoes, and thought I’d give their “Boulevard Line,” shoes best suited for more casual use, a try. Keen seems to do as well with casual shoes as they do their hiking boots- I love my Shelbys! Living in a rain forest, the idea of owning leather boots just seemed silly. However, when I saw that the Shelbys came with the Keen.Dry technology that I know and trust, I figured I could give leather boots a try. So far, they’ve stood up to the downpours up here, and appear to be no worse for the wear.
Check Em’ Out: Keen Shelby High Boots]]>
K2 has been working hard to develop a wider selection of backcountry equipment, known as their “BackSide” line. From shovels to probes, K2 is really ramping up production of items that a resort to backcountry convert might need. Among the BackSide line is K2′s Trim-To-Fit Climbing Skins, climbing skins compatible with k2 skis only.
I’ve been using the K2 SideKick skis with my K2 Trim-To-Fit skins a fair amount so far this backcountry season. It’s been dumping since early November, and backcountry season has been jamming. When I first received my K2 Trim-To-Fit skins, I was stoked to see that their skin trimming tool follows the same principle that G3′s does, since I loved that one so much last year. Trimming skins no longer requires the painful “lay the skin down, trim one edge, move it over, swear about how you didn’t reposition it right, do it again, eventually get the other side trimmed” action that other companies skin trimming tools require (come on Black Diamond, get with the program). The offset skin trimming tool was easy to use, though not quite as precise as I’d like in a few areas. If you stray away from the ski edge by a micro-millimeter, and then wish to give the skin a second pass to ensure your whole edge has the exact same amount of ski edge showing, it’s tough to do with this tool. However, if you get it right the 1st time, you’re stoked. Super easy, takes less than 5 minutes per ski!
So far, my favorite part of the K2 Trim-To-Fit Skins is the attachment system. Currently being the owner of a pair of G3 skins, a pair of Black Diamond fixed length skins and a pair of Black Diamond’s GlideLite Skins, I can say, without a doubt, that K2′s attachment system is the most secure, easiest to manipulate and least likely to get snagged on errant alders, branches or other skinning hazards. That being said, I think it’s also the downside of the skin in the sense that you can’t use it if you don’t have holes in your skis. So, you’re looking at drilling your skis, or simply only using these skins if you have K2 skis.
In terms of glide, traction and general skinning ability, I’d say I would rank the skins somewhere in the middle of the pack. The glide isn’t nearly as smooth as other skins, and definitely a bit more work. Hopefully with that decreased glide comes increased long term durability. They’re holding up so far, but we’ll see at the end of the season. Uphill traction seems to be on par with my G3 Skins, and slightly less than my beefy Black Diamond Ascension Skins.
The “Glue Saver” or skin saver sheet with these is awful. Flimsy and very prone to attracting dog hair. Toss it, immediately, or you’ll accidentally cover your skins in the crap that had radiated towards the skin saver. Personally, I don’t ever use the skin saver sheets on any of my skins, but the material on this one is not your traditional “plastic coated screen” material, and whatever it is, it seemed to have a static cling that drew dust, dirt, human hair and dog hair right to it. Not what I want on my skins.
A great choice if you’ve got K2 Skis. Moderate glide, moderate traction and a great attachment system.
K2 Trim to Fit Climbing Skins]]>
From the rugged Teton Mountains, Mountain Khakis delivers apparel for the rugged mountain lifestyle. Recently, I’ve had the chance to check out several of their latest styles and the style and function is perfect for unpredictable conditions both in and out of the mountains.
Just like its namesake, the Old Faithful Sweater offers classic styling and comfort for all-day adventure. The full-zip front makes this sweater feel much like a jacket, but its fitted enough to wear underneath a shell, if needed. The fit and look of the Old Faithful is very classic and clean, making it one of the more versatile pieces I’ve seen in the Mountain Khakis line.
Available in Oatmeal, Storm Blue and Charcoal with a $119.95 msrp. shop now
One of the staples of any wardrobe is the classic henley. The Trapper offers extreme comfort and, like all Mountain Khakis apparel, is built to withstand heaps of abuse. The all-natural cotton/superfine merino wool blend makes for an extra-comfortable shirt as a layering piece in the Winter or to slap on in a cool Summer evening.
Available in Engine Red, Loden, Granite and Navy with a $54.95 msrp. shop now
A classic canvas jacket screams mountain lifestyle and the Stagecoach Jacket fits right in. The proprietary cotton canvas material is tough and ready for work. The nylon-lined sleeves make for easy on/off without bunching your sleeves up your arm and bombproof construction make this jacket extra-sturdy for years of abuse.
Available in Yellowstone, Ranch, Pine and Granite with a $154.95 msrp. shop now
Buy Now: Search for Mountain Khakis Apparel]]>
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the most important factors to consider when bike commuting is making sure you are seen by those nearby. The Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light helps ensure that you are. The updated specs and flash pattern plus 100 hour battery life help ensure that motorists will see you from behind.
The Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light is very similar to the “regular” Planet Bike Superflash Tail Light. Same body design, same attachment. The main differences come in the LEDs, flash pattern, and reflector.
The Superflash Turbo features a one-watt Power LED, twice the wattage of the regular Superflash. The one-watt is bright! It is still paired with two smaller red LEDs for increased visibility. Even with the larger wattage battery life clocks in up to 100 hours, same as the Superflash. I haven’t run the batteries out yet! With that in mind, I haven’t been able to test to see if the lights begin to dim as you near the end of the battery life.
The flash pattern has been changed up from past models. It is still very attention grabbing and will get you noticed. It can best be described as an off-tempo strobe that alternates between super bright and bright flashes with the one-watt bulb. The smaller lights give a more consistent strobe. Video below demonstrates the strobe.
The reflector is clear with a red cover over the one-watt bulb. It is clear on the sides, giving you 180 degrees of visibility from the rear.
The Superflash Turbo does come with the bike mount along with a clothing clip on the back of the light so you can slide it onto a pack strap or onto your belt. The clip is replaceable, which is a huge plus for me. I’ve broken clips on similar lights in the past and have to buy whole new lights to because of this small failure. This really showcases to me the thought that Planet Bike puts into their lights.
One downfall is the Superflash Turbo doesn’t have a battery life indicator.
Be visible with the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light. Planet Bike makes some of the best lights out there and the Superflash Turbo is no exception.
Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light]]>
I’ve been a fan of Montrail for a number of years. I’ve been a little let down to not see a minimalist shoe in their line up yet. The Montrail Rogue Racer Trail Running Shoe is a step closer to a true minimalist shoe.
The Montrail Rogue Racer Trail Running Shoe is an all around good shoe. While it’s not truly a “minimalist” shoe, Montrail did cut down on the padding, giving a better feel underfoot. The padding is still enough to absorb most of the irregularities in the trail. You might start to feel it on the rockiest of trails but for the most part you should be good to go.
The mesh upper lends itself to helping your feet stay cool on hot days. I didn’t notice excessive stretching or movement that you usually get with a lot of mesh shoes.
Fit was true to size and secure. I was able to cinch the shoes down enough to keep my foot stable, even on variable trails.
Tread is aggressive enough to give good traction on dirt, rocks, and mud.
If you run a mix of trails and road the Rogue Racer would be a good shoe. I’ve spent time on both trails and roads in these shoes and they cross over nicely. Additionally, the lower padding and flexibility of the shoe allow for a forefoot strike that isn’t awkward.
Great all around, low padding shoe.
Buy Now: Pick up the Montrail Rogue Racer Trail Running Shoe]]>
Winter is in full swing up here, which means that both Alpine and Nordic ski season are jamming. For me and my dog Baker, this means more opportunities to practice skijoring using our Ruffwear Omnijore Joring Harness System. What is Joring? Joring is any sport where your dog essentially pulls you while you are moving as well. While skijoring is certainly the most common, with the release of the Ruffwear Omnijore Joring Harness system, Ruffwear has opened the doors to all sorts of joring activities. Mountain Bike-joring, skijoring, mountain board-joring, skatejoring… Whatever you want do do, Ruffwear makes it so that your dog can come along, and pull you along the way.
Baker and I have been practicing our skijoring for about a month now, and while Baker still needs some work, the Omnijore harness has been great! For many years, the only way you could get a skijoring harness was to order a specifically sized harness for your dog, much like a sled-dog harness. If you wanted a harness for any other sort of joring, your options were limited to modifying a skijoring harness to meet your needs. The Omnijore is a huge leap forward in technology- Ruffwear has taken its great harness design and made it into a functioning joring harness that is adjustable, making the sport much more accessible to the general population.
The system breaks down into three separate parts, and Greg with Ruffwear gives you the full low down on how to attach, adjust and fit each piece here in this YouTube video.
Overall, I found it very easy to use and to adjust for my dog and I. The harness slips easily on and off Baker, and the under-belly strap clips on very easily. I had to adjust the harness for the first time that we were using it, and after that, it was all ready to go. All of the webbing that surrounds your dog has a sleeve over it, so as to avoid chafing and discomfort. Of course, the Omnijore harness still come with the same great features we’ve come to expect from Ruffwear’s regular dog harnesses- a burly handle, in case you need to help your 4 legged friend up into the car or unexpectedly have a need to pick them up, a light loop, to attach a Ruffwear Beacon or other safety light to, in case you’re joring in darker conditions, and easily adjustable straps.
The human harness is great as well- I love that it comes with a built in water bottle holder and snack pouch. While I’ve been using it, I’ve left the leg loops on. If you and your dog are new to joring, I would recommend using them for a while! As Baker and I start and stop moving, the motions are not always the most fluid, and the leg loops help to keep the harness from riding too far up or down. My only complaint with the human harness is that it might not go small enough for all users. Ruffwear’s website says that it fits waists from 27 inches to 48 inches. At 5’4″ and 120 lbs, I have to cinch down the waist belt to the max to get it to stay on, and I know I’m not the smallest woman out there on Nordic skis! Layering helps, but keep the waist belt size in mind if you’re looking to purchase the Omnijore and you’re on the smaller size of life.
The towline, the third and final piece of the Omnijore, mimics the construction of Ruffwear’s Roamer leash, with a few modifications. The internal bungee core allows for some shock absorption, which is nice while you and your hound are still learning to jore. The end of the towline attaches to the dog harness with Ruffwear’s Talon Clip, which is easy to operate even with gloves on, and is color coded so you remember which end goes to the human and which end goes to the dog. The end attaching to the human harness allows for full range of motion from side to side, so you won’t get pulled off the trail immediately if Fido decides to veer slightly to the left!
A well though out, well designed harness system for you and your hound. If only the Omnijore also guaranteed good joring skills out of my dog!
Ruffwear Omnijore Harness System
When I pack for a trip, whether it’s a backpacking trip, a climbing trip, or a visit home to family, the first thing I dig out is the bag I’m going to take. The second thing I grab is my old pile of Black Diamond climbing harness bags. Yes, you read that right. Old harness bags. You know, those mesh zippy things? I organize my packing inside those climbing harness bags. Or, I should say, I used to. When eBags approached Gear.com and asked us to test out their Bags by eBags Packing Cubes, I realized that the climbing harness bags were out of work. Heard of the eBags website before? These packing cubes are eBags’ own brand of packing product.
I have always been a fan of organizing my packing, as I explained above. However, I’ve always made do with old, ratty, and now stinky climbing harness bags. Each time my friends scored a new harness, I would hound them to keep the bag. Now, thanks to Bags by eBags Packing Cubes, I won’t have to do that any more. And, I won’t have to try and make all of my belongings conform to the single size of a harness bag. For a trip home, I like to keep my pants and shirts in one compartment, socks/underwear/bras in another, and pajamas/sweatshirts in another compartment. Then, well, I naturally have to have a separate compartment for my toiletries. The packing cubes allow me to do all these things, and they stack so nicely on top of each other. It’s organization on a whole new level, and it thrills me. Climbing trips can stay organized now, with climbing clothes in one packing cube, climbing shoes in another, and non-climbing, post route layers in yet another. No more digging for hours to find a sweatshirt.
For the holiday season, eBags has brought even more organizational joy. Not only are the packing cubes a great packing and organizing tool, but they now come in seven different colors. Now, I know what you’re thinking… Color Claire? Really? Who cares? Well, here’s where you’ll get excited (or at least, where I got excited). The new colors of the eBags packing cubes happen to correspond perfectly with the colors of The North Face BaseCamp Duffle Bags. Peony, Eggplant, Canary, Tangerine and Aquamarine, plus original colors of Black, Blue, Green and Grey and Red. So, if you, for example, have two people going on a trip, one person can take the red TNF duffle, and one person the yellow TNF duffle, and the person with the red duffle can have the red packing cubes, and the person with the yellow duffle the yellow packing cubes. Not just organization, but perfectly color coordinated organization. Don’t own a TNF duffle? Don’t worry, you’ll still love the new colors.
Looking for the perfect gift for the organize-obsessed individual on your list? Check out eBags Packing Cubes, in one of the seven stellar new colors. They’ll love these more than their highlighter that dispenses post-its. I know I did.
Buy Now: eBags Packing Cubes or eBags Slim Packing Cube]]>
A lightweight, compressible shell for those “light-and-fast” days, Mountain Hardwear’s new Drystein Jacket offers the waterproof protection of a 3 layer shell with the breathability of a softshell. I had the opportunity to put the Dry-Q Elite fabric to the test up in Southcentral Alaska during our Fall to Winter transition, which is notorious for rain, sleet and snow.
With Mountain Hardwear’s debut of their Dry-Q Elite fabric, they’ve also debuted a whole new line of shell jackets, including the Women’s Drystein Jacket. At 1.4 lbs, this waterproof breathable shell is lightweight, packable, and still highly waterproof. Check out the photos- after hours outside in a downpour, the Dry-Q Elite was still beading and repelling water beautifully.
What is Dry-Q Elite? Composed of 3 layers, Dry-Q Elite is a completely waterproof yet completely breathable fabric that essentially “turns on” as soon as you start your activity. According to MH, traditional waterproof-breathable fabrics require that the inside of the jacket (the part touching you) must reach a certain level of humidity before the material will breathe. With Dry-Q Elite, this technology is “always on.” The theory is that as soon as you start to sweat, this fabric begins to breath, eliminating that gross clammy feeling that is usually associated with sweating in a shell jacket. After several ski tours in the Drystein, I can say that this is true. I toured with my Drystein on, and never once got gross and clammy inside.
Overall, I loved the Dry-Q Elite fabric. I’ll definitely be purchasing more Dry-Q products in the future. However, the fit and design of the Drystein were not as versatile as I would have hoped. The arms are very narrow for a shell, making layering difficult. I was able to wear a wool zip-up and a t-shirt under the Drystein and that was max capacity. Even my Patagonia NanoPuff wouldn’t fit under the Drystein without major shoulder constriction. The problem wouldn’t have been solved by sizing up, as the waist and length fit perfectly. A larger size and the shell would have become a dress.
So, if you’re looking for a light-and-fast waterproof breathable shell that you won’t need to worry about wearing multiple layers underneath, you’re stoked about the Drystein. If you’re a fan of layering, as I am, another Dry-Q Elite shell, such as the Asteria, might be more your speed. I like to be able to get to the top of a peak and toss my insulation later on, and then put my shell on over that, so I can protect my insulation from getting wet. However, if you don’t need that room for layers, the Drystein fit is perfect- long enough to provide good coverage, nice motion in the sleeves despite them being narrow, and a great overall width of the jacket. I will definitely reach for my Drystein when I hit the trails for an all day excursion in Fall or Spring and want to know that I’ll be protected from the elements, no matter how hard it rains! However, at $425 a shell, I wish the Drystein was a bit more versatile.
A waterproof breathable shell that truly is both waterproof and super breathable. Best used for light-and-fast, minimal layering needs kind of situations.
Check out the Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket]]>
The CamelBak Ultra LR vest is an incredibly lightweight vest that holds a 2.0 liter reservoir pouch for hydration. The pouch is easy to fill thanks to the wide mouth with a screw on cap, and since the pouch holds the water around your waist it feels very comfortable to wear with the weight on your hips instead of in a ball on your back, even when it’s completely full.
Since this vest is largely made of mesh it is lightweight and breathable. It also has two zippered hip pockets, two breast pockets and a larger pocket in back that’s large enough to stash a shedded layer — which I often had to do during the hot hikes I used it on throughout the desert and mountains of Utah last summer.
I was a little concerned at first that this vest may not fit me properly because I’m only 5’2” on a good day and have a smaller frame. Otherwise ideal vests and packs haven’t worked because they are just too big on me. But the Ultra LR comes in multiple sizes for different torsos, and once I cinched everything up on the smallest one it fit a little gal like me perfectly. Because of its glove-like fit (two sternum straps and hex-style shoulder padding, thank you!), this vest is the ideal hydration pack for fast day hikes, trail running and ultrathons. Planning to do the North/South route of the Olympic National Park in a single day? This is your pack.
Although it’s a small detail, I like that this vest has a 1.5” strip of reflective tape in the back, near the zipper to access the bladder. It also has reflective tape on the front. This vest is going to be the perfect companion when I run my legs of the Wasatch Back this summer. It holds just enough for long distances without being bulky, the mesh keeps it so lightweight and breathable, and if you’re running in the dark you’ve got some reflective tape. This vest would be perfect for marathons, Ragnars, or just about any type of distance sport or race.
CamelBak really has thought of every detail for this vest. Some of the items in my “gear closet” come and go, but this one definitely has a permanent home!
SHOP: Click here for more CamelBak gear.]]>
Looking for a healthy, organic line of dog treats to feed your pooch? Check out Zuke’s, an all natural dog and cat treat company based out of Durango, CO.
On a hike in 1995, Patrick Meiering noticed that his dog Zuke was becoming exhausted and well on his way to what we humans call “bonking,” or loosing both our marbles and physical capabilities due to low blood sugar. Patrick fed Zuke part of an energy bar, Zuke the dog was revived, and Zuke’s the company was born. Patrick decided to start a company revolving around the principal that pets needed healthy and all natural treats. Zuke’s treats are free of additives, by-products, artificial colors and flavors, and the staff at Zuke’s promises that they won’t put anything into a dog treat that they wouldn’t eat themselves!
Zuke’s, based out of Durango, CO now makes a full line of dog and cat treats, from training treats to dental bones to jerky products. All ingredients are sourced from somewhere within the USA (except the lamb and venison, which comes from New Zealand), and all treats are wheat and soy free. From treats with added Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements, to training treats to baked biscuits, there’s something for everyone on the Zuke’s menu.
My black lab/blue heeler mix, Baker, was the official tester for the Zuke’s products we received. Now, as a lab, he eats everything in sight, so I can’t report back on “he liked this flavor, but not this one.” However, I can report that we tried out the Wild Rabbit Mini-Naturals Treats, the Power Bones and the Hip Action Treats, and he loved all 3. My personal favorite was the Mini-Naturals, as we’re always training and working on new tricks- the small size of the Mini-Naturals makes it easy to grab and handful and treat him each time he does what I’m asking him to do.
I also like the idea behind the Power Bones- it’s formulated as an energy bar for dogs. Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking… An energy bar for dogs? Yeah, ok, I’ll pick one of those up right after I purchase a dog water purifier. Uh-huh. However, I’d say the nutritional principle behind the Power Bones is a solid one. Power Bones are formulated with a protein (beef, chicken or peanut butter), a medley of complex carbohydrates (such as brown rice, oats, barley, or sweet potatoes), and then a simple carbohydrate (sugars from beets). This “protein-complex carb-simple carb” trio sound familiar to you? It should if you’re an energy bar connoisseur. This is the same nutritional idea behind energy bars for humans- simple carbs to digest quickly and elevate your blood sugar immediately, complex carbs that require more time to breakdown and keep your blood sugar up after the boost from the simple carbs, and then protein for extended energy. So, when you pack your micro-pack for your 14 hour ridge run, stuff a few Power Bones in your pack for the hound. He needs energy just like you do!
Overall, I loved the Zuke’s treats we tried out, and so did Baker. Baker loved the taste, and I liked knowing that the dog was getting all natural, wheat and soy free nutrition that had been sourced locally. I believe in eating food of this quality myself, and I like the idea of transferring that principle into what I feed my dog.
Zukes Mini Naturals
Zukes Hip Action
Zukes Power Bones]]>
Going on a long road trip but don’t have enough room in the car? What about too many kids in the family for the luggage room in your vehicle? Wife (or husband) that packs too much? Take the anxiety out of packing with the Yakima Rocketbox 11 Cargo Box.
Our family car used to be a Toyota Corolla. For any long or gear intensive trips the Yakima Rocketbox 11 Cargo Box was a trip saver, especially after we had kids. Long gone are the days of being so crammed in the car with gear.
In terms of capacity 11 cu ft doesn’t sound like much but I was pleasantly surprised with how much we could fit in the box. A typical trip the Rocketbox will be packed with a climbing pack with a full rack, rope, kid carrier backpack, umbrella stroller, camp chairs, fishing poles, family tent, and a few other smaller items with some room to spare.
In the winter time the Rocketbox 11 is great for hauling your planks (single or double) to and from the mountain. The 89 inches of length will fit just about any pair of skis and boards are no problem. It’s a great way to keep your boards from getting coated in road salt and grime. I’ve been able to fit two pairs of skis, a board, and two pairs of poles in the Rocketbox 11. There may have been enough room to fit another pair of skis or another board but I haven’t tried.
I have the slightly older model of the Rocketbox. Even so, it was extremely easy to install. The updated hardwear is even easier. Just place the box on your rack, slide the clamps until they engage the crossbars, and then tighten the knobs to fit. I have been able to install the box myself (read pick it up off the ground and lift it onto the car) without any issues. The 35 lbs of weight isn’t bad, it’s just a little awkward with it being so long.
Security hasn’t been an issue for me. The single lock keeps the box locked down tight. The three latches, one at each end and one in the middle, help prevent the lift from being lifted. I’ve tested this with just my hands and the lid wouldn’t budge.
The price could seem daunting but it’s really not. We’ve been rallying our cargo box for almost over 3 years and it still looks and functions like brand new. We will get more than enough use to make up for the cost. The Rocketbox 11 is the most economical choice of the long boxes in the Yakima line.
The Rocketbox 11 is a great value and can give you that extra bit of cargo capacity you need. We’ve never looked back on our decision to go with the Rocketbox 11.
Buy Now: Pick up a Yakima Rocketbox 11 Cargo Box today]]>
Just as it’s started dumping up here in Alaska, new toys from K2 have arrived, begging to be skied! The K2 SideKick will be my primary backcountry ski this season. I’ll be mounting them with the new Dynafit Radical STs, so look for a full review of both the Sidekicks and the Radicals after I’ve had an opportunity to get out and ski them.
New for the 2011/2012 season, the K2 SideKick is just wider than the GotBacks (102 underfoot), but not as wide as any of the twin-tipped team skis, like the MissDirected (117 underfoot). At 108 underfoot, I’m hoping the SideKick will be that magical ski that can handle the crud-busting days but also slay pow like a pro. With K2′s All Terrain Rocker and the traditional camber underfoot, this ski should be able to do just that. With it’s wood core, the SideKick maintains a lightweight profile, and still be fairly stable underfoot. We’ll see how she skis! Both the SideStash, the Men’s version of the SideKick, and the Sidekick were 2012 Selections for Skiing Magazine’s gear guide, so I have high hopes!
A word about sizing- K2′s skis seem to run long. I own a pair of Moment Reagans, size 168, an older pair of Karhu Berths, size 165, and when I stood my new K2s up next to them, I assumed that at 167, they’d sit right in the middle. Not so. They tower over the Reagans. I was in our local ski shop this week and the 167 seems to be on par with what all other ski companies call a 172-173. So, definitely check the skis out in person. They’re still looking like they’ll be great for shredding the Alaskan gnar, but be sure to get a look at the ski before you order one- you might want to size down from what is your normal size, even with that All Terrain Rocker and early rise tip.
K2 SideKick Ski
K2 Trim-To-Fit Skins]]>
As temperatures drop and winter approaches, I need a warmer boot that can handle the ever changing conditions that I like to play outside in- snow, rain, sleet, mud, the works. The Keen Delta Boot has been my go-to boot for my adventures ever since the thermometer started reading below 40. With its waterproof membrane exterior and insulated interior, the Keen Delta has been the natural choice for fall hiking for me.
For winter hiking, Keen has hit the nail on the head with the release of the Keen Delta Boot. Insulated with 200g of Keen.Warm insulation, and protected on the exterior with Keen.Dry material, the Delta makes for a great boot. I’ve taken them out in the sleet, snow and rain of Southcentral Alaska and haven’t been disappointed. The insulation seems to be great for temps below about fourty (warmer than that and my feet were sweating), and has kept my toes warm down into the low teens. The 4mm lug sole is, as always, super impressive in muddy or highly variable terrain. I never feel like I don’t have traction with the Deltas. Another one of my favorite features is the “gaiter hook” on the boots, so I can easily attach my gaiters and tromp around in the snow. No need to wriggle the attachment under a shoelace, Keen has added the gaiter hook to truly make these a “winter friendly” boot.
Though I’ve used my Deltas primarily as a hiking boot, I’ve also used them as an “around town” boot now that the weather has gotten a bit colder. They’d be great for someone looking to invest in a winter hiking boot who’d also like to double their use as snow boots for running out and shoveling the snow off the driveway before work. The insulation and waterproof membrane allows them great flexibility of use for anything in the wintertime. For a great price, you’ve got yourself a boot with a myriad of uses.
A note about sizing- the Keen Website mentions that they are finding that the Delta runs a half size small. For me, that wasn’t the case. I am a size 7 across the board, and the size 7 Deltas fit me beautifully.
Keen Delta Boot]]>
We’ve had a spectacular fall in Tahoe this year. There’s nothing better than hiking, biking, or spending the last days before winter on the Lake. After living in Tahoe for nearly 5 years I’ve learned there are a few key elements that can make or break a day hike – socks, shoes, and H2O. Below are my top picks for these key components. What gear can’t you live without this fall?
3. Smartwool Women’s PhD Outdoor Light Micro
When it comes to skiing or snowboarding Smartwool is my go to sock, so why not try on a pair for hiking. This sock makes your feet feel good. It’s the blend of a high performance fit and light cushioning that keeps you comfortable during those fall hikes. There’s even a padded achilles tab to offer additional protection. I would recommend the PhD outdoor Light Micro for any gal hiking no more than 5 hours. Available in 3 neutral colors
• 73% Merino Wool, 25%Nylon, 2% Elastic
• 4-Degree Fit System for all-day performance fit
• WOW™ technology in high density impact zones to reduce shock and abrasion
• Merino wool inside for moisture, temperature and odor control
• Duroyarn reinforcement for added comfort and durability
• Strategic mesh zones for maximum ventilation
2. Merrell Women’s Avian Light Ventilator
Your shoes can make or break your day. For day hikes I like to grab my Avian Light Ventilor. On top of being lightweight there’s mesh panels built-in for climate control which keeps feet cool and not too sweaty. Support, lightweight and climate control what more could one ask for on a day hike. Best for spring to fall hikes. Available in four fun colors.
• Strobel construction offers flexibility and comfort
• Waterproof nubuck leather, pig suede and mesh upper
• Mesh lining treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odor
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out
• Ortholite® anatomical footbed
• Compression molded EVA footframe for stability and comfort
• Merrell QForm® Comfort midsole provides women’s specific stride-sequenced cushioning
• Merrell air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
1. CamelBak 2011 L.U.X.E.™
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate… I don’t leave home for a bike ride or hike without my Camelbak. Bigger isn’t always better, look for something that can carry sunscreen, an extra layer and don’t forget lunch. The Camel L.U.X.E. comes with a 3L reservoir which is nice for those longer day hikes. It’s nice to pick up a extra 1L or 2L reservoir to swap out for the shorter day hikes. I love stash pockets and think they should be an essential for all gear. It’s a nice feature for a multi-tool, phone, ipod or camera. Available in four colors.
Don’t forget about the CamelBak® Got Your Bak™ lifetime guarantee: “If we built it, we’ll Bak it™”
• Hydration Capacity: 100 oz (3 L)
• Total Capacity: 732 cu in (12 L)
• Antidote™ Reservoir with Quick Link™ System
• Back Panel – Air Director™
• Harness – Women’s-fit Independent Suspension
• Belt- Removable 1 in/25 mm stability
Where are you hiking this fall?]]>
Once you make the switch to using your bicycle to run errands you will quickly find that you need a versatile bag to take care of your cargo needs. The Detours Teeco Too Pannier is just the bag for the job.
The Detours Teeco Too Pannier is great bag to have in your bike bag repetoire. It is built as a “market pannier” to haul groceries or gear. The most distinguishing feature of the Teeco Too is that it’s a pannier but also a backpack. It has two backpack straps that stow away in a dedicated sleeve when you use it as a pannier. I love this feature! Throw the bag on the rack and when you get to your destination just pull out the straps and sling it on your back and you are ready to go. The straps are decently thick and comfortable. My heaviest load has probably been close to 30 lbs and it sat comfortably on my shoulders. To stow the straps, just unclip the buckles and stash them away.
The Teeco Too also features a thick rubber bottom which is good for durability but also provides a stable base when putting the bag on the group. It won’t tip over when it’s loaded. Research elsewhere indicates that the rubber bottom isn’t strong enough for extremely heavy loads so put something hard like a piece of plywood in the bottom. Detours also included an expandable collor to give a little more versatility for tall loads or an extra full bag. Two “cargo” handles are useful for other carry options.
The Teeco Too attaches to your bicycle rack via two heavy-duty plastic hoods. I have mixed feelings about these. On the plus side, they slide right over your rack for easy attachment. They also feature a small lip to help keep the bag from slipping off the rack rails. Now for the bad…the hooks are fixed in place. Depending on your set-up this might not be an issue, however, depending on your bike geometry you could be kicking the bag on every pedal stroke if it’s on your rear rack. Also along that same line, racks are built a little differently and cross bars on the rack might be in the way. The other piece I’d like to see is some form of a “sway stabilizer”. On inside corners the bag will sway away from the rack. This is an issue with heavy loads as it pulls your balance off and can make navigating difficult.
The Teeco Too also features a small zippered pouch on the inside which is nice to hold your keys and wallet.
My favorite use for the Teeco Too has been on grocery trips. On a recent trip I was able fit a gallon of milk, 5 lbs of carrots, a stack of corn tortillas, carton of sour cream, 18 eggs, 2 Jarritos, a jalapeno, head of cabbage, two avocados, two bell peppers, a mini notebook, keys, cargo net, mini pump, and a u-lock with a short cable. I probably could have squeezed a few more smaller items in if I wanted too. I was surprised by the capacity.
Another plus to the flat rubber bottom is when the bag is loaded, it can sit nicely on my flat front rack. Once again though, it would be nice to able to adjust the hooks in so it could attach when sitting on my front rack.
Even with the negatives the Teeco Too is still a great bag to have, I love mine. It’s big on versatility and it’s great to have the combo of shoulder straps and pannier in one.
Buy Now: Pick up the Detours Teeco Too Pannier]]>
Remember the government’s Cash for Clunkers program? Where you could bring in your old vehicle and get cash towards a new one? Well, to announce and promote their new waterproof-breathable fabric, Dry-Q Elite, Mountain Hardwear is doing the same thing. Bring in your old shell jacket and get $50 dollars towards a new Dry-Q Elite Shell with the Mountain Hardwear Cash for Clunkers program.
What is Dry-Q Elite and why is Mountain Hardwear giving you cash to go buy their jackets and check this new fabric out? Composed of 3 layers, Dry-Q Elite is a completely waterproof yet completely breathable fabric that essentially “turns on” as soon as you start your activity. According to MH, traditional waterproof-breathable fabrics require that the inside of the jacket (the part touching you) must reach a certain level of humidity before the material will breathe. With Dry-Q Elite, this technology is “always on.” The theory is that as soon as you start to sweat, this fabric begins to breath, eliminating that gross clammy feeling that is usually associated with sweating in a shell jacket.
Having just received the Mountain Hardwear Drystein jacket (a new Dry-Q Elite shell), in the mail yesterday, I can’t give a full report on the jacket’s functionality. However, I can report that the town I live in received 10 inches of rain yesterday. TEN inches! I ripped into the Drystein, put it on, and ran outside, figuring that a torrential downpour was about the best testing condition I could think of for “waterproof-ness.” After about 30 minutes outside in what can only be referred to as a full on squall, I was still dry. A good indicator for Mountain Hardwear’s Dry-Q Elite fabric. Look for a full report on the Drystien’s features and function in a few weeks.
Looking to get a new shell this season? Dive into your closet and find that neon yellow, neon pink and black shell jacket from the mid-eighties, and run to your nearest participating “Cash for Clunkers” retailer, and make that swap. Just make sure you don’t accidentally end up at a car dealership.
Want to know where you can go to get some cash for your ancient shell? Check the Mountain Hardwear Website and plug in your zip code. Live in the boonies and don’t have a location to trade close to your house? Don’t worry, Moosejaw is participating in the program as an online partner.]]>
enigma [ɪˈnɪgmə], noun
a person, thing, or situation that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguous
Looking for a shell jacket to protect you from all the elements? Continuing to be true to their mantra “Designed for Adventure,” Outdoor Research has cranked out some incredible equipment for Fall 2011, and among that line is the Women’s Enigma Jacket. The Enigma truly is an enigma- a lightweight yet durable GoreTex shell jacket at a super reasonable price. How often do you find that combo?
The Outdoor Research Enigma Jacket has been a life saver thus far this fall in Alaska. With rain coming in feet, not inches, I’m always grateful to have good gear so that I can continue my outdoor pursuits, no matter the weather. From daily walks with my dog to ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier, the Enigma has kept me nice and dry. I’m looking forward to making it my primary backcountry shell when ski season gets rolling.
A word about sizing- the Enigma seems to be built to accommodate layers underneath, which is a great thing. However, if you were thinking about sizing up from your normal size to have room for a few extra layers, don’t. You’ll be swimming in GoreTex. The Enigma is built with that extra room already in the width and the sleeves, and I have plenty of room for my R1, Patagonia Micropuff or a mid-weight down jacket, and I ordered the same size I would have had I not been planning to layer.
A GoreTex Proshell/PacLite hybrid that keeps you dry for a decent price.
Outdoor Research Enigma Jacket]]>
For years Sierra Designs has been cranking out some amazing gear — always built for true mountain athletes such as Eric Larsen. I remember lusting after a red Sierra Designs anorak jacket back in college, and being even more impressed after I bought it and put it to use out in the elements. It performed better than my flashier Marmot jacket. Out of everything that Sierra Designs has put out there year after year — and I’ve tried a lot of it — the Cloud 15 sleeping bag is my favorite item yet. In fact, the Cloud 15 may be the best piece of camping gear I’ve tried this year.
In my opinion there is nothing out there like the Cloud 15, visually or functionally. First of all, at one-pound-something it is confirmed to be the lightest 15F degree sleeping bag on the market. Secondly, it is one of the coolest looking pieces of soft goods I’ve seen from any brand. See the images at right? In the pictures it kind of looks like a white or silver bag with blue accents — but if you look closely, that’s not white or silver. It’s transparent material, so you can see the down inside. I can’t wait until Sierra Designs makes their Gnar puffy jacket out of this material. I was camping with some buddies up in the Cottonwood Canyons of Utah and had my Cloud 15 lying out to fluff before bed. It made gawkers out of my friends. Like I said, it is unique in the market. And I’ve used everything from Mont Bell to The North Face and everything in between.
The Cloud 15 is precisely 1lb 12oz, has 900-fill down with 10D nylon ripstop (an ultralight nylon material), and is EN-tested for an accurate comfort rating at 15 degrees. That means it even comes in under the weight of the Marmot Plasma ultralight sleeping bag, which is listed 2oz heavier. As you can see in the full length image, the Cloud 15 uses vertical baffles rather than horizontal to save weight. The vertical baffles employ a technology called Insotech Flow, which is a patented approach to keeping down from migrating. If I understand it correctly, it is basically one-way flaps of material in the baffles — similar to the principle you see at work in the veins of some mammals to reduce the backward flow of blood. Simplicity is elegance, making the Cloud 15 one of the most technologically advanced bags you could find. It comes with a storage bag and a stuff sack, as you might imagine. To save weight, the stuff sack lacks compression straps but is made of the same 10D ripstop nylon. And with 900 fill down, the Cloud 15 is highly compressible to avoid bulk.
The bag has some great standard design features. As you can see in the pictures, Sierra Designs has cut the bag with a bit of a jacket-style hood (meaning it fits closer to your ears and comes down in a bit more of a straight angle towards the base of your neck, instead of being a broad triangle shape that drapes from your crown to the outside of your shoulders). As you would expect, it has a drawcord for the collar and draft tubes on both the zipper and the collar. It has a 40″ zipper for entry and venting, and a trim but ergonomic foot box.
Of course, you can’t get every last creature comfort when you cut down the weight so deeply. For example, the 40″ zipper doesn’t allow for venting just your foot (unless you are under four feet tall). So when I’ve used this on warmer nights in Southern Utah I just laid out my whole left leg comfortably. This bag also doesn’t sport draft tubes at the neck (just the collar and the zipper). And it isn’t stitched with heavier flex thread to allow for stretchy movement the way the way some other Sierra Design bags are.
But given the extreme light weight of this bag, the few missing features aren’t enough to deter me from being thoroughly impressed. Great function, great performance, and very stylistic design. This is not muted earth tones. The performance-minded will be very pleased with this bag in almost all situations except snowy winter camping or extremely hot summer nights.
Watch for the Sierra Designs Cloud 15 bag to come out in Spring 2012 at a retail price of $499.
SHOP: Click here to see more Sierra Designs gear.]]>
I’m a versatile guy. I like to do a lot of different activities and I have a lot of different needs. I like packs that are versatile as well. Sure I have some dedicated use packs but for the most part I like a pack that can handle whatever I can throw at it. Enter the Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 Backpack. It’s an extremely versatile, medium-sized pack that will handle just about anything you can throw in it.
The Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 Backpack is a truly versatile pack. It is packed with enough features that you could do just about anything in it. It can handle day trips to the crag, weekend backpack trips, and it’d also do well on day long ski tours. It is laden (yes I just said laden) with enough features to do a bunch of things well.
It is big enough that I was able to tuck away a small but full trad rack, a full sport rack, a couple harnesses, a couple pairs of shoes, helmet, guidebook, water, snacks, and the rope all in or on the pack. The top compression strap held the rope securely in place.
It is a good sized pack for a weekend backpack trip. There is more than enough room for 3 season trips. It might do all right for an overnight four season trip, but I wasn’t able to test that out yet. The main compartment is large and roomy so it’s easy to get all your gear packed away. The Mayhem does feature an expandable collar so you can get an extra 300 cu. in. of room.
Just about all packs can carry a bunch of stuff. For me it’s the small details that set the Mayhem apart from others. Things that I love about the pack: the front expandable sleeve/shovel pocket. Great option for stashing wet gear or for holding layers without having to get into the pack. The top compression strap is ideal for carrying a rope or for securing oversized loads. The side compression straps reconfigure to carry skis or a board for winter time excursions. Mounts for carrying ice tools and trekking poles. Bottom compression straps for cinching down the load or fitting on extra gear. And there’s plenty of daisy chain and other loops for lashing items on the outside.
The Mayhem is highly adjustable. Mountainsmith included an adjustment guide stitched to the bottom of the lid to help you get things just right (also good for mid trail adjustments). The shoulder straps were comfortable for a few hours on the trail. I do wish the hip belt pads would have been just a little thicker and maybe and inch or two longer. The seam at the end of the pad sat just on the curve of my hip bones and became uncomfortable at the end of my second day on the trail. Also the way the harness system attaches behind the backpanel was a little bulky. This could have completely been user error, but on my last trip I had a bulge right on my shoulder blades (chances are it was user/adjustment error). With that said though, the Mayhem did a pretty good job of carrying heavier loads.
The Mayhem is a good all around pack. It’s not too heavy at it’s base weight, it’s a great size for a wide variety of activities, and it has enough features to make it versatile enough for just about anything you choose to throw at it.
Looking for a versatile pack? Mountainsmith knocked it out of the park with this one.
Buy Now: Pick up the Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 Backpack]]>
Looking for a versatile cycling jersey? One that will keep you from frying in the sun but won’t make you overheat? Or one that you can layer on top of other pieces of clothing in changing temperatures? Check out the Solar Vita Jersey from Specialized.
As I mentioned in my Best of the Bike Trip article, the Solar Vita Jersey became part of my daily biking ensemble for my 6 week cycling tour of the PNW Coastline. I wore this thing every day! Rain or shine, the Solar Vita Jersey was always my outermost layer to get some visibility. I loved the versatility that this jersey offers- you can wear it when it’s warm and not overheat, thanks to the thin material, but you can also toss it over a baselayer on cooler days, and not sacrifice that nice visibility that the bright yellow color offers. The full front zip makes it easy to take the jersey on and off if you’re in a rapidly changing climate, or to just get some more ventilation for when you crank up those hills. The pockets are great, fit is great, and the versatility makes this a “must have” piece of clothing for your cycling wardrobe.
The Solar Vita Jersey is available in a short sleeve and long sleeve version, and I found that the long sleeves allowed me to keep my arms from frying on the warm days, thanks to the lightweight UPF 50+ material, and also allowed me to use the Solar Vita as a lighter weight long sleeve layer. I enjoyed not having to glop pounds of sunscreen on my arms each day! However, where the Solar Vita really shines is on the slightly overcast days. You know, those days where you don’t really think you’re going to need sunscreen, but at the end of the day, you discover your arms have turned a lovely hue of red? Well, on those deceptively cool days, the Solar Vita provided just enough warmth and provided the sun protection I needed.
A must have for cyclist who find themselves outside in a variety of spring and summer weather.
Specialized Solar Vita Long Sleeve Jersey]]>