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Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag – Gear Review

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sierra-designs-zissou-plus-sleeping-bag-2

For warmth and comfort, down sleeping bags are the obvious choice. Fears of complete saturation and loss of all of those warmth properties prevented me from making the switch from synthetic bags. The Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag eased this fear, keeping me warm and dry in snow, rain, and wind.

Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag

The Test

I tested the Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag on two trips and in varying conditions. The first was a 4-day fall trip in the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado where it was first 40 degrees and raining then 15 degrees and snowing at night. The second was was a 13-day backpacking trip in Glacier National Park at the end of September through mid-October. During the latter trip, the weather varied from a dry 50 degrees, a snowy 10 degrees, and a rainy 30 degrees at night.

Design

The Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag is made with 700 Fill Duck DriDown insulation material. The DriDown insulation combines the warmth and insulation of traditional down material with the hydrophobic finish of a synthetic bag. An untreated 15-degree down sleeping bag loses up to 30 percent of its loft over eight hours in an 80 percent humidity environment. In short, a 15-degree bag turns into a 30-degree bag. With DriDown treatment, though, bags lose only 2 percent of their loft, retaining 98 percent of its insulation properties. To say the least, DriDown is pretty innovative.

Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag

To get more into the tech specs, the comfort and lower limit of the Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag is 27 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. The regular sized sleeping bag fits to a 6 foot tall male with a 62 inch shoulder and 58 inch hip width. There is a full zipper on the left side of the bag and a quarter zipper on the right side. Sierra Designs recorded the stuff size as 8 x 19 inches, but with a compression sack, I was able to shrink it down more than half that. 

Comfort

This bag was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept in. Although it is inspired by mummy designs, I never felt restricted in the Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag as I do with other mummy sleeping bags.  I could toss and turn without the whole sleeping bag twisting upside down, I woke up without a twisted liner during sub-15 degree nights, and I could change into my hiking socks and pants in the morning without trouble.

On a more extreme note, the width of this bag prevented my mild hypothermia from accelerating into moderate hypothermia during the Maroon Bells trip. My expedition partner, who was also mildly hypothermic, and I were both able to fit in the sleeping bag to warm each other. Although we could not move around easily, that extra room that most mummy sleeping bags do not provide allowed us to properly address a serious medical concern.

Warmth

The Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag definitely performs according to its 15 degree rating. On nights closer to 50 degrees, I slept comfortably in a t-shirt and shorts. On colder nights between 15 and 40 degrees, I felt just as warm as the 50 degree nights with a fleece and leggings. Even on the colder nights, I did not feel I needed a hat because of the warmth provided by the hood and the insulation flaps covering each of the zippers. Once temperatures dropped below 15 degrees, I needed a sleeping bag liner.

Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag

Because of the DriDown finish, my feet stayed warm and dry even when the condensation from my tent got the bottom of my sleeping bag wet. The hydrophobic properties also allowed for my sleeping bag to dry inside my compression sack during the day.

Size/Weight

The Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag ultimate trade-off is between comfort/warmth and size/weight. Whereas other 15-degree, light weight sleeping bags average about 2 pounds in weight, the Zissou Plus is 2 pounds and 10 ounces. Although it is more compact than synthetic sleeping bags, it is minutely larger once packed than other down bags. For me, the comfort and warmth is worth the extra weight, and, with a compression sack as opposed to a stuff sack, I did not have trouble fitting it into my pack on either the 4-day Maroon Bells trip or the 13-day Glacier trip. For ultralight backpackers, though, this trade-off is a greater consideration.

Final Thoughts

For the backpacker hesitant to switch from synthetic to down, the Sierra Designs Zissou Plus Sleeping Bag offers a great balance between warmth and waterproofness. Despite its mummy design, the bag had plenty of room inside for nighttime tossing and turning or a close-knit cuddle with your expedition partner. Backpackers less meticulous about every ounce of weight will love this bag, whether in the Pacific Northwest or the desert. 

 

Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 Tent – Gear Review

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sierra design flashlight

Going to wild places with Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 Tent.  When solo camping, I prioritize light weight. For the past couple of years, though, I have compromised on weight by bringing a two-person tent. With most one-person tents, I find myself struggling to sit up even half way comfortably. Sierra Designs has addressed that compromise backpackers oftentimes make with the innovative design of the Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 tent.

Sierra Designs Flashlight
Basic set up on the Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 Tent

Design

The Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 Tent is as unique in design as tents get. It has a rectangular base with a diagonally-sloping top. At its peak, the tent stands at 45 inches tall, allowing for ample room to sit up in that half of the tent. The tent has one door and 3.5 ft2 vestibule. There are three poles, one for the door, one for the ventilation window, and one for the footbed. Five guylines situated at the front, rear, and sides of the tent keep the tent erect and taut. The tent is single-walled, so the rainfly is built into the frame of the tent. Combined with the Polyester Tafetta fly fabric and 20D Nylon body fabric, the materials are quintessential ultralight.

The Test

The Sierra Designs Flashlight 1-Person Tent accompanied me during two trips. The first was an overnight, car-camping trip in Pike’s Peak National Forest, Colo., in mid-September, and the other was a 13-day backpacking trip in Glacier National Park at the end of September through mid-October. As is custom to September in Colorado, the weather during the first test was dry with low temperatures around 45 degrees. During the second test, the weather varied from a dry 45 degrees, a snowy 10 degrees, and a rainy 50 degrees.

sierra design flashlight
The Sierra Design Flashlight 1 is highly packable leaving you space for the other essentials.

Ventilation

During my first test of the tent and the dry days in Glacier National Park, I experienced little to no condensation on the inside of the tent. In Colorado, this is normal with any tent because of the aridity of the air, but I was pleasantly surprised in Glacier National Park. When the humidity increased, the inevitable ventilation disadvantage of a single walled tent was on full display, and the walls were coated with dew. That being said, when I took out the tent that night to set it up at our next campsite, the condensation had not saturated the tent even though I packed up the tent without having fully dried it.

Usability

Even though the non-freestanding design of the Flashlight decreases its overall weight, it also restricts the type of surface on which the Flashlight can be used: without a surface in which stakes can be hammered in, this tent will not work. Additionally, the ability to make the tent taut depends heavily on how well suited the ground is for stakes. In areas that had very silty or shallow soil, the pull of the guylines coming down from the apex of the tent would either dislodge the stake from the ground or compromise the tautness of the entire tent. Although the guylines work sufficiently in fair weather, rain or snow more easily pooled at areas where the tent had begun to sag.

The vestibule is also very small. Neither my 75 L pack nor my 45 L pack could fit in the vestibule without leaning on the vestibule or tent doors. Although I left my pack outside the vestibule with a pack cover on and my belongings in trash bags, this was not ideal when inclement weather hit.

Sierra Designs Flashlight
Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 Tent tested in unexpected snow.

Set up

The other issue with the Flashlight 1’s non-freestanding design is that it made it difficult to set up alone, which, for a 1-person tent, is a problem. I found myself trying to hold up one of the tent poles at the apex while trying to stake in its corresponding cord. Oftentimes, I would have to re-stake the corners or change the tautness of the top guylines after finishing the initial set up. The inclusion of the 5 guylines does make adjustment substantially faster and more precise.

Final Thoughts

The Flashlight 1 tent is perfect for lightweight trips in dry areas. As someone living in Colorado, I would use this on any late spring, summer, and early fall trip, even if light flurries were in the forecast. It is light, packable, and durable enough to handle any length or trip intensity. The tent is not suitable, though, for wet trips because of limited vestibule space and poor ventilation. Additionally, the tent cannot be set up in places without ground suitable for stakes or populated with heavy rocks or logs to tie-off to.

The only other consideration when buying this tent is about height. I am 5’ 6” and fit comfortably in this tent. My partners on the Glacier Trip are both 6’2” males and did not fit comfortably, especially when there was a lot condensation at the front and rear of the tent.

 

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad – Gear Review

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klymit-static-v2

The Test 

The Klymit Static V2 sleeping pad accompanied me on two camping trips, one backpacking in the Mt. Baker backcountry, and one car camping in the Teanaway Community Forest. Setting up site at 5450ft near Park Butte fire lookout, rangers alerted me that temperatures would be dropping below freezing on an already rainy night giving me the perfect chance to test the insulation of the mat. Two weeks later in Teanaway it was tested in much more pleasant late summer/early fall temperatures.

klymit static V2
Taking a closer look at the Klymit Static V2, the V chamber provides excellent support with minimal air movement. Teanaway Community Forest, WA.

Sleeping

In both instances the Klymit Static V2 provided for a comforting night’s sleep. The mat is equipped with side rails that cradle the body and provide extra support for those who experience back problems. During its time in the near freezing temperatures at Mt. Baker, the mat provided sufficient insulation from the wet cold ground. Similarly, the mat provided top comfort in Teanaway where temperatures only reached a low of about 48 degrees. The V shape design and oversized sleeping area of the mat provides support for those who like to change sleeping positions constantly through the night like myself. So if you are a side, back, or stomach kind of sleeper, this sleeping pad will be a good fit. Lastly, with past mats I have noticed they can be quite noisy while changing sleeping positions through the night, and the V2 is pleasantly quiet for toss and turners.

klymit static v2
The Klymit Static V2 provided a great night’s sleep. The V2 left me well rested and ready for a day full of mountain biking in Teanaway.

Packability

This sleeping pad was designed with backpackers in mind. Trading this out for my older, larger mat has saved me considerable room in my backpack thereby making it lighter as well. This to me was surprising because when rolled out, the mat itself is larger than my old mat, so it is the best of both worlds. The weight of the pad is a little over 1lb which is reasonably less than other pads of this size and thickness. Additionally, the storage bag has a built-in patch kit for any emergency repairs that can come in handy in those type of backcountry setbacks.

Drawbacks

As it is an oversized mat it can be slightly more challenging to roll up than other mats. For me it required rolling it up beforehand in order to get all of the air out before folding it into fourths to roll up for packing into the storage bag.

klymit static v2
Rolling up the Klymit Static V2 in Teanaway Community Forest.

Overall

Overall this mat has been a great addition to my backpack. The fact that it is lightweight and easily packs into small places comes at no sacrifice to nightly comfort. And for the price of $65, this mat goes above and beyond in comparison to competitors of similar weight, material, and size.

G-Shock RANGEMAN Master – Gear Review

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User guide.

The G-Shock RANGEMAN Master or G-GW9400-3 is definitely a niche watch in today’s smartwatch world. Let me start by saying I put this watch through the gauntlet over the past three months, this watch has been with me on some hardcore downhill MTB rides, several triathlons, ice climbing, and a proper backpacking trip in Alaska. Also, as a quick note to give you a better idea of my impressions/judgments, I also currently own a Samsung Gear 2 and a Garmin 735XT.

g-shock rangeman
The G-Shock RANGEMAN took me into the wilds of Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains and helped me get back again.

I broke this review down into five categories, which will give you a good idea of where this watch fits into your collection.

g-shock rangeman1.Style. For a watch built for toughness it is a darn good looking watch. My first impression was it might look like a beast but it isn’t too big and I really do like the look of this watch. I will always choose comfort over style, especially with a piece of gear I need to depend on in the backcountry. Luckily, I don’t have to make any sacrifices with this watch. Casio did a great job making this watch look the part and still be stylish while packing in all the capabilities it has to offer. I especially like the look of the digital compass in the top left-hand corner, that little touch of gold in the face is a subtle accent of style in this rugged build.

2. Features. This is the real reason you’re going to spend the money on this watch: Casio packed this watch full of some very useful and important capabilities. Here are my top five functions on the watch since there are too many functions to cover in detail.

  • Tough Solar Power: You will never need to charge or replace the battery with this watch! How awesome does that sound in today’s world of always looking for somewhere to plug in. Even if you were living in a cave this watch would still last you seven months on a full charge. Having the solar power really makes this watch stand out, especially in the smartwatch era that we are approaching. The last thing I would want is my watch to go dead if I was lost in the wilderness and it isn’t a worry with this watch.
  • Triple Sensor (Altimeter, Barometer, and Thermometer): Super important features to have when you’re headed out on an “epic” in the backcountry. For me, knowing the temperature, altitude, and weather are deciding factors for going forward on a big objective and having that information to make the right decision can be priceless if not life saving in some situations. I found all three functions to work well in the backcountry, the thermometer, of course, got a more accurate reading when off my body.
  • Shock/Mud/Water Resistant: Another strength of this watch is you can beat it up without worrying about it handling your adventure. I took a brutal fall on the downhill bike where I went over the handlebars and the watch didn’t even get a scratch but the rest of my body couldn’t say the same. I also grinded the face against a glacier while ice climbing and the same thing happened, I got some cuts but the watch was good. As for water resistance, I did a lot of open water swimming during triathlons and there was never any issues. I wore this watch when I knew my other watches would not be able to withstand the punishment I was going to be dishing out.
  • Memory Capacity: To be honest, this is a function I didn’t get to dive very deep into but I could see it being a very useful tool on longer trips into the backcountry. Up to 40 records (shared storage with date/time, bearing, and barometric pressure/temperature records). The main reason I did not get too deep into this is because in today’s smartwatch world it is not as simple to use as I would like. It just doesn’t have the technical ecosystem that we’ve grown a custom to.  
  • Digital Compass: A pretty common feature in watches these days but the G-Shock RANGEMAN did a great job of making it clear and easy to use on this watch. It measures and displays direction as one of 16 points with a measuring range from 0 to 359 degrees and a graphic direction pointer with bidirectional calibration and magnetic declination correction. On my last backpacking trip we were off trail and route finding almost the entire time so having a spot on compass was invaluable.

3. Comfort: An important part of every watch and one this one does well. The watch fits great with a ton of length options on the band and it actually feels pretty light. For backpacking, I would rank this watch very high on the comfort level. For the day-to-day use I rank it as just OK. As I mentioned before it got through several triathlons but wasn’t the most comfortable watch I’ve worn for endurance sports. Although, this watch was not made for triathletes and belongs at home in the backcountry.

4. Durability: Another one of the key traits to this watch is it can just take a beating. On the durability side, I don’t know if there is anything I would change, it is a beast.

5. User Friendliness: Here is where the G-Shock RANGEMAN looses a lot of points. I know Casio did not build this watch to compete with all the smartwatches out right now so it’s probably a little unfair to put them in the same category. But with that said, if you are into everything being super intuitive like your smartphone then you might get a little frustrated when setting all the functions up with this watch.

The manual alone might cause some fear but to be fair it wasn’t terribly hard to get the necessary features dialed in.

g-shock rangeman
The user guide for the G-Shock RANGEMAN looks thick, but is easy to navigate.

Should You Buy This Watch? Yes, but only if you plan to be in the backcountry a lot. Sadly, I feel the G-Shock RANGEMAN is a bit outdated when it comes to the intuitive technology we’re accustomed to today. So if you’re looking for an everyday watch, I don’t think this watch is worth the money. For my own personal use, I am excited to have the Master of G-GW9400-3 in my collection but I think it is most likely going to be on the shelf and only come out on the big adventures because that is where this watch shines.

 

Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX Approach Shoe – Gear Review

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Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX Approach Shoe
Garmont DragonTail
The Garmont Dragontail handles all the varieties of rugged terrain found on the long approaches in Pacific Northwest climbing.

Approach any challenge with the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX.  If you are climbing on one of the Pacific Northwest’s magnificent peaks, you might find yourself on long approach hikes that take you through rain forests, scrambling over sketchy rock outcroppings, and through numerous creeks and snowfields.  One solution to this problem is to wear your alpine boots during the entire ascent – and many do this.  While this may seem like an easy solution, additional hours in heavy alpine boots can tire your legs and create friction points on the foot as the boot negotiates terrain it was not made to handle.

In my search for the perfect PNW approach shoe, I first looked at a light approach version by Scarpa.  The lightweight construction didn’t provide much support on mixed terrain under a moderate to heavy climbing load.  The smooth rock-climbing type sole also wore out and became slick in just over a year of use and was not good in the mud and wet forest floor found in the PNW.

Fortunately, I found the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX.  This Gortex approach shoe has traction Vibram soles and a sturdy construction that is perfect for the wet mixed terrain approach found here.  The Vibram traction sole and sturdy construction gives great support under the heavier load of an alpine pack.  In the wet conditions of the Pacific Northwest, dry feet are important.  This was no problem for the Gortex Garmont Dragontail, the shoe kept my feet dry over several streams and hours in soggy snow melt.  Another great feature is the oversized toe box; the toe box was super comfortable with plenty of room for my toes without squishing them together and allowing room enough for mid-weight socks.

Garmont Dragontail
Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX is sturdy enough to handle kick-stepping into moderate glacial terrain.

 

Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX has an extended rubber toe box and rubber heel backstay to protect the upper and provide traction while scrambling.  In addition, the shoe has heel lock features that reduce heel slip and prevent blisters.  Garmont uses a proprietary moisture and odor management in the footbed to reduce odor after long treks.  Be sure to check the size when purchasing, I normally wear a size 10, but took a size 11 in the Garmont Dragontail.

Garmont Dragontail
The Garmont Dragontail tackles mixed terrain and rock like a champ.

Scrambling over tough approaches is easy with the versatile Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX.  The sole and extended rubber toe box provided excellent traction on rock.  One downside of the solid construction is additional weight.  The Dragontail is a little heavier than other approach shoes, light hikers, or trail runners.  For those that like ultralight shoes, this may not be for you.  For me, the versatility and the Garmont Dragontail’s ability to crush all the terrain I threw at it make it well worth the few extra ounces.

Elite DriDown Hoody

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Finally, a down jacket that is dressed to impress on the trail; not just the city sidewalk.

Avid outdoors enthusiasts flock to down coats because of their exceptional compressibility and impressive warmth-to-weight ratio. However, the age-old issue with down has been that it’s useless when wet. Sierra Designs offers a DriDown alternative that excels in the Northwest’s rainy and humid weather. Fit for summer and winter trips alike, you’re probably not enjoying your hiking or backpacking trip to the fullest until you’ve tried their Elite DriDown hoody.

Sizing.

Like most jackets, I recommend getting a size up. If you’re using the Elite DriDown hoody in the outdoors, more room to move will help you enjoy your trip. Although I’m 5’6’’ and typically wear small shirts, I tested a Medium. It fit perfectly to accommodate athletic use with light layering. I recommend following Sierra Design’s sizing chart, it won’t steer you adrift! Arm length is generous (34.5 inches, but who’s counting) to accommodate reaching forward or up above your head with thumbs in the thumb holes. Unlike a few competitor jackets I’ve tested in the past, the Elite DriDown Hoody won’t shortchange you in length.

Elite DriDown hoody
The Elite hoody in its natural environment.

Function.

The Elite DriDown Hoody is fitted for function rather than fashion. With a back length of just over 26 inches, I could pull the coat comfortably down to my upper thighs to keep out the chill. Unlike the fashion-focused jackets, the Elite DriDown Hoody features a subtle elastic waist that prevents it from riding up when seated. Sorry, fashionistas — functionality over fashion is always a win in my book.

Features.

In typical Sierra Designs style, the manufacturer slips in a few clever features. The generously sized thumb holes are lined with stretch nylon flaps that seal the hole when not in use. This means no chilly breezes down your sleeve when you’re not using the thumb holes. The fitted hood is lined with a knit nylon fabric for a comfortable, moisture-reducing contact against your forehead and chin when fully zipped. The hood is fully convertible, and can easily be tucked down inside itself to form a draft-resistant collar. This adaptable feature makes your Elite DriDown hoody ready for even the most intense adventures.

Elite DriDown hoody
Draft-free thumb holes and fitted sleeves for increased insulation.

Materials.

One of the biggest benefits of the Sierra Designs Elite hoody is that it features 850 fill power duck DriDown. If you aren’t familiar with DriDown, here’s the rundown: it’s a backpacking game changer. DriDown is conventional down that is treated with a molecular-level polymer to give each individual down plume a hydrophobic finish. This allows DriDown to stay dry 10 times longer than regular down and dry faster than your conventional down jacket. If you hike and backpack in a wet area like the Pacific Northwest, this can make the difference between a fun or miserable trip (and it could even save your life). To seal the deal, the nylon ripstop is treated with a polyurethane finish for additional water resistance.

The Test.

I put the Sierra Designs Elite DriDown hoody through an extensive series of tests that all started with the same letter, but wildly ranged in activity and utility: biking, boating, and backpacking. From the Palouse to the North Cascades, from land to lake, the Elite hoody didn’t get an out when it came to testing.

Biking: The Sierra Designs Elite hoody followed me on a week-long road biking trip up the rural roads of Eastern Washington. Even in the desert and Palouse, warm days result in cold, humid nights and mornings. The Elite hoody stayed dry and warm throughout the trip, and remained my go-to source of warmth when even my fleece was saturated. Those who are interested in bike camping can rely on the Elite hoody’s packability.

Backpacking: When it comes to the mountains, Elite hoody is unarguably in its element. The Elite DriDown hoody weighs in at around 11 oz and packs down to about the size of a 20-oz water bottle. With its 850DriDown fill, this small jacket packs a punch when it comes to warmth. Ultralight and ultra compact, the Elite hoody is an essential for any Northwest backpacking trip.

Elite DriDown hoody
The Elite Hoody’s relaxed fit makes it easy to move, no matter what you’re doing.

Boating? No, not the sophisticated kind. I took the Elite DriDown hoody along on a 22-mile overnight canoe trip that mostly consisted of fighting downwind currents or paddling against gusts of winds as the rain closes. Not picturesque at all. Let’s just say that the Elite DriDown hoody was about the best decision I made on that trip. With its hydrophobic down and water resistant nylon shell, I felt comfortable using the hoody without a rain jacket. The DriDown allowed a semi-saturated jacket to fully dry out within two hours. Because I could rely on it to dry quickly, I find the Elite hoody to be a reliable comfort (or survival) tool in my pack. In the Northwest, it’s arguably one of the ten essentials.

Elite DriDown hoody
I may be incapable of making fire the old fashioned way, but the Elite DriDown Hoody will keep me warm nonetheless!

Final thoughts.

Before reading my final recommendations, please keep in mind that I run cold. Because the hoody is designed to be light and compact, the Elite hoody can suffice as a main layer for late spring-early fall, depending on elevation. I estimate it to keep me warm down to about 50 degrees. While I designate it mostly as a summer backpacking coat, I do think that the Elite DriDown hoody is a great jacket for year-round layering. Pacific Northwesterners can rejoice in its hydrophobic nature and resilience to nature. If you’re looking for a light, compact and completely functional down jacket, I recommend adding the Elite DriDown hoody to your arsenal.

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks – Main Floor Review

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Northface photo
Outdoor Retailer 2016
Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks from Seattle Backpackers Magazine. Photo by dutch franz.

The Outdoor Retailer 2016 Summer Market was a chance for some of the biggest manufacturers in the business to show what is new in the outdoor gear industry.  Read Seattle Backpackers Magazine Editor’s picks and get the inside scoop of what’s to come.

If you have never been to the Outdoor Retailer exposition,”OR” for short, then you can’t imagine the sheer size and volume of gear, clothing, and accessories available.  Being an OR virgin, I had not anticipated what I would find when I went to Salt Lake City for my first OR experience.  What I found was both inspiring and a little overwhelming as marketing and marketers attempted to define and shape the outdoor experience for profit.

The floor space at OR is mostly segregated by company size.  Large, or well-funded, companies have exhibits on the main floor.  Smaller companies, or companies that don’t want to spend the cash, have booths in pavilions adjacent to the main convention center.  This bifurcation of the industry seems like a natural place for me to segment my Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks.  This review will focus on gear found on the main convention floor from mostly larger companies.  Since there is just way too much gear to conduct a comprehensive review, I will focus on gear that stood out as exceptional or unique.

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks  

outdoor retailer 2016
Arc’teryx

Multi-Day Backpacking Packs.  Arc’teryx Bora AR50.  This pack is large, solidly constructed, and built to carry heavy loads a long way.  The revolutionary RotoGlide moving hip-belt allows the hip-belt to twist as your torso twists and moves up and down as you stride or ascend steep inclines.  The durability of the hard-plastic components is still suspect and needs testing, but the concept is revolutionary and could improve balance while reducing fatigue and lumbar and hip discomfort.  No other pack on the floor was thinking that far out of the box.

 

 

outdoor retailer 2016
Mountain Hardwear

Alpine/Mountaineering Pack

Mountain Hardwear continues to make the best expedition mountaineering pack on the market.  The South Col 70 OutDry Backpack is substantial and build to take a beating that only crampons and ice axes will give a pack.  The pack uses innovative OutDry construction that bonds a durable waterproof membrane to the main compartment so that your gear stays safe and dry in even the wettest conditions.  The pack keeps all the convenient features that mountaineers have come to expect and rely on.  My favorite feature is the outside reinforced crampon stash pouch.  This pouch allows me to quickly stuff my crampons into a pocket without fear of punching a hole through the pack, a simple design that has yet to be copied.

 

outdoor retailer 2016
Osprey Packs

Multi-Use Pack

Osprey leads the industry in versatile lightweight packs for trekking, day hikes, or trail running.  Osprey showcased a new ergonomic line of multi-use packs designed to be better fitting and functional on the move.  Osprey packs are full of features like Bio-Stretch technology, the Ergo-Pull hip belt, and the Airspeed suspension and spacer mesh harness system that will keep the load stable and comfortably positioned off your back while assisting in ventilation.  Many packs also include an integrate rain cover.  Osprey has a large selection of packs for all occasions, I recommend finding an authorized dealer and taking the time to find the right fit and features for what you like to do.

 

Outdoor retailer 2016
Hilleberg Tents

All-Season Tents

The best tents on the convention floor were made by Hilleberg.  Forget the more well-known tent manufacturers, Hilleberg makes the most bomb-proof, best designed all-season tents in the consumer market.  The tents are relatively lightweight and easy to put up, even in a storm.  The integrated rainfly allows you to pack-up the tent under the fly keeping the tent and you dry.  I also encourage you to take the Hilleberg challenge and try to rip a swatch made from the tent material. The swatches are cut nearly in half and you are challenged to try and rip the fabric further…good luck.

 

outdoor retailer 2016
North Face

Outdoor Clothing Systems

Nobody makes, or markets, an integrated outdoor clothing system like North Face.  From base layer to parka the North Face Summit Series uses high-tech material and design that ingeniously integrates each layer into a performance system.  Other expedition clothing companies attempt to integrate layers as well, but North Face simply does it better, and more importantly, they knew how to display it at the expo.  The Summit Series at the expo was on active manikins showing each layer as it would be combined and used in the outdoors.  Other manufacturers left the clothing on racks making it difficult to identify how the clothing systems worked together.  It may be only marketing savvy, but give it to North Face for helping customers understand how the clothing system is integrated into the activity.

 

Outdoor Retailer 2016
Garmont USA

Boots

Garmont is entering the U.S. market again with an innovative line of hiking and climbing boots.  The boot design breaks new ground with unique anatomical construction for greater comfort and performance.  Bigger toe boxes and heel lock technology add to comfort and the Intelligent Flex System accommodates natural forefoot flex and shin mobility.  Check out the entire line of hiking boots and fast hikers, Garmont has much to offer your outdoor pursuits.

Next week be sure to catch Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks for the smaller innovative outdoor companies that are changing the industry.

Women’s Mobile Mummy 800 3-Season Sleeping Bag

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Melissa - Sleeping Bag Product Review-2

Backpacking is all about versatility. If one piece of gear can serve as two, you’re saving weight and keeping your gear consolidated. Sierra Designs tackles the age-old backpacking problem: should I bring more layers for hanging out around camp, or go light and forgo the fireside conversation? As a cold-blooded backpacker, I typically carry an unnecessary amount of clothing so I can enjoy the evenings while still feeling my fingertips. But the Mobile Mummy offers an innovative solution.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 9.47.16 PMFirst off, you’ll notice the innovative design. Sierra Designs took the conventional sleeping bag and just threw it out the window. Rather than making the customer commit to either a left or right zipper, the Mobile Mummy features a central two-way zipper that runs from hood to the foot box. Gone is the oversized drawstring hood, replaced by a jacket-like hood that actually fits your head. Small shoulder-height flaps allow you to easily fit your arms through the sides of the bag for mobility or to accommodate any sleeping position. Of course, the bag features 800-fill DriDown, making it a superb choice for temperate environments.

The Test

Melissa - Sleeping Bag Product Review-5I tested the bag at both 5300 feet and 1500 feet, in two very different conditions. I camped at 1500 feet for several days with rainy nights and misty mornings to see if the bag would saturate. I toted the bag to a higher elevation at Pilchuck Lookout for the second test and used it to lounge around the lookout deck in the wind and rain. While the EN-rated 20 degree bag works exceptionally well in the colder temperatures and at high elevations (arms in or paired with a down jacket), the arm holes and two-way zip offer superior ventilation for warmer nights or lower elevations. Because of the hydrophobic DriDown fill, I wasn’t hesitant to walk around in the bag in dense fog and drizzling conditions. The bag remained dry and insulating, even after days in the Washington rain forest.

Sleeping

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 10.26.19 PMWhile most sleeping bags are engineered for back sleepers, the Mobile Mummy’s design accommodates any sleeping position. Slip your arms through the arm flaps or unzip the bottom of the two-way zipper to poke a leg out. The central zipper, fitted hood, and slightly slimmer hip and foot box means that the bag actually stays oriented to your body as you move during the night. I tested the bag with my arms both in and out, and found that the shoulder width (a roomy 3 inches wider than Sierra Design’s comparable mummy bag) easily accommodated my arms inside the bag. The ability to customize the bag to my desired sleeping position allowed me to get a more comfortable night’s sleep than in a standard mummy bag.

Mobility

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The mobile mummy is versatile, arm holes allow the bag to be worn around the camp site. Photo by KPHorizons LLC

It’s not called the Mobile Mummy for nothing. The bag quickly converts from a sleeping bag to a warm garment to wear in the tent or around camp. Zip up the hood and slip your hands through the arm flaps. Simply unzip the bottom of the bag (I found that about 2 feet was just right for me) and secure the foot box using a pair of plastic toggles. There are toggle loops located 2 and 3 feet from the bottom of the bag, letting you customize how high the footbed is gathered. Note: the toggles did take some time to fasten at first. Now you’re ready to move! But after some tweaking and personalizing, the bag is surprisingly unrestricted. The arm holes make it much easier to move gear around the tent, or cook without leaving the comfort of your sleeping bag. On cold mornings it’s usually a challenge to leave your sleeping bag, but now you don’t have to.

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The two-way zipper and toggle cords allow you to open the bottom of the mobile mummy and hem the footbox up making the bag fit like a coat. Photo by KPHorizons LLC

What Are the Sacrifices?

I know you’re wondering it. With all the added features and versatility, what are we going to sacrifice? With a trail weight of 2 pounds, 7 ounces the Mobile Mummy 800 is actually 6 ounces lighter than Sierra Design’s 20-degree mummy equivalent. What about compression? The accompanying stuff sack is 15 X 8 inches, but I was able to easily compress the sleeping bag to 10 X 8 using a compression sack. Admittedly, not as compact as some competitors, but completely acceptable given the advantages. Insulation issues? I didn’t notice any drafts from the arm flaps, even as the temperature dipped below freezing.

Style? Well, I’ll leave that to the fashionistas.

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Can you jump for joy in your sleeping bag? Photo by KPHorizons LLC

Overall
I have to admit that I was skeptical at first about forgoing my mummy bag for this wildly unconventional sleeping bag. At just over $400 the Mobile Mummy 800 3-season bag is a bit of an investment, but let me tell you it’s worth it. A bag that doubles as a down garment is enough utility to warrant the price. It’s rare to find a 2-pound, 7-ounce 20-degree DriDown women’s bag in that price point — typically you either sacrifice weight, warmth or compressibility.

Treksta ADT 201 Review

in Gear by
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We outdoorsy types dedicate all manner of thought and sizable portions of paychecks toward gear and gadgetry. Out of all that gear perhaps the most important piece of equipment are what you put on your feet. Nothing will ruin a trip like a pair of ill-fitting, poorly designed boots. The good people over at Treksta set out ensure your comfort on the trail with the new ADT 201‘s.

Treksta ADT 201-closeup

I got my hot little hands on a pair of ADT 201’s and first took them for a spin around town while walking my dog to test them out before committing to serious backcountry mileage. My first impression while trying them in an urban setting was that they felt like an athletic shoe, like a basketball or mid skate shoe. I was impressed given their robust look and feel, but kept thinking that leather hiking boots shouldn’t be this light, well-vented, and well….comfortable. I began rethinking my plan to wear them on my next trip backpacking. I worried about their ability to handle a rocky environment, grip in dirt and general performance in a more unforgiving landscape. After all, who would wear house slippers or the latest basketball shoes to summit their next peak?

After careful consideration, I decided to take the plunge have a little faith in Treksta and put the ADT 201’s into a trial by fire. The fire being a week long backpacking trek into the Sierras reaching elevations exceeding 10,000 feet. Normally, I select more ridged, heavier boots. I’ve been lightening my pack weight lately, so it only makes sense to lighten the footwear some. I by no means am an ‘ultra lighter’, my pack is sub 20 lbs prior to adding food and water.

Treksta ADT 201-campsite

Once on the trail I immediately noticed I felt lighter on my feet, more nimble if you will. On the dry, crumbly trails of the mighty Sierras, they provided an amount of grip only rivaled by cloven-hoofed locals. In my years on this planet, through sports and physical activities I’ve injured my ankles quite a bit. As a result I am susceptible to rolling my ankles. Because of this I generally seek out boots that are more ridged, the popular theory that they offer more ankle support. To my welcomed surprise, the Treksta ADT 201’s felt every bit as supportive as my heavier boots; a feat nothing short of a miracle (pun intended).

There’s another feature I must mention. They are very breathable. That might seem like a trivial thing to mention. Generally speaking, I keep away from Gore-tex or similar water proof/resistant boots such as the ADT 201’s: They never breathe well, and my feet over heat and end up soaked in sweat in minutes. As most of you know, wet feet are the beginning of many a terrible malady. Somehow, Treksta once again defied conventional logic and made a Gore-tex boot that was extremely breathable. For the first time ever, after a long day backpacking I reached my campsite and didn’t feel like I needed to immediately change my socks and put on camp shoes.

In other words, Treksta made a boot that I thought couldn’t even exist. A dream boot with a combination of fantastic attributes I didn’t know could come together. This boot is a worthy companion to just about any adventure.

  • Date Available: Now
  • Listed Weight: 18.6 oz/530 grams
  • Materials: Leather, Gore-Tex, Nubuck, Rubber
  • Size Tested: 10 Mens

 

 

Products made for the PNW – we’ll take it!

in Community/Gear by
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Products made for the PNW

Q&A with Yesler Founder Vince Chu

Yesler is a Seattle born, American-made brand that create exceptional performance apparel by combining innovative design, technical fabrics, and quality construction with American craftsmanship.  They are weeks away from the launch of their second flagship product, the ‘Technical Hoodie’, and we had the opportunity to sit down with Yesler’s founder, Vince Chu, to talk about the brand, product and what makes Yesler so great.mens-technical-hoodie 9

Questions:

1. Yesler is clearly a very Seattle name, what gives the brand & product so much Seattle heart?

    • We love Seattle and everything it represents – from the great outdoors of the PNW to it’s rebellious and grungy vibe.  Our mission has been to make the best performing athletic wear for the Pacific Northwest community.  Taking in all the elements of the city’s bustling metropolis and outdoor community, and creating products that can function no matter where the day takes you.  And with everything is hand cut and sewn right here in Seattle, the city’s heart beats throughout every stitch.  

2. So what exactly is a ‘Technical Hoodie’?

    • It’s form meets function. It’s the blend of real world versatility and technical materials.  It’s the one jacket that looks and feels good for hikes in the Cascades or just spelunking around Ballard.  By definition a hoodie is pretty much a go-to piece in a wardrobe so it has to look good and be comfortable, but we’re breathing new life into the piece: it’s being built with the best materials by the best craftsman.  By combining great fit with great fabric, we’re giving you something stylish that shields you from the elements while still being breathable for your active lifestyle.

3. So you say it’s versatile, what makes it so versatile and different than other brands that might claim the same thing?

    • Our Technical Hoodie is about creating a comfortable piece that actually performs well during activity, poor weather, or just everyday usage.  When you step outside we want you to have that one perfect hoodie that fits how you want, looks great and protects against poor weather.  You look at a lot of what popular brands are doing, and you still end up with a run-of-mill pieces that are just good enough for “to and from” but don’t perform, or something that’s still too close to a jacket that’s just not realistic for everyday wear:  Everything in the current market is either too causal or too high-tech to function in multiple settings.

4. Tell me why Polartec was your fabric of choice to make this product?

    • Having the right fabric partner is extremely important to us; we knew it was critical to find a collaborative partner that strives for similar goals. Polartec has always been doing tremendous stuff in the space (especially with Neoshell). We’re not the only ones who think that: all the top brands like Patagonia and Arc Teryx use Polartec materials. So when we told them what we were designing, they came back to us with Polartec Powershield Pro. Let me tell you: it’s simply amazing. It’s a lightweight, weather-resistant soft shell that provides breathability, stretch and comfort from the inside out. And the Technical Hoodie comes with a price point people can blink at, while many large brands using Polartec fabrics, they all come with a hefty price tag, and now you can get this high-performing jacket while keeping cash in your pockets.

5. Why manufacture Yesler in America?

    • This is a twofold answer.  One, making Yesler here in America (and specifically Seattle) has been our mission from the get-go, we love sports here but it’s unsettling to think that we hardly making much of our own gear anymore, less than 2% is American-made and we want to change that.  Two, it’s the way we can best assure quality.  We want to outfit you with the best and now we can promise we are doing just that.  

 

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