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).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sawyer Filter Review

It's a bit of a long story, but near the summit of the mountain where the idea for the Appalachian Trail was birthed I ruined my hydration system. The story involves animal dung, a spring, my bite valve, and gravity.

But prior to that, my Sawyer All-In-One filter and In-line adapter was working amazingly!

After that, I resorted to using a leaky Platypus as a squeeze bag for my filter and probably wasted countless hours until I finally threw the whole thing away in Damascus and switched to chlorine and a new Platypus Hoser. For the last 400 miles. At which point it didn't really matter anymore...but I digress.

Back to the filter.

Sawyer Squeeze Filters are excellent. I have been using the mini for a couple of years and have loved it. There are two main drawbacks:

  1. The squeeze bags wear out and burst annoyingly soon. As in after only a dozen uses or so. Buy extras.
  2. Squeezing water is a slow and tedious process, especially for large quantities.

Therefore, starting the AT with the All-In-One (higher flow rate) and an In-Line adapter for my Ultimate Direction bladder (note, if you use a bladder by Nathan or UD the adapter will not fit the hose. You'll have to use a platy or camelback hose instead) was the perfect solution.

  1. Easy to drink and filter at the same time
  2. Stop just long enough to fill the bladder and keep moving

The only drawback to that system was that the bladder was then always "dirty" water. When I filled from a municipal source I actually contaminated clean water only to filter it again as I drank. But, that was really a minor problem.

So, the moral of this story is this: Use the Sawyer All-In-One with the In-Line adapter if you use a hydration bladder. And, always use a bite valve cover.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On Affiliate Marketing and Being True to Myself

"You should optimize your blog."

I wasn't sure what they meant, but after a brief explanation I realized they meant monetize my blog. Using affiliate marketing. Ads.

It didn't sit right with me and I dismissed the idea.

But then I heard it from someone else. And another person.

So, I looked into it. I talked to several people with blogs similar to mine and they explained how easy it was to make passive income. I decided to try it.

It still didn't sit right with me. I felt a little yucky inside, but I ignored the feeling. The idea of passive income while out pursuing my passions seemed so good. Not to mention I had control over ads, links, etc and could make sure that they were only for products I fully endorsed.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with advertising on blogs, or affiliate marketing. Everything from Google to Facebook reads your text messages, calendars, searches, browsing history, etc to tailor advertisements to you. I'd rather choose to click on ads on a blog of someone I trust, knowing they may get a portion, than to blindly let the megalithic behind-the-scenes marketing algorithms attempt to influence my spending habits.

I put the affiliate marketing in place before I left for the AT. I let it do it's thing for 3 months. In the end though, I still felt uneasy about it.

When it came right down to it, when I was absolutely, completely honest with myself I had to face up to the fact that, while I don't have negative feelings toward the concept...

I wasn't being true to myself.

Utilizing affiliate marketing, or marketing in general doesn't suit me. I'm not a salesperson. Trying to be one, even in a passive way, wasn't authentic.

I never intended to make a living off of hiking. I never intended to be famous. I never intended to be a brand ambassador for anyone. I never intended to become an advertisement.

And guess what? I still don't.

I'll never make a living off of hiking because I'm not interested in, or willing to do the things that would allow me to do so.

I don't care if I'm famous. Hell, I deliberately try to keep my plans secret because I like being by myself. My goals, adventures, and trips take place because I want to do them. If no one cares about the route/peak/trail and what I'm doing on it...Guess what? I don't care. I'm doing it anyway. I'm not in this for glory, I'm in this to live my life to the grandest, fullest, most maximal capacity I can. And whatever catches my fancy next, I'm going to go after with the same ardor and dedication that I have brought alternately over the years to writing, thru-hiking, running, climbing, and FKT's.

I use the products I want to use because I like them. I've turned down offers of gear, ambassadorships, and freebies because I didn't want them/couldn't use them/thought they were crap. I'm not going to start cooking my food because someone wants me to use their stove and cookware. I'm not going to stop wearing a dress because a company wants to cover me in their apparel.

I will tell anyone and everyone exactly what I think about the products I use. Good or bad. Pluses, minuses, pros and cons. I will do so with integrity, and tact, but it's going to be honest. And if a company cannot deal with that, then I will  politely decline to be affiliated with them.

I took down the affiliate links on my blog. I still review items I think people would be interested in. I try to note the things I received for free to review, but in reality, that doesn't affect the content of the review.

As far as passive income goes...I am working on a series of e-books that can be downloaded for a nominal fee. I'd rather sell my expertise and information than try and turn my blog into an advertisement. Because, that is authentic and genuine...

That is being true to myself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Altra Lone Peak 2.5 Review

I've been wearing the Altra Lone Peak since version 1, and while it remains my favorite, version 2.5 is definitely a close second.

Lone Peak version 1

I wore Lone Peak 2.0's for the first 1,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail this year. I slipped my first pair of 2.5's on at Harper's Ferry, WV.

AT Center in Harper's Ferry

I walked out of there pretty much singing. My feet were oh so very happy.

Reasons I love the 2.5:

  • Slipper comfort
  • Lighter than the 2.0
  • Breathable
  • More durable upper*
  • Just the right amount of cushion to protect foot while still feeling connected to the terrain. 


  • The tread seems to wear down quicker than I'd anticipate

I put the 2.5's through their paces this summer. I was very impressed overall and certainly feel like these are the best iteration of the Lone Peak since the original. I found that they fit the same as the 2.0. As with all Altra shoes, the ZeroDrop and Foot Shaped Toe Box allow my foot to be a foot and act as nature intended.

Somewhere in Virginia

*Granted, the terrain I wore the 2.5 on was not as technical as the parts I wore the 2.0 on, however, I didn't notice significant wear, even after 500+ miles.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

AT Gear Review: ZPacks Soloplex Tent

I purchased my tent from ZPacks and am not affiliated with the company in any way, although they did generously offer me a discount. This review was not requested by them and is my own experience with the product. You can see my full AT gear list here.

I used my ZPacks Hexamid for several years, including my PCT thru-hike in 2013. It was starting to show the 4000 miles I'd put on it though and so I knew I was going to need a more stormproof shelter for the AT. I chose the ZPacks Soloplex.

I used to say my Hexamid was my favorite piece of gear. Now, it's a toss up between that and the Soloplex. Basically, I think no matter what shelter you choose from ZPacks it's going to be awesome.

Getting the tension just right
Footprint: The Soloplex takes more space to set up than the Hexamid, although I was still able to cram it under rhododendron and even on the trail a couple times. It takes practice to get the pitch right, but eventually you'll be able to set it up quickly and in a variety of less than ideal locations.

Vestibules: The overlapping vestibules tended to gap, but that was probably because I didn't have the pitch perfected. Evenso, water never came in, even in heavy rain. They provided lots of room for storing gear.

Condensation: I did get minimal condensation, but nothing more than I would expect with a single wall tent, and far less than I've had with other types. The higher dew point may have played a factor in this.

Set-up: It's a bit tricky to set up. Just like every other minimal shelter I've ever used. There are tricks and finesse unique to each type of tent and it takes a few pitches to get the hang of it. I strongly recommend watching the set-up video a few times and practicing at home. Even doing that I forgot a detail that I accidentally remembered in Virginia...and suddenly the tent was perfect...d'oh!

Setting up in the North Cascades

Space to Weight Ratio: This tent is huge. I felt like I had my own palace at night, not that I was awake very long to enjoy it. There was ample room for my gear and me (I'm 5'8"). Even when everything was wet there was enough room to shove the wet gear to the end of the tent and not touch it with my down bag while I slept. In fact, though this is certainly a one person shelter my boyfriend and I used it on our backpacking trip when I got home. He's 6'2" and we both used full length Thermarest NeoAir mattresses. Our gear had to stay outside and the zipper had a six inch gap, but we fit. That gives you an idea of how spacious this tent is...for only less than a pound. Mine weighed exactly a pound with stakes and the optional poles. Having broken and lost trekking poles I don't trust my tent set-up to them!

Highly recommended to any thru-hiker!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Food for the Long Haul: Appalachian Trail Food Review

Throughout the summer reviews of the food I had stocked my boxes with were published here using the scheduling feature so you'd have something to read while I was out hiking :) My pre-reviews were written based on my experiences with the products in the months leading up to the AT. Despite eating everything in a variety of situations (from sitting on a plane to hiking in Death Valley to climbing Rainier) it's still hard to predict how exactly it will be to eat those things for weeks on end while thru-hiking.

So, here it is my final review of how these things stacked up on a thru-hike...

My original review of Navitas Naturals Products:
What worked: Goji Berries, Mulberries, various flavors PowerSnacks.
What didn't: Ziplocs of Coconut Water powder absorbed moisture rendering it unusable. Not Navitas fault, but a poor packaging choice on my behalf. Green Coffee powder wasn't strong enough in the later stages of my hike. I got tired of the Coconut Pepitas.

My original review of Salazon Chocolate.
What worked: It all did. Chocolate, Nom.
What didn't: I wish I'd brought 2 bars of chocolate per day.

My original review of Health Warrior Chia Bars.
What worked: The chia bars were awesome, but not enough. Could have eaten 4 at a time.
What didn't: I got tired of the protein bars. They had a pea protein aftertaste that started to become obvious when I was on the trail.

My original review of ProBars
What worked: The meal bars were perfect for breakfast. The Base bars were an excellent post dinner protein and chocolate treat. Bolt and Fuel products were nice variety.
What didn't: Nothing. I'm still eating Base bars for snacks at home...

My original review of Bogg's Trail Butter
What worked: The caffeine, fat, protein and overall awesome magic of Trail Butter fueled me throughout my hike.
What didn't: I wish I had brought 2-3 times as much.

My original review of Electro Bites
What worked: These saved me so many times. The humidity of the East was draining. Having these really kept me from getting into some serious problems.
What didn't: My distribution. I should have had more in the mid-Atlantic and less down south.

So there you have it folks. Most of what I predicted to be perfect for the hike was indeed. So, if you're looking for some new variety I can fully recommend these products.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

AT Gear Review: ZPacks 35 Degree Sleeping Bag

I purchased my sleeping bag from ZPacks and am not affiliated with the company in any way, although they did generously offer me a discount. This review was not requested by them and is my own experience with the product. You can see my full AT gear list here.

When I first opened the package containing my ZPacks 35 degree bag 3 days before I left for the AT I had a moment of panic. I could literally see the feathers through the fabric and the 1 pound bag felt like nothing in my hands. As someone who sleeps cold I was terrified it wasn't going to be warm enough.

I was wrong.

First of all, most nights on the AT were uncomfortably hot and humid. Often the bag was only over my legs or used as a blanket. But on the nights when the temps were actually in the 50's or below, it was completely warm enough.

Temperature Rating: As I said, I sleep very cold, so most nights I was wearing my clean fleece sleep clothes. These kept me warmer and kept the bag cleaner. I also wore a fleece balaclava (rolled up to just a hat). In conjunction with this outfit, the 35 degree rating was sufficient.

However, the night before I went into Damascus the temperatures dropped into the upper 30's. I was cold that night, despite wearing everything and cinching the bag tight. So, for me, the 35 degree rating is definitely a survival rating and not a comfort rating. This is true of almost every single sleeping bag.

DIY Down Jacket on a cold morning

Warmth to Weight: In the past I have used a 20 degree bag for my summer bag and been happy with it. This ZPacks bag was just as comfortable in the same temperature range and saved me an entire POUND off of my base weight. You can also order the bag with more (or less) fill for a negligible increase in weight.

Durability: The zipper and draw cord are very tiny. The fabric is very delicate. It may not be as durable in the long run as another brand, only time will tell. However, after an entire thru-hike there are no visible signs of wear or damage.

Major Drawback: No attached hood. Even with a hat I would have stayed much warmer if the bag had a hood. ZPacks makes a separate hood that is designed to make a functionally modular hat and sleeping bag hood (I assume). However, my personal preference would be to have it attached to my bag since I'm going to be carrying a different hat anyway. But, that's just me.

Keeping Dinner from freezing on a very cold night

Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is thru-hiking. I know I'll be buying another one when this one dies. Or, maybe before with more fill for winter adventures... :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

AT Gear Review: Nightlight Sleeping Pad and Klymit Inertia Sleeping Pad

I used the Gossamer Gear Nightlight Torso Pad for my 2015 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. You can see my full gear list here. I am a brand ambassador for Gossamer Gear and they generously provided this pad to me at no cost. The following review was not required by them however, and reflects my experience with the product. I coupled this with an inflatable Klymit Inertia Sleeping Pad for added comfort.

In the past I have used a single Thermarest ZRest size small with two sections cut off. I had toyed with the idea of using an inflatable pad on my AT hike, but was unwilling to trust my already compromised sleep to something that could leak.

I decided to combine two very light pads for an overall weight of around 8oz.

I was completely satisfied with this combination. I slept with my feet propped up on my odor proof food bag or my backpack depending on the regulations of the area I was in. The comfort of the two pads enabled me to sleep very comfortably in any condition and was much warmer than the ZRest. I will use this combination again.

The Klymit pad did not puncure or deflate. The Nightlight pad seems indestructible (as do most closed cell foam pads). The Nightlight also did not seem to compress and lose insulation over the duration of the hike as my ZRests have done in the past.

I did not do a side by side comparison, however it seemed like the Nightlight might be more insulating as a single layer than other closed cell foam pads.

The Gorilla Pack is designed with an external pad sleeve. It was an excellent way to carry a non-collapsible pad without sacrificing interior pack capacity.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

AT Gear Review: Gossamer Gear Gorilla

I used the Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack for my 2015 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. You can see my full gear list here. I am a brand ambassador for Gossamer Gear and they generously provided this pack to me at no cost. The following review was not required by them however, and reflects my experience with the pack.

I was very happy with this backpack! I made a few modifications to it, namely removing the aluminum stay, cutting off excess webbing and straps, and replacing the backpad with my closed cell foam torso pad (also by Gossamer Gear).

Just before climbing Mt. Katahdin on August 1st 2015

Sizing and Fit: I wore a size small pack and hip belt. I prefer my pack ride higher rather than lower and have found that despite my 16" torso length a medium is far too long for me. The pack straps were comfortably padded and narrow enough to not fall off of my shoulders.

Capacity: The Gorilla may seem large for an FKT attempt, however, even traveling the way I did I often went 3-4 days between resupplies. Therefore the Gorilla was an excellent choice to carry everything comfortably. On shorter carries I could pack out high volume food, such as chips or popcorn, without having it awkwardly tied to the outside of my pack.

Start of a 4.5 day carry
Comfort: I mentioned already that the pack straps were comfortable. This was imperative for me considering that the last time I did a hike like this with another brand of pack it was not comfortable. I still have scars on my shoulders from it. I did get small pack sores on my shoulders and lower back again this time, but they were not as severe. I think when wearing a pack for 18 hours a day for two months some sores are inevitable. A good fitting pack will make them manageable.

Back after PCT
Back after AT

Durability: My Gorilla showed almost no signs of wear at the end of the hike. However, the airline ripped one of the straps off on my return flight home :( If you're checking your backpack, always put it inside something else! I tried to put it in a bag and they removed it. So, best to put it in another suitcase or carry on.
At the ATC in Harper's Ferry, WV

Friday, October 30, 2015

Food For the Long Haul: Navitas Naturals Superfoods

As an insider with Navitas Naturals I get a discount on their wide variety of products. This has enabled me to eat better at home and in the backcountry.

I've stocked my boxes throughout my hike with a wide variety of Navitas Superfoods. Everything I've tried from them has been excellent, both in quality and flavor. The nutritional value is exceptional.

While I've been eating a wide variety of their dried fruits, and Superfood+ Snacks for several months, my favorites that provide the basis of my nutritional strategy for the AT are:

Cacao Sweet Nibs: Full of antioxidants, magnesium, sodium, and iron. Essential trace minerals for muscle function and repair

Goji Berries: High in Vitamin A, Protein and Vitamin C as well as other trace minerals to keep me healthy.

Green Coffee Powder: Powerful caffeine to keep me moving when the sleep deprivation is overwhelming, coupled with all the fragile antioxidants and fiber of a whole bean undamaged by roasting.

Mulberries: High in Vitamin C and Iron. Critical for someone like me who has struggled with anemia for years.

Lemon Goldenberry Power Snacks: Tasty, calorie dense chunks of energy!

Cacao Almonds: Protein, healthy fats and delicious cacao! Yum :)

Coconut Pepitas: Wide variety of nutrients and healthy fats. Calorically dense.

If you're looking for variety or a way to incorporate healthy foods into your trail rotation, I highly recommend giving any of these (or their other products) a try!

I will mention my one fail here. I bought the Pomegranate Powder with the intention of mixing it with my water to make a tasty backcountry smoothie. Not so good. I'll stick to Nuun and/or Emergen-C and save the fruit powders for use at home in real smoothies!

First two days of food!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta Review

I recently received an UltraVesta vest from Ultimate Direction to try. Also known as the “Jenny” Vest it is designed by Jenny Jurek for women runners. I've been using UD vests and other products for years, long before I became one of their ambassadors. However, I've always used the men's vests, primarily the Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest.

Rockin' the PB Adventure Vest on Black Peak

I had seen countless friends rocking the UltraVesta at races and on fun runs in the mountains. I saw even more reviews and raves on social media. Finally, I decided to try one for myself.

About me sizing: At 5'8” and about 140 with narrow hips and wide shoulders I didn't notice this pack fitting me extraordinarily well in comparison to the men's packs. I would imagine that smaller framed individuals would find the maximum benefit from wearing this pack. However, the concession in capacity (water and gear) definitely isn't worth it for me as a go-to pack.

I pulled it out of the box and looked at the included hair elastic that was clipped on. I felt a little insulted. They don't include a free doodad on the men's packs. Why should I get a little purple hair elastic just because I'm a woman? Most of the guys I run with have longer hair than me. Does the Anton Krupicka Vest come with a blue hair elastic? I bet not...sheesh.

Regardless, I headed up Mt. Si.

Here's what I thought:

PRO: Like most UD vests, it is quite comfortable. I definitely noted that it rode higher on my body than other packs. However it stayed in place without swaying or restricting movement throughout the run and scramble.
CON: I felt like it rode too high. Most women have a low center of gravity and I am assuming that the UltraVesta is designed to counteract that. For me, I felt like it was making me top heavy in a way that the men's packs haven't done.

PRO: Super minimal pack that covers all the bases. There was room in the pack for a jacket and some snacks and the two 10oz water bottles and not much else. This is great if you're looking for a very minimal pack, but in general if I don't need very much stuff I skip the pack altogether.
CON: I ran out of water before I was even halfway through the run. I don't care if the 20oz bottles on the men's vests do look stupid perched on my boobs...I need to drink! I might consider carrying a handheld or a water bladder on particularly hot days if I'm using this vest.

Smaller water bottles ride more comfortably

PRO: Cute! CON: As stated above, I felt a little condescended too with the hair elastic.

PRO: It's certainly much lighter than other packs I've used. Mostly I felt like I wasn't wearing anything. That was a nice change from lugging a heavier pack with me.

The UltraVesta provides an easy, lightweight way to carry a few essential items. Excellent for long days in the mountains when you need just a tad more than a water bottle or want your hands free for poles. You will want to take into consideration the smaller water capacity when planning your route and either bring a treatment for the backcountry or plan a route that passes by fountains. The UltraVesta is comfortable and I will use it for races where frequent support is available.

Top of the Haystack!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Food for the Long Haul: Salazon Chocolate Bar Review

I am solar and chocolate powered. That's no secret. I discovered Salazon Chocolate a couple years ago while working at a food co-op. The bars boast gorgeous mountain scenery on the wrappers as well as the logo's of conservation and trail alliances that they support with the proceeds. I bought one and was hooked...salty, delicous Dominican chocolate...that helps support the wild places I love. Sold!
2% of profits of their Trail Series flavors go to support the "big three" AT, PCT, CDT
A chance exchange with a friend got me in contact with Salazon and soon I had several cases of chocolate to give away to people I meet hiking and to fuel me on my hikes. Did you know that a bar of chocolate fuels about 1 hour of hiking? Now, an hour of every day on the trail is fueled by Salazon :)

One of the main differences between Salazon and other chocolates is that all of their bars are salted, but not overwhelmingly so. Just enough. I sprinkle just a dash of salt on my Coconut Bliss ice cream too because a tad of salt compliments sweetness incredibly. If you have never expereienced salted chocolate, especially when hiking, then you might not understand how amazing this is. Not to mention after a long day of sweating, salts and carbs are critical to replace. Hence, salted chocolate is truly the best recovery food you can imagine...!

Ok, so enough with the justifying of why I enjoy chocolate so much. Here's the basics about Salazon that I love:

Fair Trade

And all of those components inevitably lead to incredible flavor.

I haven't had a bad chocolate from them yet, but since I tend to like darker chocolate (I munch on raw nibs) these are my favorites: 72% with Almonds, Coffee, Cayenne

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Food for the Long Haul: Heath Warrior Chia Bar Review

I've been eating chia seeds for many years. Despite the tendency to get stuck in the teeth they are tasty, versatile, and nutritious. In my egg free days I used chia to bind my baked goods together. I also love to put it in smoothies, and make puddings from. 

Doling out bulk chia for PCT 2013

I remember a few years ago when I discovered HealthWarrior Chia Bars. They were delicious little bite sized bars of chia goodness. Unfortunately, they were far too pricey for me to afford.

Fast forward to a chance meeting with the HW reps at the Winter OR. I sampled some of their newest flavors and mentioned how much I loved their bars and that I'd eaten lots of chia on my PCT hike in 2013 (see pic above). Soon, I had an email offer to send me some HW chia bars for my AT hike.

I received a couple of cases of bars in the mail a few days before I was ready to tape the resupply boxes shut and mail them off. I was stoked to be able to add these treats to my supplies. I was even more thrilled to see a couple of cases of their new product–a chia protein bar–in there as well. I, of course, opened one and ate it on the spot. Two thumbs up!

One of the great things about the Health Warrior Chia bars is their compact nutrition and caloric density. In one .8 oz bar there are 100 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 6 grams of long burning fat fuel. Not to mention 1000mg omega 3's! The protein bars boast an additional 7 grams of protein derived from peas as well as ~200 calories all for 50 grams. The flavors are great too.

I mixed the regular and protein chia bars into the boxes fairly evenly. The 10g protein bars will be a nice change from the soy based ProBar Balance bars (reviewed below) and won't be too heavy to consume at once. Since I eat 200-300 calories per hour the 100 calorie Chia Bars are ideal to mix with Fuel Bites or some other small snack for variety.

My Favorite Flavors:

Chia Snack Bars: Coffee, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Acai Berry

Protein: Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt, Peanut Butter Cacao, Lemon Goldenberry

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Food for the Long Haul: Pro Bar Review

ProBars have been around for a long time. The orange wrappers are easily identifiable in nearly any hiker box or health food store. I tried one many years ago (probably the Original flavor) and was not impressed. It wasn't until I met Adam and he gave me a Coconut Chocolate one that I realized that these are pretty darn good for a bar! I subsequently tried many different flavors as well as their additional products Bolt Blocks, Fuel, Balance, and Bite bars.

I've been impressed by the flavor and obvious quality of the ingredients. As someone who will probably never be able to choke down a Clif bar again the ProBar lineup has given me a new way to supply my eat on the go methods. I like simplicity, and nothings much more simple than a meal in a wrapper that you can eat while hiking.

My daily food strategy consists of a ProBar Meal bar for breakfast. That's 390 calories weighing in at only 3 ounces. During the day I have a ProBar Balance (protein) bar that I will eat in portions. Too much protein at one time while hiking tends to give me a “gut bomb” which leaves me nauseous and sluggish for a while. The Balance bars have 20 grams of protein, 290 calories and weighs 2.46 ounces. This means that I can take a bite every few hours to help keep my macro nutrient balance intact without overwhelming my digestive system while I'm exercising. In addition, I have Fuel and Bite bars as well as Bolt Blocks thrown in to provide variety. I like the real fruit chunks and chia seeds in the Fuel Bars and the real fruit flavor of the Bolt Blocks.

Cons: I don't like that there is canola oil in ProBar products. I generally avoid canola in everything, but in this case I believe the benefits outweigh that detractor.

My Favorite Flavors:

Meal: Oatmeal Raisin, Strawberry, Koka Mocha
Fuel: Strawberry, Cherry, Cran-Raspberry
Bite: Peanut Butter Chocolate, Peanut Butter Crunch, Mixed Berry

Bolt: Raspberry, Strawberry (noticing a trend??)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Food for the Long Haul: Bogg'sTrailButter Review

One of the greatest weaknesses I had on my PCT thru-hike in 2013 was the lack of good quality food. I funded my hike on a meager budget which basically meant a steady stream of cookies and candy that I'd bought in bulk and repackaged for myself at home with a food saver. I drank my dinners each night (a Vega protein shake–my biggest splurge). I ate nearly 300 Clif bars that were leftovers from a race that I'd volunteered at a few months prior. It was certainly no wonder that I was emaciated and passing out after 2,000 miles of 40+ mpd on a scant diet.

Now, on the brink of my next huge endeavor, I have even less of a budget than I had for the PCT. However, I have been blessed with discounts from several companies that have made it affordable for me to eat better. I have also realized the importance of fueling with high quality foods and not ignoring my gluten intolerance as I did in the past. I am spending far more money on food this time than last, but I believe the dividend will be immense.

There are five main nutritious food companies that comprise the majority of my resupply boxes. They are:
Salazon Chocolate (yes, chocolate is nutritious!)

In addition, Fuel Bites provides an excellent electrolyte staple that is a cross between whole food and supplement. Read my review of their product here.

I've enjoyed products from each of these companies for a long time and am thankful that they've assisted me in my fueling needs in 2015. I'll be reviewing the products I've been loving most in the next few Review Tuesday posts.

I'll start today with Trail Butter.

Trail Butter is a small Portland, OR company founded by brothers Brad and Jeff. Both avid adventures themselves they have a great idea of what's essential to fuel endurance. I have always been a huge fan of nut butters and coconut oil as fuels both on the trail and off. Many of you may remember this photo from PCT 2013...

Desperation Dinner Pre-Trail Butter Days
I've come a long way from the desperation of oreos tortilla wraps. In fact, I hope I never eat a single oreo on this hike. Or a tortilla for that matter, now that I know that gluten is the source of many of my problems.

Jeff and Brad have made several delicious blends of nuts, oil, and honey sweetened spreads. My favorite is the Expedition Espresso, hands down. I love the chocolate and coffee flavor and the kick it gives me from caffeine and simple carbs combined with the long term fueling of the slow burning fat calories. It's gotten me up many mountains, including Rainier, through long trail pushes, and through 2+ loops at the Barkley Marathons. It's in all my resupply boxes for the rest of the summer.

I also enjoy some of their other blends at home and on the trail. I like to balance caffeinated and non-caffeinated foods throughout my day. The variety in flavors is excellent for that and keeping me from getting bored.

The convenient pouch packaging is now available in single serves (Look for it at REI!!) as well as the 5.4 oz size. This makes it simple to use on an adventure of any length. The jars are nice for use at home or when car camping/racing.

The one con to this product (aside from it not being suitable for those with nut allergies) is that the coconut oil tends to get very hard in cold temps. I've learned to carry the Trail Butter in my pocket at night or when it's cold out to make sure it's ready to eat whenever I need it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rainier: Take Two!

Almost exactly 4 years after I attempted to climb Mt. Rainier I found myself again making the long trek up to Camp Muir.

Unlike 4 years ago, however, I actually harnessed up...and ascended away from Camp Muir.

There were six of us sitting around, watching the weather and trying to decide the plan of action. Weather was supposed to be coming in and we worried that our planned 10pm departure would land us on the summit in a whiteout.

Finally we decided to begin our climb at 6pm.

Not much was said as we fussed with our gear, roped up, and readied ourselves. We'd heard that the route was already in rough shape, more like September than July. We anticipated five crevasses open so wide that they were bridged with ladders. We hoped none had fallen in that day...or that any new ones had opened beyond our ability to jump.

Our two rope teams headed across the Cowlitz Glacier. My rope team pulled away and we waited on Cathedral Gap for our second to rejoin us.

Once they arrived the group made the decision to continue on independently. Our rope was moving much faster, the other was struggling with altitude.

Shortly after Ingraham Flats we entered a world of twisted ice and yawning chasms. We crossed our first ladder. It was dizzing and my stomach flip flopped as I stared down into it.

The Disappointment Cleaver was completely melted out and we scrambled through loose volcanic rock until we once again got onto snow.

We traversed toward Gibraltar Rock crossing yet another ladder. Sun set and we clicked our headlamps on. We encountered our fifth ladder. I can't even describe it's precarious nature and the way it was resting on the lip of an undercut. We all felt relieved when we were safely past it. In the back of my mind I thought, "Ok, I only have to do that once more on the way down."

To our surprise we encountered a 6th ladder, slanted upward not long after. I wasn't looking forward to descending it. The sky was clear. I watched the Milky Way and stars and planes. In the far distance I saw a flash of lightning. I listened closely, but heard no thunder. We continued onward.

By now it was cold. I was happy with my layering choices which I had deliberated for hours before leaving home. As someone who is frequently cold I had been incredibly concerned about staying warm on the notoriously cold peak. For the climb I wore Icebreaker baselayer pants, a pair of Sherpa hiking pants on my legs (I have an older version that I LOVE. Hard to find now). On my torso I wore my Seven Hills singlet layered with two light fleece shirts and my faithful Patagonia Houdini. Seal Skinz hat, gloves, and socks were perfect in keeping me dry and warm. I wore a buff around my neck as well to round it out. I was completely comfortable throughout the night, only adding my Feathered Friends down coat at the summit (and wearing it back to the Disappointment Cleaver).

We reached the crater rim around 12:30am. The wind was whipping as we searched for a way down into the crater. There seemed to a large moat open between the rock and the snow. We slipped off our harnesses and circled the crater arriving at the true summit at 1am.

We clicked a couple of pictures and returned to our gear. As we were roping up I watched a blood red crescent moon rise through wispy layers of clouds. It was eerie to watch while standing on the rim of a huge volcano.


This dude was very altitude sick...doesn't show one bit!
As we descended I noticed that there were far less stars. Clouds had thickened.

As we reached the severely broken glacier we began encountering the myriad teams on their way up. We had to wait several times in precarious locations as they labored upward. I felt frustrated that they wouldn't step aside for a clearly faster team. The anxiety of hanging icefall above me in the darkness knotted my stomach.

At the bottom of the Cleaver, we stopped to put our crampons back on. Just then a large icefall plummeted from above...cascading over our route. We looked at one another and agreed to "run" to Ingraham Flats.

Contemplating the dash through that mess

We finally dropped into Camp Muir not long after sunrise. There we slept for a couple of hours before descending with the rest of our team. We were back to the parking lot by 9am.

A few days later as my plane rose above Seattle and turned eastward I gazed out my window. Rainier's bulk filled it. I felt a smile curve across my face, despite my sadness at leaving Washington. I had stood there on that snowy dome one cold, dark night at the top of the world around me.

Whenever I see that mountain, whether in life or in pictures, I will never feel the same again.

Special Thanks to:
 Grant Larsen for leading our rope, 
Ryan Minkle for taking great pics, 
and Doug McKeever for bringing it all together!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fuel 100 Electro Bites Review

I have been using a product called Fuel 100 Electro Bites for several years now. In prior hot weather races and hikes I relied primarily on S-Caps and salty snacks at aid stations for my electrolyte needs.

I always felt like a capsule was less optimal than a real food source, however, as someone who is unable to eat gluten there are not always salty snacks at aid stations that I can have. It's also volume prohibitive to carry bags of chips.

So, when I discovered Electro Bites, a real food electrolyte supplement I was pretty excited. Not only do Electro Bites supply your electrolyte needs: Sodium (190mg) , Magnesium (46mg), Potassium (55mg), but also calories (100 for 23 grams).

More nutritional information here.

As an electrolyte supplement these are very salty. So, be prepared for that. However, I have found that it's a good gauge of whether I need electrolytes or not. The less saltier (better) these taste, the more I need them!

Part of this balanced summit snack!

Enjoy a discount on your first order, use ANISHSENTME.

Monday, June 29, 2015

BioSkin Calf Skin Compression Sleeve Review

The folks over at BioSkin recently sent me a pair of their Calf Skin compression sleeves to try out. I was skeptical because in the past I've never found a compression sleeve that fit my huge calves, but I was willing to give them a try.

The fabric is much different than other compression wear I've tried. It's "slippery" feel definitely makes it slide on and off more easily and tights slide over top easily as well.

It's fairly thin and very comfortable. I ordered the XL since my calves are on the high end of the size L (16"). I was happy to find that there was space near the ankle. Other compression sleeves I've worn have cut off circulation there resulting in "sausage foot".

I am not prone to shin splints or muscle strains, but I do like to utilize compression for recovery purposes. I've been keeping these in my "post-hike bin" with a change of clothes, coconut water, and recovery food.

In a recent trip where I was out for 4 days, but traveled between trailheads, I wore these for the 2 hour car ride. I actually forgot that I had them on under my sleep tights and fell asleep wearing them. In the morning I did notice that the top of my calf felt a little irritated from the compression being on there for 8 hours, but my legs did not feel like I'd done over 15k of elevation gain in the prior 2 days.

I haven't washed them yet or worn them for activity, so it remains to be seen how they hold up to that. However, I can say that as recovery wear they have been exactly what I've wanted. I'm also very happy to finally find some compression wear that fits my muscular legs comfortably.

BioSkin makes a variety of other compression and support products which you can take a look at here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Altra Zero Drop Trail Shoe: Superior Review

Note: I receive shoes from Altra Running for my own personal use as a brand ambassador. All commentary found in this review is my own personal opinion of the shoe. This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase using links in this review.

I just took my Altra Superiors for their inaugural run/scramble up Mt. Si.

I've been using the Altra Lone Peak for just about forever and once I find a shoe I love it's hard for me to try something else, but, the Superiors have some great reviews so I decided to give them a try.

The Superior is a snappy fun yellow which I loved the minute I opened the box. As a woman who hears a size 12, I have been wearing men's athletic shoes most of my life. So, the fact that I can suddenly buy a women's shoe is still a novelty and I am enjoying the prettiness!

Pretty colors!

But, looks aren't everything.

The first thing I noticed about them is that they are lighter and more flexible than the Lone Peak. This made me feel pretty nimble both on the trail and on the scramble up the haystack at the end. The flip side to this is that you can feel the ground much more through the sole. This isn't a problem on soft trails, but might not be much fun on a lot of rock, or a harder surface (like a bike path).

On top of the Haystack

The grip seemed to be much stickier than what I'm used to. I actually noticed I was "sticking" to the floor in the kitchen before I left.

Sticky soles!

The upper felt pretty thin to me, so I'm not sure they'd be durable for off-trail or very sharp rocks/overgrown trails, but I might be wrong. I'm sure I'll have fun finding out!

Descending the roots and rocks

All the usual features you expect from Altra were there: a zero drop platform, foot shaped toe box, and plenty of room.

Overall, I really loved running in these shoes. As I said, the thinness of the upper and the less padded sole make them great for light and fast running. They'll be my new go-to shoe for my trail runs and approaches. They performed so well on the Haystack that I may pack them in to peaks that I know have some tricky scrambles and swap out of my boots.

New Faves!

I'll keep my Lone Peaks for the heavy pack days and the more burly off-trail terrain.