Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Montbell Down Hugger 800 #0 Degree Sleeping Bag Review

After years of freezing my buns in high alpine camps I was pleased to finally get a good quality zero degree bag. I'd been wanting to try one of Montbell's Down Hugger 800 bags for a long time since I'm an "active" sleeper. 

Given that we had the summer of no summer in the Pacific Northwest I also got a lot of opportunities to use a zero degree bag, even though it arrived in June. I've used it both as a back country bag and in the front country and overall been very pleased with it.

The Down Hugger is sewn with several "tricks" using elasticized thread, bias cut fabric, and seam line alignment that make it "stretchy." The bag moves with you while you sleep eliminating drafts. The main reason I could never go the way of the quilt is that I'd never get any sleep. I toss and turn and roll around constantly. The Down Hugger truly does stay with me, keeping me warm, and yet I don't wake up panicked in the middle of the night because I'm in the mummy hood backward and can't breathe. (true story, this happened all the time in my old mummy bag)

The hood of the Down Hugger has a nice neck baffle that provides additional draft blocking. I like that it adjusts independently from the hood cinch so that I can vent the bag differently depending on conditions.

At 2 lbs, 14 oz it is the heaviest sleeping bag I've ever owned, but on the nights I'm dug into the snow at 7,000 ft or more I'm perfectly content to have carried it up there.

The only drawback to this bag is that they do not offer a "short" or female specific fit. I swim in the regular and as such, it doesn't keep me as warm as a 0 degree bag with less internal airspace would.

A note on the down: Montbell assures that it never buys down from "operations that practice “live-plucking” methods. We only utilize Down plumes and feathers collected as a by-product of water fowl raised to meet the demands of the food industry." I appreciate this company stance.

I am a Montbell Athlete and receive my gear at no cost.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Montbell Wickron Stretch Trail Dress Review

I am a Montbell Athlete and receive my clothing at no cost.

It's not exactly a secret that I hike in dresses and skirts. So, when I began working with Montbell I was super excited to find that they make a trail dress and skirt. So I had to get one of each to give them a try!

First of all, I love the colors. Bright and happy, perfect :)


Secondly, even though the fabric is a little heavier than many of my thrift store finds it truly lives up to the claims and wicks very well. I wore the skirt on one of the hottest weekends of the summer and was perfectly comfortable and not soggy at all.

Cute and comfy

I will say that the sizing again can be a little tricky. I find that I fall right between small and medium in Montbell's clothing and with the dress I should have gone with the small rather than the medium. The small skirt is perfect.

Doughgob, WA

I do wish that the dress came in another light color besides white, since god knows I'll make a mess of that on my first hike. It would be cooler than the dark blue.

Bull's Tooth, WA

The fabric of both skirt and dress offers UV protection and I like the cap sleeves on the dress which protect my oh-so-often burned shoulders from the sun without annoying me. I usually find short sleeves incredibly annoying in length. The dress also has mesh panels in the underarm which keeps it cool.
Perfect for transition weather

The dress will make a great Fall and Spring piece as well when I layer it over tights.

Comfort and performance in a wide range of climates

  • Cute
  • Comfortable
  • Quick Drying
  • UV protective

  • Sizing can be a little hard to get right
Bannock Mountain, WA

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


To be real in a world of virtual reality, social media perfection, and mindless screen time is a difficult thing.
To carry on through criticism from people who don't even know you seems practically impossible, at least to me.
You see, I am tender and soft and squishy on the inside, no matter how tough it might appear I am.
You don't know how many times I have wanted to say f*ck it and delete every single aspect of my online presence over the last few years.

It's only because of beautiful, fragile, open, REAL people who post here, message me, stop me on the trails etc, that I don't.

Because the stories they tell me, the encouragement they share, the fact that so many of YOU find inspiration in my life is why I don't.

Be kind to everyone, even those online. The ugly hurtful things people type are often reflections of the ugly, hurtful things they feel about themselves. Be kind, even to those who aren't. I remind myself of this when I find myself sobbing while reading commentary about me written by people who have never even met me.

I am introverted. I am shy. I am quiet and really very boring, having nothing to talk about except the mountains. Talk about being the wallflower at every party? No one ever wants to talk to the woman who needs an explanation of any and all pop culture references.

And yet somehow my boring, mono focused life is engaging, inspiring. Perhaps because it's real in a world where nearly everything is fake.

I don't try to take great selfies. I don't own a hairbrush and I can't tell eyeliner from lip gloss. I am blessed to receive gear from some wonderful companies, but honestly, if it sucks I'll tell you (and them). I don't care what anyone thinks of me and I'm sure it shows.

This is MY one beautiful fragile life and even though I'd be just as happy living amongst the bears and lions and peaks and rivers without another member of my species forever, I also love and value this opportunity to share with you all.

I remain active here in the digital realm because I know it matters. Being real, being honest, being connected to the earth and being open to facing the things that scare me (and sharing those journeys with you) matter in a world where it is easy to become disconnected from our place as a mammal meant to roam.

I may never break another record (so what?). Sometimes I'm not sure I even want to climb another mountain. But I know I will always find my home in the wild places. I know I'll never be content to stop pushing myself to grow and face fears. I know I will never ever stop loving the life I have been given and the beauty of the natural world.

I am thankful to have this community to share that with. I wish even more that we could share a sunset, a summit, or a rainy day on trail together, laughing at the moment, the mud, the beauty and the realness of life.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Montbell Cliff Pants Review

I am a Montbell Athlete and therefore receive my clothing at no charge. 

My old hiking pants were pretty much shredded and so I got a pair of Montbell Cliff Pants to try out.

MtAffee Peak, NV

The first thing I noticed about the Cliff Pants was how thick the fabric is. Yet, they don't seem to be that much hotter than my previous pair (Sherpa brand). Evenso, I wouldn't probably want to wear these on very hot humid days.

Ridgeline Rest Stop
I've been impressed by their water repellency, quick dry capability, and durability. I've bushwhacked through some serious PNW terrain in them and they look new.

Mt. Timpanagos, UT
Despite their thickness I wore them throughout our Nevada peakbagging trip in June and was impressed at how well they protected my legs from the sage and chaparral. As I mentioned, they were on the warm side, but still comfortable enough in the 80+ degree heat.

Duffer Peak, NV
They are quite comfortable with four way stretch and articulated knees. I've had no issues scrambling or crawling over deadfall in them...or doing summit jump antics. Unlike many women's pants they have adequate, deep pockets on the sides as well as a zippered pocket on the back which makes for a secure location for a car key.

Mt. Adams, WA

I do find that they run a little snug with the small being a bit tight for me and the medium a bit too loose. So, depending on how you want them to fit, take that into consideration.

Duffer Peak, NV

Overall, I highly recommend these as a durable, comfortable, and burly adventure pant.


  • Water Repellent
  • Quick Drying
  • Comfortable Stretch without losing shape
  • Durable
  • Functional and flattering


  • Uncomfortably hot in really warm weather 

Ruby Dome, NV

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Paleo Meals To Go Review

My friend Rachel gave me a Paleo Meals To Go dinner to try out the night before we climbed Mt. Hood. I was excited to try something new that was guaranteed not to have any gluten in it. And not be based on rice either. While I'm not an adherant of any specific diet, I generally avoid grains, most dairy, a lot of soy, etc. So these meals seemed perfect.

Twas the night before Hood...

I was immediately impressed with the flavor so I contacted the company and got one of each of their meals to try out. I've been experimenting with them over the last month or so with cold hydration methods. They have worked out super well!

Assorted Yums


  • Rehydrate cold or hot very well
  • Texture is great (even the chicken)
  • Flavors are incredible. It's obvious that they use high quality ingredients.
  • Nutritious and filling
  • Meet my dietary restrictions

Refueling between Top 100 Peaks


  • More than once the packaging has leaked during the cold rehydration process. I've learned to circumvent this by sealing the bag and then folding it down and sealing inside a quart Ziploc for good measure. Let sit in a place it won't get squished in the pack.

Cliffside Breakfast with Cliffs

The breakfasts are incredibly calorie dense. ~600 calories each. They do come out a little weird texture-wise if you don't get the water just right, but I'm playing with my own preference. I add water the night before and let sit. Ready for the morning. They taste like smoothie cereals. Delicious (although on the sweet side).

Summit Breakfast on Mt. Olympus

The dinners are savory, high in protein and filling despite being less calories than I'm used to (~400 each meal). They probably wouldn't sate a thru-hiker after a thousand miles or so, but the nutrition quality is such that I would probably just eat two (or do a PMTG with some other snacks). For my current mountain trips they are more than adequate.

Dinner (and Breakfast) Prep in Camp

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid Review

I am an Altra Athlete and therefore receive my shoes at no cost. However, the reviews here are my own opinions and not requested by the company.

I was lucky enough to get a sample pair of the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid's to take with me to New Zealand this spring and to tramp all over the PNW in this summer. I totally wore them out. I am so excited that they are finally on the market so I can get a new pair...and tell everyone about them!

Overlooking the Summit Crater of Ruapehu, NZ

I refer to them as the "shoeboots" mainly because of their shape (remember the high top days of the 90's?) and their flexibility and functionality. To be clear though: these are NOT boots, just boot "shaped".

With the crater of "Mt.. Doom" NZ

I definitely find the perfect niche for these as approach shoes through rough terrain as well as a great shoe for scramble routes involving scree, talus, and scrambling. I've even done some technical climbs in them.
On the Tongariro Circuit, NZ

The NeoShell is an excellent waterproofing and I was able to ford shallow streams without my feet getting wet because of the mid-top. This came in very handy both in New Zealand and also in the PNW, both very wet. They will leak a little around the lacing, so your feet would get wet with an extended submersion. For a step or two through water however, they work great.

Drying out after a day of wading upriver in the Kaikoura

I found them to be excellent in the snow, with and without snowshoes. The NeoShell was warm and insulating. They were fairly comfortable with snowshoes and crampons, although not as comfortable as actual boots. 

Lennox Peak, WA
As with all Altras the FootShape Toe box and ZeroDrop Platform is essential for comfort and foot function.
Running Ridges near Arthur's Pass, NZ

I highly recommend these to anyone who wants the comfort of a trail runner combined with the ankle support of a boot. I also recommend them to anyone looking to do winter or wet weather running. I think these will find a great niche among Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers.

Ascending Malachite Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
I wore them at the Barkley Marathons this year and will do so again. They were perfect.

At the Yellow Gate, 2016

Comfort of the Lone Peak trail runner
Ankle Stability in rough terrain
Insulated and warm in cold weather/snow
Waterproof in low water crossings, even with submersion (although they do leak a little around the lacing)
Multi-functional (scrambling, trail, technical climbing, snow)
Good tread

Overlooking Mt. Cook Village, NZ

The NeoShell on one toe box tore on a rock my first time out. Considering the amount of miles I put on them without another incident I think this was a fluke. However, keep in mind that NeoShell fabric apparently is not tear resistant and that really renders the insulation and waterproofness moot if a tear occurs. Shoe goo repairs can be made.
The tread will not hold up any better than other Lone Peaks on scree/talus. As I said, these are not a replacement for real mountaineering boots.

Summit of Manakau, NZ

Specs (for women's model from altrarunning.com):
  • WEIGHT: 10 oz. / 283 g
  • Cushioning: Moderate
  • STACK HEIGHT: 25 mm
  • SIZES: 5.5-11, 12
  • IDEAL USES: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking, Trail Racing, Cold Weather, Wet Conditions
  • PLATFORM: Natural Foot Positioning: FootShape™ Toe Box with Fully Cushioned Zero Drop™ Platform
  • DESIGNED TO IMPROVE: Running Form, Toe Splay, Stability, Push-off, Comfort, Traction
  • INSOLE: 5 mm Contour Footbed
  • OTHER FEATURES: StoneGuard™ Sandwiched Rock Protection, Natural Ride System, GaiterTrap™ Technology
  • LAST: SD6-M / SD5-W
  • MIDSOLE: EVA with A-Bound™ Top Layer
  • OUTSOLE: Altra MaxTrac Sticky Rubber with TrailClaw™
  • UPPER: Abrasion-Resistant Mesh with Minimal Seams, Polartec®
Where will the Mid's take you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Altra Running Golden Spike Review

I am an AltraRunning Athlete and receive my shoes at no cost. However, the reviews here are not required by the company and are my own opinions.

While I am not a x-country runner, I was intrigued by the Golden Spike X-Country shoe by Altra. Designed to be used on x-country courses it's a minimal shoe weighing only a smidge over 5 oz with spikes for added traction. Despite it's sock like fit, the Golden Spike delivers everything you've come to expect from Altra with a FootShape™ Toe Box and  fully cushioned Zero Drop™ Platform.

Mine arrived in the mail the day before I was headed out for a long solo peakbagging push deep in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. The roundtrip would require about 38 miles of maintained trail/bootpath/easy cross country travel and 12 miles of boot only terrain (crampon only snowfields, scree, talus, etc). It seemed like a no brainer to wear this minimal shoe on the easier terrain so that when I swapped to boots I wouldn't be carrying a heavy pair of trail runners on my back.

It proved to be an excellent choice. The Golden Spike performed well on dirt trail, as well as the bootpath, heather slopes, and even some mellow snow patches. Traction was excellent in mud, dirt, and snow, and I couldn't hardly feel that I was wearing shoes.

Break time with my favorite WA mountain

On the way out from my hike I encountered a wildfire that had flared up and was burning across the trail. I weighed my options and decided that the safest thing to do was to bushwhack downstream in a creek to get around it. I didn't stop to think that the shoes I had on might not be suitable (I was more concerned with getting the hell out of there). I plunged into the water and thrashed downstream through berry bushes, sticks, debris, and general PNW vegetation before regaining the trail below the fire. I was happy to have a running shoe on at that point, because I definitely ran!

Surprisingly, when I got back to my car I saw that aside from being muddy the uppers were intact with no major damage. Much more durable than they seemed on first inspection.

I may have found my new favorite approach shoe for long peakbagging trips. Given how rounded the spikes were afterward though, I may remove them for trips where I don't anticipate needing them to cross vegetated slopes, mud and/or snow.

Excellent traction
Minimal weight
Comfortable for long distances
Durable upper (so far)

Upper bleeds when wet (turned my feet pink)
Need to size down for proper fit
Descending for a long time rubbed a sore on my big toe joint (probably because I didn't size down when ordering)
Spikes were quite rounded after 38 miles of wear on a variety of terrain

After 38 miles and a bushwhack wildfire dodge