Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Altra Paradigm Shoe Review

I am an Altra Athlete and as such receive shoes for free. I review them on my own accord.

I have a strong devotion to the Altra Lone Peak. In fact, it's pretty damn hard to convince me to put anything else on my feet.

I scramble peaks in Lone Peaks

However, since I moved to an urban area I have been running more roads and gravel paths than trails (booo). While the Lone Peak is fine for this, it's certainly not the best place and I was wearing the tread down too fast.

So, I ordered a pair of Paradigms.

I've been loving them!

Happy Feet, Happy Heather. Wish I could be here everyday!

The cushion is ideal for running the hard surfaces, but it's not so much that I feel like I'm on stilts. I had a pair of Hoka's once. That was a weird feeling.

As with all other Altra's, the Paradigms have a foot shaped toe box and zero drop. That makes them comfortable and functional for me.

Climbing a waterfall in Paradigms
I have also used the Paradigm on trails (and off trails!) with great success. The tread is not as burly as the Lone Peak, but it's perfectly adequate for trail adventures.

Off Trail. Full Pack. Wet Branch Bridge. Paradigm Shuffle.

I also really like them for recovery days as well when I feel like I need a bit more squish underfoot.

The only con I've noticed is the sizing. The men's is a little too wide for my foot and the women's is a tad too short. So, if you're a woman, you may need to size up a half size. Altra provides a handy "Show Me How it Fits" interactive next to the sizing chart on their website.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Tale of Two Headlamps

I learned my lesson after stumbling through the darkness on the PCT.

Carry 2 headlamps.

I left Mt. Katahdin with a Black Diamond Spot and a Princeton Tec Fuel.

Walking into Monson in a thunderstorm the Princeten Tec sputtered and died.

Despite being rated as waterproof. Despite me drying it and replacing the batteries it never worked again. Major bummer.

The Black Diamond Spot alone got me to Pinkham Notch, NH where I scanned their rack of headlamps (not many options). I finally chose a Princeton Tec Vizz because it was supposed to be completely waterproof and VERY bright.

It was indeed waterproof and very bright. However, it was also very heavy. It burned through batteries much faster than the advertised burn time. The multi-modes stopped working a week or so down the trail. By mid-Virginia the casing had cracked (despite me babying my headlamps) meaning I could no longer wear it.

Obviously, I didn't have time to find a PO and mail the broken one with an explanatory note to the company. So, I threw it out. When I got home and sent them a message explaining the situation: why I was dissatisfied and the reason for the delay in contacting them. I didn't ask for reimbursement or replacement.

I received a reply that in short said, "Too bad." That response irritated me more than two failed headlamps in two months. Companies that don't care about their customers enough to offer more than a form letter condolence do not get my business. The email closed with, "Next time, send us the broken one and we'll replace it." Sorry, but there won't be a next time, Princeton Tec. Your headlamps don't last and I certainly wasn't pleased with your customer service.

On the other hand, my Black Diamond Spot worked perfectly throughout the hike. It didn't gobble batteries like an insatiable dragon. The modes worked. The case didn't break under normal use. It didn't short out in a rainstorm. I can't comment on their customer service because this headlamp is so awesome I haven't needed it.

So there you go. The Tale of Two Headlamps (well, technically 3). I 100% recommend the Black Diamond Spot (or it's big brother the Storm which Adam uses). Princeton Tec? No way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

URSportswear Just Rock Shorts Review

I've been rocking the "Just Rock" shorts for a couple of years now and I absolutely love them. In fact they have a couple of new colors out...so I'll have to buy one of each!

Here's what I love:

  • The fit. They are a spandex short, but the most comfortable ones you'll ever wear. I don't feel like I'm in Spanx.
  • No ride up. That's right. The legs stay put. Thank God.
  • The colors. Peppy, bold, fun. It's what I look for in outdoor apparel (right after functionality).
  • Durability. I've taken these climbing indoors and out, on off-trail bushwhacking adventures, long runs, yoga, and trail hikes. They still look new.

What's not so great:

  • The sweat factor. When you're sweating hard it shows. If they come out with a darker color I bet it won't be as noticeable.
  • Dry time. While they stay comfortable even when wet I have noticed that they don't dry as fast as the uber thin running shorts.
  • Weight. They fabric isn't particularly lightweight. However, I think it's pretty standard or even a little lighter than most spandex.

Overall, I feel good when I wear them and they are highly functional. I highly recommend them!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Injinji Socks Review

Once again I wore Injinji Run 2.0 Original Weight Mini-Crew on my AT thru-hike. This has been my go to sock for years in trail running, climbing, hiking, etc. I've never had a reason to wear anything else.

My array of socks pre-PCT...Lightweight wore out too fast

Some people can't handle the "something between my toes" feeling. For everyone else, try these. I never have between the toe blisters, even though some of my toes overlap. My feet stay comfortable and the fabric wicks well.

As I approached town the things I dreamed about more fervently than food were a new pair of socks and a new pair of shoes.

What I dreamt of...
I went through 8 pair of socks on the AT, but I wish I'd sent myself more. I think I went through 8 on the PCT and also wished for more. Next time I thru-hike I'll just send new socks to every town and my feet will be infinitely happy! :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


I've written extensively about the food I ate on the Appalachian Trail. Some people have asked about vitamins and supplements. The answer is, yes, I did take vitamins while on the trail. Although I did my best to eat a healthy and nutritious diet, the reality is that there isn't a lot of non-perishable, calorie dense fresh food options. Also, the demands being placed on me physically and mentally are over and above the norm.

For reference, I am not a big supplement taker. In daily life I use 3 supplements that are doctor directed to treat my personal medical problems. Those are Floravital to treat anemia, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B complex (for deficiencies in both). I also take fish oil or Flora's 7 Sources for additional Omega-3's during periods of high intensity training.

All supplementation should be considered with your health care professional.

For those that are curious, here are the supplements that I found to be critical to maintaining health on the AT (and the PCT). I chose these specific brands because I trust them to be of high quality. It's important to realize that the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA and therefore a company can put anything they want into them. This is why it is so important to do your research and discuss your plans with a knowledgeable professional.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket Review

I received one of Ultimate Direction's new Ultra Jackets in the mail while I was out on the AT. It was a great homecoming gift!

Yay for new gear!

Since then I've taken it out on everything from drizzly PNW runs around town, to the cold, crisp autumn mornings of the midwest, and downright wintry conditions on nearby summits.

Teneriffe Summit

I have been nothing but impressed. In fact, it's been finding its way into my pack and onto my back more often than my beloved Houdini jacket these days...

Things I love about it:

  • Foldover mitts at the end of the cuffs
  • Built in brim in the hood
  • Full coverage hood
  • Waterproof
  • Even in pouring rain the inside pocket seems to keep my iPod dry

Things to consider:

  • I've never found anything to be truly breathable and waterproof, no matter what the manufacturer claims. This jacket included. However, I have learned to just look for a waterproof jacket that will keep me warm. This does.
  • It's a slim fit. If you want to layer over top of anything other than a single shirt size up one (or even 2) sizes.
  • It's gusseted in the middle, which is flattering, but I find tends to be a bit restrictive when combined with a pack

Overall, I love this jacket and highly recommend it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sawyer Products Chemical Treatment Reviews: Permethrin, Picaridin, Sunblock

As a brand ambassador for Sawyer Products I was able to utilize several topical chemicals on the AT that I found essential to my health and success.

First of all, I used Permethrin to treat all of my clothing, gear, and shoes. This included the 5 pairs of shoes I sent myself in resupply boxes (and the many pairs of new socks I also mailed myself). As a result, I only found two ticks on me. They were both on my left arm at the same time, immediately following a thrashing through head high grasses near Pearisburg, VA. I flicked them off, no harm done.

Secondly, I used Picaridin insect repellent instead of DEET. As I said, no tick problems. The time I did find ticks I wasn't actually wearing Picaridin. The only times I felt like the Picaridin wasn't working was when I was sweating profusely in the northern Mid-Atlantic states. I'd apply the repellent and the mosquitoes and black flies would leave me alone for approximately 3 minutes. However, I'm not sure even 100% DEET would be sweat proof in those conditions.

I also used the Sawyer SPF 30 sunscreen in the northern part of the AT. I also use it when climbing and mountaineering. It doesn't need constant reapplication even in sweaty conditions, which I appreciate, and provides adequate protection from the sun.

For anyone considering a thru-hike of the AT I HIGHLY recommend treating your gear and clothing with Permethrin and using either Picaridin or Deet while on the trail. Ticks carry a lot of yucky diseases (not just Lyme).