Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Point 6 Socks Review

I am an ambassador for Point 6 and as such receive my socks for free. However, this review was not requested by the company and is my own opinion of the product.

I have been a huge fan of wool clothing, socks, and gloves for many years now. I was pretty excited to be chosen as an ambassador for Point6 Merino this year.

Among the major benefits of wool are that it's warm when wet, relatively less stinky and comfortable against the skin. As you can imagine all of these factors are extra important when it comes to your feet!

I've used a wide variety of wool socks over the years. I've had a wide range of experiences with them and I've been very pleased with the way Point6 products stand out.

Quality: Not only are the Point6 Merino socks well made, but they offer a lifetime guarantee.
Durability: I've had wool socks start wearing out after a dozen uses. So far the Point6 socks still look new.
Comfort: They are not constrictive or too thick or too thin. The sizing is true and no irritating seams.
Attractiveness: Most wool socks have been pretty boring. Not Point6! I've got a ton of fun wool running socks, cute compression socks, and even the monochrome trekking socks I wear mountaineering have a nice style.
Variety: Weather you run, hike, climb, ski or just want casual socks Point6 has you covered.

I also love the ethos of the company. See a list of the non-profits they support. 
"We understand that Point6 has the power to create big and positive changes in our world.  We partner with numerous non-profit organizations that can get socks to people in need.  We also support organizations who help maintain, preserve, and educate about all of the outdoor places we all enjoy. "

If you're looking for a great wool sock then I definitely recommend Point6!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Addaday Pro Massage Roller Review

I received a sample of the Addaday Pro Massage Roller at the winter Outdoor Retailer show in January. I've been using a variety of foam rollers and self-massage tools for many years now and when I saw the Addaday products I was immediately intrigued.

There were several things I noticed immediately about the Addaday rollers that made them stand out.
  • Individual textured rollers
  • Differing size rollers
  • Varying levels of hardness in one roller

Addaday Pro Massage Roller

Lately I've become much more interested in fascia health and not just trying to "loosen stiff muscles."
I've been using the Addaday since January and have been pleased with the results. The textured surface of the rollers tacks skin and helps get the layers of skin, fascia, and muscle tissue gliding past one another again.

The thing I most like about the Addaday rollers is that they are truly an all in one tool. Prior to getting this I used a therapy ball, foam roller, and The Stick. The varying size and hardness of the rollers on the Addaday allow me to work every area from my neck to my toes with just one tool. It's also relatively easy to travel with.

If you're looking for ways to utilize the Addaday the company also has a nice series of instructional videos with Timothy Olsen on it's website.

Overall, I highly recommend the Addaday Pro if you are looking for a self massage roller, especially if you are looking to buy just one tool.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review of Backpacking Buddies by Arlette "Apple Pie" Laan

Before I left for the Appalachian Trail in 2015 my dear friend Apple Pie gave me something to keep me company...

It's that little pink fluffy dolly hanging on my backpack.

Yes, yes, I carried something non-essential on my AT FKT.

Because I wanted to have a little smiling pink sweetie to keep me company.

Arlette makes a whole army of little sock dollies to suit your every whim. You can see what she has in stock here. Some, like the one I carried, are made from baby socks and are keychain size. 

Courtesy ArletteLaan.com

The little guy that I carried weighed probably an ounce? Miniscule for the amount of cheer it brought me when I was tired and dirty and hungry. Not only because of it's cute little face, but because a fellow long distance hiker and friend made it for me.

She also makes a selection of backpacking dollies that are a little bigger, but still plush. They also make great hiking companions.

Courtesy ArletteLaan.com
Courtesy ArletteLaan.com

Whether you are looking for a little happy camper to join you or want a gift for a friend check out Arlette's selection!

Pinky and I at the ATC

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Altra Running Apparel Review: Performance Skirt, Performance Tank, Performance Tee

I am an Altra Running Athlete and as such receive my apparel at no cost. I choose to write reviews on my blog for those who are interested. I am under no obligation from the company to do so, and the opinions expressed here are just that: my honest opinions based on my personal experience with the products reviewed.

When I was at the winter Outdoor Retailer show in January I got a sneak peak at many of the awesome things Altra Running is coming out with this year. Among those were some of their apparel pieces. I was stoked to get 3 items to take to New Zealand with me to try out: Performance Skirt, Performance Tank, Performance Tee.

Performance Tee and Skirt on Mt. Torless, NZ

I will sum it up by saying that I loved every item and am super pleased with this lineup that Altra is offering. I'll go into a little more detail on each item below.

Altra Running Apparel and Mids rock off-trail in New Zealand

Performance Skirt
I'm typically not a fan of running skirts/skorts. They are always heavy and slow drying which defeats the point of wearing a skirt in the first place. I also don't like the skort since I wear skirts because I like skirts. If I want to wear shorts then I'll just wear them. So, I was pleased as punch with the Performance Skirt from Altra Running. 

Number one, it's light. Seriously, this skirt weighs 2.6 ounces. That's incredible. 

Secondly, it wicks and dries uber fast. I tend to be a heavy sweater on my back when I wear a pack and often find my shorts stay uncomfortably damp for way too long. This skirt never seemed to hold moisture.

Cons: I am concerned by the California Prop 65 warning on the product. I haven't heard back from Altra what exactly it's referring to, but it's certainly worth taking into consideration when purchasing.

Performance Skirt on Lake Hill, NZ

Performance Tank

Just like the skirt this tank is light. It weighs in at under 2 ounces. That makes a combined outfit weight of under 5 ounces. My thrift store dress days are probably behind me. And that's saying something. 

This tank also wicks and dries crazy fast. Even with the heavy back sweat under a pack the tank never seemed to hold moisture for more than a few minutes after I removed my pack.

I thought the front perforations looked weird at first, but honestly the peekaboo effect with my bright sports bras was cute.

The semi-fitted cut was super comfortable and I felt like I wasn't even wearing anything. I wish I'd had this for the overbearingly humid Appalachian Trail last summer!

Cons: I am concerned by the California Prop 65 warning on the product. I haven't heard back from Altra what exactly it's referring to, but it's certainly worth taking into consideration when purchasing.

Performance Tank on Bounty Island, Fiji

Performance Tee

The tee weighs in just a tad less than the skirt at 2.4 ounces. It's by far my lightest tech tee. I also like that it is reflective on both sides since I often run in town. 

I wasn't sure I'd like the mesh back, but it wasn't at all irritating. Mostly I just felt like I wasn't even wearing anything. 

I like the looser fit making it super comfortable for long days.

Just like the rest of the series it dries wicked fast.

Cons: I am concerned by the California Prop 65 warning on the product. I haven't heard back from Altra what exactly it's referring to, but it's certainly worth taking into consideration when purchasing.

Performance Tee in a Tree, NZ ;)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sealskinz Waterproof Thermal Cap Review

I am an ambassador for Sealskinz USA and received my hat at no cost. However, this review was not requested by the company and is my own opinion of the product.

I've been using my Sealskinz Waterproof Thermal Cap for over a year in all types of conditions. I've used it on long winter runs in Washington, as well as winter hikes, and my ascent of Mt. Rainier in the summer of 2015. It's been an excellent addition to my warm hat collection.

Exceptionally warm
Brim keeps rain out of eyes
Ear flaps and neck flap keep typically cold parts of my head warm and dry
Fleecy lining is comfortable against the skin

Can be too hot during exertion in moderate temperatures

Overall, highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sealskinz Jacquard Waterproof Beanie Review

I am an ambassador for Sealskinz USA and received my hat at no cost. However, this review was not requested by the company and is my own opinion of the product.

I wore a Sealskinz Jacquard Waterproof Beanie for the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and throughout the winter in the Pacific Northwest.


  • Waterproof
  • WARM
  • Adorable


  • Sizing runs quite small. I have a pretty small head (22 in) and I needed the L/XL
  • Heavier than most beanies I own

Overall I recommend this as a winter beanie to anyone in a cold, wet climate. It's a bit too heavy to be reasonable for 3 season thru-hiking use, but I could justify sending it to yourself in a box at colder/wetter sections of trail. Ie. Washington on a NoBo PCT trek, or to Virginia on a SoBo AT hike.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Barkley, Where Dreams Go to Die

"Barkley. Where Dreams Go to Die" -Gary Cantrell

The Race Start-Courtesy Leon Lutz

If you're hoping to read a detailed account of my experience "out there" in 2016 don't bother reading this post. This story isn't about what happened out there, because that doesn't really matter. It's a reflection on what happened in me, because that is what matters.

I came to my third attempt at the Barkley Marathons ready to finish 3 loops. I was bolstered by my 3rd loop start last year and the excellent weather conditions. My navigation on the first loop was almost flawless. I felt good. I felt strong. I was excited. Until I wasn't anymore. Until my body decided to freak out on me and the reality of failure (again) ebbed higher and higher throughout my second loop.

Finishing Loop 1-Courtesy Keith Dunn
Last year after my taps Laz asked me when I was going to "get serious" about finishing the Barkley. I came there this year believing that I was finally serious about at least a Fun Run. Yet over the weekend I discovered that I wasn't.

First ascent of Rat Jaw. I quit here on the 2nd loop.-Courtesy John Price

In my first application I told him that I needed to fail at something and that that is why I wanted to come to Barkley. So I came and I failed miserably. It was crushing and yet gave me the focus and the drive to set the AT FKT. Setting that FKT gave me the confidence to believe that I actually belonged at the Barkley this year.

My first set of Barkley Book Pages ever
I realized as my race ended and I watched the events of camp that I was coming to Barkley for the wrong reasons. First I came to watch my dreams die. And, while that was essential to me for my own path as an athlete, why did I return last year? And this year? Why tell myself I was serious when I really wasn't? Those were the questions that haunted me.

Getting Tapped Out-J. Kowalski

The answers surprised me. I was there because other people wanted me there. So many people believe that I can be the first woman to finish 5 loops at the Barkley. My entire life has been a quest to make others happy. To get good grades for my parents. To marry someone that wasn't right in order to please others. To enter a race when my heart isn't in it and hope for the best.

Just after Taps-Courtesy Joe Kowalski
This year forced me to take a step back from the pattern. To look at this cycle. To realize that the things I'm well known for: the records I have set, those times that I have stubbornly clung to perseverance despite everything being against me are when I have really, truly wanted it for myself. 

Moving across the country. Leaving unhealthy relationships. Quitting my job. Throwing myself into an FKT attempt on the PCT. These things didn't make anyone else happy. No one wanted me to do them. But I wanted to do them. I needed to do them. For Myself.

And I did them without regret and with a resolute, stubborn drive.

I have never come to Barkley with that drive.

"I'm done."-Courtesy Leon Lutz

I realized as I watched Jennilyn rocket up the ascents; and as I saw Gary, my friend and incredible athlete unravel in his 5th loop that I have never been invested in Barkley physically. In order to truly do well at the Barkley I have to be at the same physical level that I have been at in the midst of my record setting hikes. Where I eat elevation for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on little sleep for weeks on end. And I have to be at that level in March, without having the cushion of doing nothing but hammer out 45 mile days for a month beforehand. I haven't been willing. I haven't been invested in the training. I haven't wanted to finish Barkley enough to do what I have to do to be successful.

I watched John Kelly stagger into and out of camp during the transition from his 4th to 5th loops. I recognized that dreamlike stupor of fatigue that he floated in as the same thing I experienced in the High Sierra two years ago. I had wanted the JMT FKT like John wanted Barkley. I had wanted it enough to push my body through 80 hours of almost no sleep to the brink of death from HACE and HAPE. I had wanted to finish it so badly that even when I was coughing up blood I refused to stop.

JMT 2014
People ask me if I think I can be the first woman to finish the Barkley. I have always said "No, I'm too slow," or, "Of course not, no woman can" (echoing Laz's taunt). I've been hiding my lack of desire behind self-deprecation.

After this year I finally realized that I can finish 5 loops at Barkley. I have no doubt of that now. But in order to do so, I need to want the Barkley for myself.

Will I apply again? Maybe. But only when I have decided that I want it enough.

If I return to the Barkley it will be when I am ready physically and mentally to finish it.

Accepting the truth with tears in my eyes-Courtesy J. Kowalski