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 :(

– 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.


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:
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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bskins Sports Bra Review

I am constantly searching for a performance sports bra that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. For whatever reason it seems like you're supposed to spend $30-50+ to keep the girls in line when running. I think it's ridiculous to spend that much and often make do with $20 versions from department stores.

However, I recently gave Bskins.com (where I get my wild and fun tights and shorts) Sports bras a try. They were clearancing many styles for around $5 a piece and I figured it really couldn't hurt to try one out.

I now own 7.

What I love:
Fun patterns and colors
Adequate support

What could be better:
The sizing is not exact. S-L
Adequate bounce support for a B cup runner, but not as supportive as some running specific designs. As a runner on a budget though, it's a negligible trade off.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hillsound Equipment Trail Crampons 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 ordered a pair of the Hillsound Trail Crampons to use in less technical scenarios in order to save wear and tear on my aluminum mountaineering crampons. I have put them through their paces on several challenging ascents and have been pleased with their performance, even when I took them into more traditional mountaineering situations (which they are not designed for).

The Trail Crampons are designed for just that...trails. They lack aggressive front points which are necessary for icy, steep terrain. I did ascend Mt. Hood with them and despite the very tenuous grip, I was able to make it up and down the icy Pearly Gates chute in them. Definitely not recommended, but a good demonstration of how these crampons exceeded expectation.

Summit of Mt. Hood, Oregon

What I love:
The built in anti-balling plates.
The ratcheting harness system.

What could be better:
Aluminum rather than steel (weight savings)

Having had anti-balling plates fall off of other crampons I like the fact that these are built in. The ratcheting harness system means I can put these on and off in seconds and I haven't experienced slippage which I often do with a traditional webbing harness. This is essential for me in my fast and light endeavors. The harness is also comfortable on trail runners as well as boots, which is not the case with webbing designs.

The steel points grip exceptionally well for being shorter spikes. As I said, I've taken these on steep terrain and felt like they were adequate even though I was stretching them beyond their design. As a flat terrain crampon they are bomber. I would recommend them for early season thru-hikers dealing with consolidated snow as well as winter hiking.

If Hillsound ever took this harness design and made an aluminum as well as a steel 12 point mountaineering crampon I think they would dominate the crampon world. I would certainly use them. In short, these are the most comfortable and versatile crampon I've used.

From the Hillsound Website:

– Spike Material: Heat-treated Carbon Steel
– Chain Material- Stainless steel
– Harness Material: Elastomer
– Spike Height: 1.5cm / 2/3″
– Spike Number: 11
– Weight (per pair): 414g (XS), 440g (S), 462g (M), 502g (L), 518g (XL)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review of Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot by Sarah Marquis

I recently read Wild by Nature the English translation of the original French Sauvage par Nature written by Sarah Marquis.

I remember shortly after I finished my PCT record hike hearing about Sarah's remarkable 3 year pedestrian journey across Siberia, Asia, and Australia. I felt an incredible sense of awe at her accomplishment and thought, "My hike was nothing in comparison to that!"

Obviously, I was excited to get my hands on her book and read it.

Although I enjoyed it, I was somewhat disappointed. It was certainly an interesting story of her journey, but it seemed to lack depth of detail. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it seemed like the literary equivalent of trying to explain a vivid dream to someone else. More than once I felt like I was catching a tiny glimpse of the vibrancy of the experience she was describing, but then the words melted into vagueness.

Because of my own journeys, I was able to read between the lines and catch at the things she was seeking to describe. I also could identify with so many of the emotions and the circumstances. I enjoyed reading of her experiences and feeling a connection and a familiarity with them, even though they took place in other countries. There is an expression in Tanzania that says, "Same, same, but different." I often felt the sameness, even though the people and places were different.

Overall, I'd recommend the book to anyone who enjoys reading about adventure.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review of Called Again by Jennifer Pharr-Davis

I'll start with this: JPD is one of my heroes. I managed to get her phone number through the friend of a friend connection prior to attempting my PCT FKT in 2012. I remember being sweaty palmed and nervous to talk to her on the phone.

By the time we hung up I felt like just maybe I could manage to pull and FKT hike together.

Jennifer is strong, compassionate, and encouraging. Her words on the phone before the PCT helped me plan better. Her words in Called Again, the story of her own FKT on the Appalachian Trail, helped me stay strong and focused in the dark, hopeless moments of my Appalachian Trail FKT last year.

So, now the book.

Called Again is Jennifer's account of her overall supported Fastest Known Time hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2011 (subsequently broken by Scott Jurek in 2015). She was supported by her husband Brew. She covered the entire 2,181 miles in 46 days.

What I loved about this book was the detail of the story behind the miles. The love of hiking. The strength of her marriage through hardship and sacrifice. The beautiful generosity that pervades the long distance hiking and running communities.

Jennifer is an above average writer, something that I find hard to come by amongst athletes that write their stories. She is gifted not only physically, but artistically. If you've struggled with the writings of other modern athletes you won't have that problem with Called Again.

If you're curious about the mental ups and downs of pushing yourself to the very limit for prolonged periods of time this is an incredibly honest look. Jennifer doesn't hold back from admitting the times she was less than kind and generous to her support crew. This makes for an authentic read rather than euphoric fluff. It's real, gritty, honest, and complete. I loved every word.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sealskinz Waterproof Socks Review

I am an ambassador for Sealskinz USA and as such receive my socks 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.

I stumbled onto Sealskinz USA at the winter Outdoor Retailer show two years ago. I was immediately impressed with their waterproof technology and ordered a pair of socks for my second run at the Barkley Marathons. From there I have developed a working relationship with this great UK based company and have been privileged to try a wide variety of their gear in all types of conditions all over the world. The gear I have used has performed admirably from the summit of Rainier to the jungle of New Zealand. They've also been great supporters of my role as public speaker and frequently provide sample products to giveaway to the audience. Thank you, Terri and the Sealskinz USA co!

Since it all started with socks, I'll review several styles here today. For what it's worth, Sealskinz offers a huge variety in their socks and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a style that wouldn't work for you. Overall I have been extremely satisfied with the waterproofness and durability with only a couple of caveats and cautions.

  • Never, ever put them through the dryer! Alas, my first pair got fried when my boyfriend inadvertently put them in the dryer. They were never the same.
  • Make sure you're wearing the right temperature rating. I've had issues with super sweaty feet that ended up cold and wet because the socks I was wearing were too warm for conditions.
  • Consider a liner. Along those same lines I've layered my Sealskinz socks with Drymax liner socks for long days. This helps keep the feet from getting soggy from sweat.
  • Don't wade unless you've got hydrostop! I've made the mistake of fording rivers that were too deep for my sock height and ended up with a sock full of water for the rest of the day. Make sure you get one of their hydrostop models if you think there's a chance you'll be going over sock deep.
  • Keep the pebbles out! (and other debris) I wasn't conscientious about this on a mixed river/bushwhack/scree hike and noticed that small holes rendered the socks leaky. Pair them with good gaiters if you'll be taking them through rough terrain.

Here are the styles I've worn for various occaisions:
Barkley Marathons: Mid Length Mid Weight Sock
Mt. Rainier: Thick Mid Length Sock
Glacier Travel: Thick Mid Length Sock
Snowshoeing: Trekking Sock
River Fords: Women's Thin Mid Length Sock

Climbing Mt. Rainier with Sealskinz USA