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


Pros:
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

Cons:
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.

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

Cons:
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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Luna Sandals, Tabu, and Tabi Socks Review

I received my Luna products at no charge, however the review was not requested by the company.

Growing up I wore flip flops or was barefoot, pretty much until I hiked the AT in 2003. So that's 21 years of minimal footwear. I read Born to Run and my boyfriend calls the huge muscles on the bottoms of my feet "the Beasts". So really it's no surprise that my feet are happiest in foot shaped Altras and minimal Luna Sandals.

The perfect sandal seaside and mountainside


I have been wearing Luna Sandals for over a year now and I can absolutely say they are awesome. They conform to your feet over time and are incredibly comfortable and durable. The accessories are well thought out and functional. Best of all this company is located right down the street from me and welcomes you to pop in and have a look. If you want to buy sandals they make them on the spot for you. Very, very cool.

Day to Day Lunas in Fiji


Here are the models I've tried:
Luna Mono
Luna Mono Gordo
Tabu
Tabi Sock


The Luna Mono was my first pair and I've worn them all over the place. Super comfortable, great traction and an excellent all around sandal.
Specs:
Weight: 4.6 oz (single sandal, men's size 9)
Thickness: 12mm
Sole: Vibram® USA

Luna Monos go with skirts...and trails

A few months later I picked up a pair of the Mono Gordo Trail Lunashe first thing I did was wear them on wet pavement to help push my boyfriends motorcycle up a steep driveway. The two men helping me were wearing sturdy shoes and both slipped a bit, the trail Lunas didn't. I went on to take them to New Zealand and Fiji and wore them hiking on several trails that were more river than trail as well as day to day in Fiji.
Specs:
Weight: 7.2 oz (single sandal, men's size 9)
Thickness: 19mm
Sole: Vibram®

The "trail" to Manakau was more river than trail

What about cold feet? Yeah, mine usually are and I don't stop wearing sandals just because it's winter. So I picked up a pair of the Polar Feet Tabi Socks. Pretty much the most amazing addition to sandals ever made. I wore them in camp throughout our NZ trip as well as every nigh on our winter desert peakbagging excursions. I'm afraid I'll wear these out long before my sandals!

Tabi Socks at camp in New Zealand
I used to carry flip flops as a camp shoe on my thru-hikes. On my FKT's I ditched them for weight savings. Then, I discovered the Tabu Booties. Based on the traditional Japanese tabi the Tabu is made to mate perfectly with Luna Sandals. The upper is a water-resistant nylon with a thin cotton lining. However, the sole is a durable textured rubber that bonds to the Luna Sandal. So it's perfect for wearing in conjuction with your sandals when your tootsies want to be covered.
I've made the Tabu my camp shoe of choice now and toss the 1.5 oz pair of fold flat "shoes" into my backpack on nearly every trip. Lighter and warmer than flip flops, what's not to love?!

Tabu''s ready for the next adventure!








Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sawyer Products Stay Put Sunscreen Review

I am an ambassador for Sawyer Products and as such receive my products for free. However, this review is my personal opinion and not required by the company.


Most hikers know about Sawyer Products excellent water filters by now (see my review here). But they also make a wide variety of other items essential to exploring the outdoors. 

I've been using Sawyer's Stay Put Sunscreen for over a year and have found it to really "stay put". This summer my boyfriend and I went to Nevada, Utah, California, Oregon, and Idaho to climb a lot of peaks. They were almost all above 9,000ft and many were above 10. In anticipation of this trip and several glacier climbs I ordered some SPF 50 sunscreen from Sawyer.

I was incredibly impressed with how long an application of the SPF 50 lasted. Usually I only needed one application per day, despite sweating. When I looked into it, I found the following on their website:

"Through our experience as the primary supplier of sunscreen to the troops in the Gulf War, we learned just how important it is to hold a sunscreen in place even in extreme conditions. In our research, we were able to identify how the skin accepts, rejects, or processes sunscreens. With that knowledge we have developed revolutionary techniques for keeping our sunscreen formulas in place. Check out how Sawyer Sunscreen is Simply, Better."

The efficacy of it now made sense.

It's the height of summer. If you're looking for a bomber sunscreen to get you through the dog days I highly recommend Sawyer Products Stay-Put Sunscreen, especially the SPF 50.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bskinz.com Shorts Review

It's not really a secret that I love wild colors and funky designs...


So, I was super stoked to find an affordable source for my shorts and tights...Bskinz.com.

They have a ton of designs in prices ranging from $5 for shorts up to the $30 range in tights/capris. So far I have only bought shorts and I've been pretty pleased with them. All of their compression shorts patterns come in either regular shorts length (6" inseam), or spankies length (2.5" inseam). I've tried both. They also do custom lengths. This is a small US company and inexpensive flat rate shipping ($5).



So far I have done some ascents as well as varying length runs in the shorts and they have been excellent.

What I love:
Colors and Patterns
Cost
Comfort
Coolness/Wicking properties

What could be better:
Durability



The only drawback to these shorts is that as a thinner fabric they aren't as durable. After about a dozen icy glissades they're showing some signs of wear. However, icy glissading is outside the performance scope of most spandex shorts...so that doesn't really count as a failing of the product!

The thinner fabric means they are cooler and wick better than many spandex shorts I've tried.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiter Review




I am part of the Hillsound Equipment Ambassador Program and receive my products for free. However my reviews are not required by the company and I receive no compensation for them.

I picked up a pair of the Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters to use as my everyday mountain gaiter because of their weight, comfort, and waterproofness. In the last few months I have put them through the paces ascending rock and snow, glissading, and pairing with trail runner, mountaineering boots, and plastic boots. Overall they are an excellent all-around gaiter.



What I love:
  1. Stretchy comfort
  2. Top-down zipper
  3. Lightweight
  4. Breathable
  5. Waterproof

What could be better:
  1. Underfoot strap is stiff and hard to adjust
  2. Buckle on underfoot strap broke after about a dozen uses (I'm hard on gear!)
  3. Inner tongue gets caught in zipper (I had to cut it out)

Note that if you are planning to use these with plastic boots SIZE UP! They weren't stretchy enough to accommodate mine and I suffered for 3 days with plastics that wouldn't flex. Poor shins :(

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
– Waterproof to 20,000mm.
– Breathability rating: 6RET, 15.000 + g.
– YKK zipper brings the gaiter close to the leg.
– DWR coating will remain intact for up to 50 washes.
– Unisex
– Weight: 259g (XS); 270g (S); 300g (M); 315g (L); 324g (XL)
– Available sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Salewa Mtn Trainer Mid GTX Boots Review

When I made the transition from trails to summits I knew I needed to bite the bullet and actually buy boots.

 Ugh.

Buy boots first, helmet later
I spent a lot of time researching and reading reviews online. More than one person mentioned liking Salewa brand because of the relatively wide toe box and narrower heel. That sounded promising to me. So, I went to REI and picked up a pair of the Mountain Trainer GTX's.



Now, these are not the most technical performance alpine boot, but I have found them to be excellent in my pursuit of the Bulger List.

What I love:
Lightweight
Comfortable
Sturdy construction and excellent traction

What could be better:
The Gore-Tex failed after the first season of use



These boots accept crampons and snowshoes well. They are also stiff enough for Class 4 scrambling and hard snow. They are also comfortable enough to hike long mountain days in. Overall, I recommend them for most applications.