Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Altra Torin 2.0 Review

I am an Altra Running Athlete and as such receive my footwear 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 have been enjoying my Torin 2.0's as my around town shoe as well as for anything that requires me to be on my feet all day, such as the Winter Outdoor Retailer show in January. When I worked as a cashier I had a pair of black ones that I wore to work every day.

The Torin is a highly cushioned shoe that utilizes Altra's signature Zero Drop™ Platform and FootShape™ Toe Box. They are maximally comfortable for long days on your feet.

I also like wearing the Torin at the gym and for general fitness workouts. The tread is super sticky and keeps you from sliding on the smooth flooring your find in most fitness classes.

I also recommend the Torin to a lot of folks who want to transition to the Zero Drop shoe from other makes of shoe. I think the cushioning can help alleviate some of the stress that accompanies that transition.

Overall, I highly recommend the Torin for anyone looking for an all around running and fitness shoe, or for those in jobs that require a lot of time on the feet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

OR Helium II Jacket Review

I bought two OR Helium II Jackets actually.

Because they are awesome.

I have a women's medium which I used on the Appalachian Trail. It worked well as a raincoat and as a layer to keep me warm.

I also have a men's large which I use in the alpine when I think I may need to wear my expedition weight down jacket in inclement weather. That way I have a jacket that can be worn over the down without compressing it.

The pros:

  • Exceptionally light (5.5 and 7 oz respectively)
  • Waterproof* (see cons)
  • No Frills
  • Great fit
  • Drawcord hem
  • Full coverage hood

The cons:

  • I don't believe anything that says it's waterproof and breathable. These are no exception.
  • These jackets are very waterproof, but they trap condensation next to the skin (or in my down jacket) if worn while exerting.
  • They don't hold up to backpacking. The shoulders end up leaking after a few dozen wearings with a pack on. Unfortunately that means one thru-hike for me.

Overall I love these jackets. They work as advertised well enough that I can put up with them wearing out faster than I'd like. Also, OR has a good warranty program and they have always replaced gear that I've returned when I felt like it failed to last for a reasonable time (prior incarnations of these jackets included). OR steadily makes improvements to gear based on customer feedback, returns, and reviews which I appreciate.

If you're looking for a light "insurance policy" rain jacket I recommend the Helium II.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lone Peak Neoshell Review

I am an Altra Running Athlete and as such receive my footwear 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 was stoked to try out the Lone Peak Neoshell as soon as I heard of its  existence. Unfortunately I had to wait to receive a pair until after I was home from the AT since they were released while I was on trail.

Running in rainy Washington means a soggy shoe-fest all winter long. So, the idea of a PolarMax NeoShell trail runner is pretty much a dream come true. If it works. Which it does. Which means I'm very happy.

In addition to the standard FootShape™ Toe Box and Fully Cushioned Zero Drop™ Platform that all Altra shoes have the Neoshell is also designed to be waterproof and breathable.

Most of the time I think waterproof and breathable statements are a big load of crap. Especially when it comes to jackets. However, in this case I certainly did not notice my feet being sweatier or clammy when running.

In fact, the Lone Peak Neoshell has kept my feet very warm and relatively dry through winter rainy running season so far. I say relatively because water can still get in from the top. Therefore if it's an all day soaking rain, they are going to get wet inside. If you're simply splashing through puddles post deluge you should stay dry. I've also coupled them with gaiters to slow the water seepage process.

The fit is a little different than the regular Lone Peak. To me they feel more stiff/snug in the upper. It isn't a problem really as my feet still have space to move, but it does feel a little different.

I highly recommend these to anyone who regularly runs in cold or wet conditions.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ahnu Coburn Boot Review

Last summer someone from Ahnu footwear contacted me and offered to send me a pair of their boots to try. Here is my review.

The representative at Ahnu wanted to send me a pair of women's boots to try. There were problems from the start:

  • Ahnu does not make women's size 12. 
  • They also do not make full shank boots suitable for mountaineering. 

Since that's the only time I actually wear boots I was hesitant when they offered to send me some men's boots to try "on my descent". (Still not sure what that meant). I picked the Coburn to try out and ordered a men's 10.5.

The Coburn has a 5-star rating on their site and this description:

"An all-day hiker for outdoor enthusiasts to explore in all weather conditions. This mid-height hiking boot is equipped with a breathable eVent® waterproof bootie, wicking away moisture for optimal foot comfort. Tough, full-grain and waterproof leathers create a modern take on a classic silhouette. This rugged hiker is designed to provide athletic underfoot performance with all terrain lugs for go anywhere comfort."

The boots arrived just before I left for the Appalachian Trail so they sat and waited for my return. Once I got home I took them on an off trail scramble peak trip. I figured they would hold up to the rugged off trail terrain better than my Lone Peaks and I wasn't going to be on snow and need crampons (hence my mountaineering boots).

Less than 1 mile into the hike on easy, grassy slopes (ie no sharp rocks) I noticed the stitching in the upper coming out. I was very glad I'd carried my trail runners in my pack because that didn't bode well.

We went on to hike for 5 days through rough terrain, pumice, and rock. Although the stitching in the uppers came loose nothing further happened.

To my surprise they were actually very comfortable for a boot and I hiked 10+ miles in them with no problems.

Subsequently I have worn them in snow and on lots of scree peaks. They have held up very well. My feet have always been warm and dry, so the eVent technology appears to be working well. The traction on the tread is decent and despite hiking long days that I would typically only attempt in Altras I haven't had any blisters.

So, despite the immediate issue with the loose stitching I've actually been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Ahnu Coburn boot. It definitely fills the gap between trail runner and full mountaineering boot rather well.