Monday, January 2, 2017

XoSkin Baselayer Review

Early last year the good folks at XoSkin sent me samples of their baselayer shirts to try out. Since then I've been wearing them in all conditions from the desert of Nevada to the alpine in Washington to my winter running training.

The shirts I tried out were:
1.0 Baselayer (loose fit v-neck with cap sleeves)
2.0 Baselayer (Form fit v-neck short sleeve)
2.0 Baselayer (Form fit v-neck sleeveless)
3.0 Baselayer (Light compression v-neck with cap sleeves)

A few things that set these shirts apart are the fact that they are engineered without many seams. They are sized based on height/weight. XoSkin uses a combination of PTFE and copper fibers to keep you cooler, reduce friction and odor, and promote a healthy environment for the skin.

Overall these shirts have been excellent. They wick well and are comfortable in a wide variety of conditions. I'm not sure that they really smell less than other synthetics after several days of wear, but I do notice that the odor washes out unlike the permastench in my other tech shirts. Even the heavier shirt is comfortable in warm temperatures. The main thing I'd like to see is more patterns.

Other thoughts:
I didn't find there to be much compression in the compression shirt. (Maybe I need a smaller size?)
The sleeveless form fit was my favorite for all factors. I love it for running and hiking.
The hand of the 1.0 was silky and I'm not a huge fan of that type of fabric feel. Otherwise the feel of the various weights is great.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fueling an AZT FKT

At this point in my life, I have logged approximately 19,000 (!) backcountry miles across 6 thru-hikes, 3 FKT's, and dozens of shorter trips, mountain runs, and mountaineering. You would think I'd know what to eat by now...

The reality is that after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance I had to overhaul my backcountry diet. The difference showed last year on the Appalachian Trail. I felt nourished throughout my journey, yet I knew there was a lingering missing piece. Most backcountry dinners rely on starches to fill you up. Removing noodles from the equation limited my choices and I found that I was mostly relying on soy fillers (TVP and Soy Protein Isolate) and rice. While it worked, it wasn't what I truly needed.

So, while you'll recognize many of these products as the ones I've been relying on for the past two years there are some changes. Hopefully these will help anyone out there trying to find solid GF foods for their backcountry adventures.

Greenbelly Meals: Breakfast of champions right here. Over 600 calories in the package and containing 1/3 of your daily nutrition (on the macro scale) as well as vitamins and minerals. The flavor and texture are unique from most other bars on the market, which was important to me after so many days of eating bars. Their proper nutrient balance ensured I was sated for several hours and started my day right.
Favorite Flavor: Cranberry Almond

Packs a Calorie and Nutritional Punch

Trailbutter: As always Trailbutter has been a powerhouse of slow burning fuel for me on these endeavors. Since backpacking is a primarily aerobic activity the body's main source of fuel is fat coupled with small amounts of carbohydrate. Trailbutter is the perfect ratio of slow and fast burning fuel. I use the 4.5 oz resealable pouches and sip on them throughout the day.
Favorite Flavor: Expedition Espresso 

Simply the Best Nut Butter Fuel Around

Navitas Naturals: I use a wide variety of Navitas Naturals products to snack on throughout the day. Their wholesome superfoods are nutritious, delicious, and contain a variety of micronutrients to maintain overall health. Goji Berries, Mullberries, nuts, etc. The newest addition to my fueling this year is their new Superfood+ Bars. These are not only delicious, but there's no junk or filler and they come in unique flavors.
Favorite: Hemp Peanut Superfood+ Bar

Navitas Makes a Wide Variety of Superfood Fuel

Probar: I utilized both the Meal Bars and the Base (protein) bars from ProBar on the AZT. The Meal bars are a great tasting, calorie dense snack that helps keep you sated for a long time. The Base Bars were something I moved from my previous hikes' dinner menu to afternoon snack (usually right before my 45 min water break in the heat of the day). I found that the extra protein in the mid-day rest period allowed me to do a little repair work in the middle of the day.
Favorite Flavors: Meal: Oatmeal Raisin (n/a) Base: Mint-Chocolate

Ok, so I might like ProBar a lot...

Fuel100 Electro-bites: I've been using Electro-Bites in my running and racing for several years and they were critical on the Arizona Trail in the heat. I've learned that when these things taste sweet that means I'm really low on electrolytes and if they taste too salty then I'm not. This is really crucial when you're sweating a lot and also trying to drink a lot so that you keep your electrolytes and fluids balanced. I usually ate a packet of these anytime I downed 2-3 liters of water to make sure everything stayed in equilibrium.
Favorite Flavor: Salty Vanilla

Electrolytes on the Move

Nuun: This is one of the magic bullets that has been missing all these years. An effective, well balance, electrolyte drink that tastes good, isn't full of junk, and covers the flavor of cow water! In all seriousness, Nuun combined with Nuun Plus made for the perfect electrolyte + energy drink on the AZT. I alternated between Nuun Active and Nuun Energy (Energy being a caffeinated version) throughout the hike. I drank 2-3 servings per day which was the perfect amount.
Favorite Flavor: Active: Strawberry Lemonade Energy: Mango Orange

Hydrate Early and Often

PaleoMealsToGo: Paleo Meals To Go were the final key to my on-trail nutrition. Over the summer I tried them and had a feeling I'd finally found what I'd been looking for. So I used them on the Arizona Trail FKT...and...Success!!!
I've always struggled to feel like I was getting adequate protein at night and these were the ticket. They hydrate in under 20 minutes even with cold water. The flavors are delicious and they are made with quality ingredients. You can read a more detailed review here. Each night I ate one of their dinners and in the morning I could just feel that I'd repaired and recovered more than I had on other endeavors. I am thrilled to have finally found a high protein meal that hydrates cold and isn't made with fillers. Real food only. In fact, all Paleo Meals To Go are "gluten free, grain free, milk free, soy free, nut free, shelf stable, and protein-rich." I can't recommend them highly enough.

In addition to being my dinner throughout the hike, I also alternated breakfasts between Greenbelly Meal Bars and the Paleo Meals To Go Cliffside Coconut Berry or Butte Cacao Banana. These were a filling and nutritious start to the day and a good way to break up the "bar" monotony.

Favorite Flavor: Bedrock Beef ChiliButte Cacao Banana

Variety of Delicousness

Salazon Chocolate: Yes, you knew it was coming, right? There is no way I hike anywhere without my chocolate fix! Even the desert. No, I didn't have melted chocolate all over my backpack either. I did have to make a concession to the heat and save my salty Salazon for dessert each night, rather than trying to eat it during the day. In the end, I rather enjoyed it as my final treat after a delicious dinner at the end of a long day.  (Desert Dessert?!) This year I also ordered only the 72% chocolate flavors (with the exception of the coffee which is 57%) and I've been very happy with that since I prefer my chocolate as dark as possible.
Favorite Flavor: Sea Salt and Cayenne

So, it's not on the AZT, but I didn't get any headlamp shots of me devouring my chocolate...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Arizona Trail Gear Review

There's always a demand for Gear Lists and reviews after a thru-hike, so here is a brief review of the gear I used on my Arizona Trail Self-Supported FKT in October 2016. This is not an exhaustive list, primarily things I haven't reviewed before.

  • OPsack: Once again this worked well to keep my food safe from animals 
  • Bamboo spoon: I never knew I had expectations from a spoon until I started backpacking. This one meets or exceeds them all! I'm glad I switched over from Lexan. Long enough to keep your hands out of your food, lightweight, and a natural material to boot. 
  • Ultimate Direction Body Bottle Plus: I used this for making up my Nuun electrolyte drink. It worked well and collapsed down to the size of the cap when not in use. No weird mold or other growth in it despite not washing it for 3 weeks. Didn't puncture despite the pokiness of the desert.
  • Black Diamond Icon headlamp: I bought this for Barkley last year and it was incredible there. While nighthiking on the AZT I repeatedly thought, "If only I'd had this on the PCT and AT!" It's overkill unless you're doing hours and hours of night hiking since it's pretty heavy, but with lithium batteries it was bright for 3-4 hours of use 5 days in a row.
  • Gossamer Gear Nightlight pad: I'm a side sleeper and I definitely had sore hips using this on the hard desert ground. The nights I found good camp under pine trees or in washes it was comfy. However, I have that issue with any closed cell foam pad. As far as insulation this was perfect.
  • Sawyer All-In-One filter with Inline Adapter: This filter works great when installed using the inline adapter (sold separately). However, I cut the hose to the wrong length at home and had issues getting good flow. I ended up screwing the filter directly to the bladder and only using the clean side of the adapter with the remaining hose. I recommend practicing with your pack fully loaded at home so you get the filter mounted in the right place to begin with.
  • Sawyer 64 oz pouches (2): It was important to me to have a max capacity that was more than I anticipated ever needing. I carried these in addition to a platypus 2 liter for a total of a gallon and a half. I only carried that much once, but one of the Sawyer pouches did spring a leak 2 days from the end and I was glad I had a backup. It seemed like it got punctured by some desert plant. 
  • Ibex Balance Bralette:  One could say I'm getting more sophisticated. For the first time in about 10 years I wore something other than a bikini top as a hiking bra. I finally had to admit that the behind the neck ties were putting a lot of strain on my neck so I searched for an alternative. In the desert the wool was the perfect balance of warmth when it was cold, and wicking comfort when it was hot. Super comfortable I forgot it was there. Supportive enough for hiking, but definitely not for running.
  • Gossamer Gear Polycro groundcloth: I've been using these for years. 3 FKT's and counting now. In fact, I used the same one on the AZT that I used on the AT. So, any question of durability has been answered. 
  • Ultimate Direction Desert hat: Exactly what you need on your head in the desert. My only caveat was that you can't button it closed under the chin to keep it in place when it's windy.
  • Point 6 Ultra light compression socks: These were my saving grace every night. I looked forward to pulling off the gnarly hiking socks and shoes at the end of the day and getting these compression socks on. My feet felt like a million bucks every morning after a night of recovery in these!
  • Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket: The lightest rain jacket I own and perfect for squalls on the AZT. Kept me warm as an external shell on windy cold days as well. Not as good as a true hardshell during the snow/sleet/rain event on my second day, but although I still ended up wet it did keep me warm.
  • Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack: The new updates to this pack are great. I definitely felt that the integrated stays helped transition weight from shoulders to hips when I had a heavy load, which was often. I regularly carried a 30+lb pack due to the amount of water and food I had to pack. I also discovered load lifters for the first time ever. It was a magical moment.
  • Altra Paradigm shoes: As a Lone Peak girl I went back and forth over my choice to wear the Paradigm (a road shoe) on the AZT. In the end it worked out, but not without some serious issues. The first pair wore perfectly since the northern 400 miles is mostly dirt road. However, the southern half chewed up and spit out the second pair. Far more rocky. Comfort-wise they were a great choice and I'd wear them again, I'd just do three pair or wear a Lone Peak for the Mazatzal and Superstition Wildernesses.
  • Montbell Tachyon Jacket: This jacket was perfect for windy days and chilly mornings/nights. Critical as my warm layer.

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