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Gear Review: La Sportiva Miura VS

La Sportiva Miura VS Gear Review

By Kayla McKinney, featuring photos from Eli Staggs

There is a myriad of styles and techniques in the sport of rock climbing. Everyone has their own style and every route has different features. Different climbing shoes fit better for different styles, distances and formations. It can be difficult to know which shoe will best fit your needs, so reading reviews and testing out products if possible is a great place to start. The Miura VS is immensely popular, and for good reasons. The shoe comes in a women’s and men’s version with the major distinction between the male and female versions of the shoe being the colors and size of the shoe.

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Eli getting precise foot placements in his Miura VS shoes.

The La Sportiva Miura VS, winner of the Rock and Ice – Best in Gear, does not fit into every niche, but is an excellent intermediate to advanced climbing shoe that excels in precise edging and placement on slab to overhanging face-climbing.

The ideal terrain: Overhanging sport routes, bouldering, gym climbing and technical face climbing.  I do not recommend these shoes for trad climbing, especially with the triple Velcro system.

Personal Review:

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Precise foot placement and smearing.

After my first pair of climbing shoes got too old and smelly, I decided to bump up to a more intermediate climbing shoe. The Miuras were the right choice for precise toe performance on small footholds, heel hooking and edging. I feel like a ballerina because I’m so on point with my toes. Toe chips that once seemed impossible are comfortable ledges compared to the flatter toe box shoes I had previously. When I first got them and put them on, I thought I horribly misjudged the size and that I could never climb in them, because they were so tight and painful. It took almost a month of climbing once or twice per week for the shoes to break in “comfortably.” I went down a full size from my street shoes, which was painful at first but perfect after the break in period. The shoes are still painful in the toes to this day, and not comfortable to walk around in. I am actually forming a callous on both of my big toes from the shoes, but I am weirdly proud of it. I chose the VS (as oppo

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Bend near toe bed after prolonged use.

sed to the original Miura’s) because of the micro seconds saved with a Velcro system. Who has time for laces? The triple Velcro system enables a precise fit and is a perfect compromise for laces.

Update: I have now had the Miuras for about 4 months and I climb 2 or 3 times a week and my opinions have changed since I first started this blog. They have started loosening in the heel and a peculiar damage is occurring in the leather around the toes, as shown in the photo, from bending my foot. I worry about the longevity of my shoes because of this bend. I also regret having gotten the VS Velcro system because I believe that laces would fit better around my narrow, small foot now that the leather has stretched even more. Regardless, these are still my go-to shoes for sport and bouldering and I still highly recommend them to anyone looking for an intermediate shoe. When these retire, I will likely get the Miura Women’s instead of the Miura VS.

For specific shoe specs visit the La Sportiva website:

For the Men’s VS:

http://www.sportiva.com/men-s/men-s-footwear/miura-vs.html

For the Women’s VS:

http://www.sportiva.com/activity/activity-climbing/miura-vs-womens.html

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When things get chossy, it’s good to have a shoe you can count on.

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Gear Review: Outdoor Research Aspire Jacket

by: Kayla McKinney

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Aspire Jacket

I first purchased my Outdoor Research Aspire jacket in 2014 and have worn it extensively since. I have taken it on many trips, in a wide variety of conditions, and therefore I feel credible enough to give you my review of the jacket!

*Note: The women’s version of the jacket is the Aspire, and the men’s version is the Foray. This review can be applied to both versions of the jacket. One main difference: the Foray has a zippered chest pocket, whereas the Aspire has a zippered arm pocket. There is also a shell pant version of the Aspire and Foray.

Let’s begin with a quick run down of the facts and features of the jacket:

Feature Facts:

This jacket is primarily meant to be a hard shell, meaning it is highly water, wind and weather proof. You want to use it as your outside layer to protect you from the elements.

Fabric: GORE-TEX® with Paclite® product technology 2L, 100% polyester 50D plain weave

Weight: 13.7oz / 388g (for size medium)

Awesome Features:

Fabric Performance: Waterproof, Breathable, Fully Seam-Taped, Laminated Construction, Windproof.

Design Features: Fully Adjustable Hood, YKK® AquaGuard® Zippers, Internal Front Stormflap, Hem-To-Bicep TorsoFlo™ Venting, Zip Arm Pocket (chest pocket for the Foray), Zip Hand Pockets, Left-Hand Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack, Carabiner Loop.

Functional Details: Double-Separating Center Front Zipper, Pocket Placement Above Harness, Hook/Loop Cuff Closures, Elastic Cuffs, Elastic Drawcord Hem.

Personal Use and Favorite Features:

So yeah those are the facts but let me tell you about my personal experiences with this jacket and why I think it’s a good choice as a versatile, comfortable, completely dependable hardshell:

So protected while trekking across the Fimmvörðuháls pass in Iceland, June 2016

So protected while trekking across the Fimmvörðuháls pass in Iceland, June 2016

I have worn this jacket in every season, and in every type of weather condition. I am a small, light weight female, 5ft 6in, whose primary outdoor interests are backpacking and rock climbing. I tend to be more sensitive to cold, and don’t sweat as much as my peers. This jacket suits me perfectly because it has been reliable in all weather conditions, meaning I did not get wet to my skin when I hiked all day in the rain, nor did I sweat excessively inside the jacket because of the efficient and well placed ventilation zips! The jacket has zippers from the base of the armpit all the way to the end of the jacket, and can be unzipped from the top and/or bottom. Unzipping from the bottom up allows for “poncho-style ventilation” if you need more than just the armpits unzipped. It’s breezy without letting the rain/snow/hail/dirt/whatever come inside. The pockets are placed high enough that you can wear a harness and still have pocket access. The storm hood is highly adjustable and can be cinched on both sides, and the back, with a visor-like cover for comfortable face protection. They were so nice to even put a soft fleece layer near where the jacket rests on your chin. Basically, the jacket is versatile enough to maintain ideal body temperatures in varying conditions.

Protected in foggy weather in the Gosaukamm, Austria, August 2016

Protected in foggy weather in the Gosaukamm, Austria, August 2016

Another awesome aspect is that the jacket folds into it’s own pocket, on the left side, into it’s own zipped up bag with a carabiner loop. It is easy to stuff and can be stored in a pack easily.

Fit and Other Uses:

The jacket is also lightweight and comfortable to wear, and doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a thick trash bag as I’ve experienced with shells in the past.  It can be cinched on the sides for a closer fit, but is also roomy enough that I can fit several layers underneath the jacket as well. I wear it as a lifestyle jacket in the fall and spring as well because it blocks the wind and is fairly warm as a light jacket on its own. I also wear it on evening bike rides, or almost every time I ride my moped to protect me from the wind.

Long-Term Durability:

Olivia and I both rocking the Aspire on the summit of Mt. Marcy, in New York, late November 2015. Purple may be the coolest color version of the jacket, just saying.

Olivia and I both rocking the Aspire on the summit of Mt. Marcy, in New York, late November 2015. Purple may be the coolest color version of the jacket, just saying.

I have almost worn this jacket for two years now, and I have treated it with Durable Water Repellent, DWR, treatment twice. The jacket was initially created to be waterproof, but with excessive use, dirtiness and aging, this coating can fade. As with any waterproof clothing, I recommend treating your jacket after significant use. I have not seen any rips, tears, broken zippers, or any type of warranty related issue. The jacket is still in high quality shape. But if a problem ever did arise, Outdoor Research has an incredible warranty. It is known as the Infinite Guarantee, which insures and protects your gear forever and regardless of the issue. In my opinion, it is the greatest warranty in the outdoor industry and speaks volumes of the integrity of Outdoor Research as a company and gear producer. For more information and exact language of the Infinite Guarantee refer to this link.

Overall, I highly recommend this jacket to anyone in need of a reliable, versatile waterproof, windproof hard shell that they want to last them in many conditions and over many years.

I would share photos of the countless times I’ve worn this jacket in the rain, but I have never wanted to take my camera out for a photo in such conditions, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

For more information on the Aspire jacket, visit the Outdoor Research website page:

 

The Louie Knolle Bomb-Diggity Bootastic Award

To put it simply, I do not enjoy conventional footwear.  On the average day, you will find my toesies free from the confines of shoes, either in the nude or in very minimal sandals for when I need to get all dressed up for “The Man”.  I adhere to the belief that shoes were invented by people who hated everything and wanted to make mankind suffer by making our feet get all sweaty and stinky, trapped in laced-up boxes.  However, I know that when it comes time for a tough, long hike in the mountains that I need to give my feet some protection from the elements. That’s when I need to strap into my Salomon Quest 4D GTXs (plot twist!)

Now I know what you are thinking: Louie, you like being barefoot; could these boots really be that greatThe   answer is yes. Yes, they really are.  I have long been a fan of Salomon footwear for their comfortable and supportive trail running shoes and how they perform in the gnarliest of conditions. Having also made a name for themselves with skiing gear and clothing for everyone from day hiker to ultra-marathoner, Sabootslomon has quietly been building boots that have earned the Louie Knolle Bomb-Diggity Bootastic Award.  

Enough gobbledygook! Here is the nitty-gritty on these bad boys.  The Quests feature Salomon’s rock solid Contragrip outsole, a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane to keep the tootsies dry, and Salomon’s ever popular toothed lace eyelets so that when you tie your boots, they stay tied. The newly updated 2015 Quest 4D 2’s feature upgrades such as a more comfortable tongue on the shoe and laces that have a rougher surface so they stay tied better.  I have the first generation models and those were the two things I would say needed improving. Good thing Salomon already took care of that for the rest of you guys!  

So, these boots rock.  I have worn mine for over a year and a half now and they have given me no reason to even begin to look for new boots yet. It will be a long time before I retire them!  I have worn them in the desert in January, the Smokys in February, guiding in Vermont April through July, in the Adirondacks in November and about a million other places. They have been everywhere with me it seems.  Though these are the “heaviest” in the Salomon line of hiking footwear, they are still lighter than any traditional backpacking boot lou3in my opinion.  The Quest’s 4D chassis, which provides support throughout much of the mid-sole, offers unmatched firm yet supple rigidity to the boot which keeps my feet happy as I’m walking on countless roots and rocks.  The sole on these seems like they stick to just about everything! Mud, rocks, leaves, talus, you name it and they will keep you from slipping on it (well, except for ice.  Ask Kayla about the time I tried to hike uphill on ice while wearing the Quests). I have waded through water that was up to the tippy-top of these boots and my feet stayed dry.  After 18 months of use, there’s still no leaks in the waterproof membrane of these guys.  

As I stated earlier, normally I am a sandal/trail runner hiker on short trips, but when I’m going to be out and about for long periods of time, these are my favorite boots I have ever owned.  The roomy toe box allows ample room for my toes to splay naturally the way I like and the sole protects my feet from rough surfaces while still allowing me to be flexible enough when I am in the mood for some heel clicks and 360’s off of rocks and logs (which is about 99% of the time.)  The height of the boot is also something I’ve come to like, even though at first I thought I was opposed to it.  When on really deep, sketchy terrain, the ankle support is bomber and offers unparalleled protection for your ankles.  When I’m on an easier trip, I only will lace up to the second eyelet from the top so it’s a little more of a loosey-goosey feel and I can feel like I’m not as rigid in the ankles.  

So in summation, these boots stick to surfaces like glue, even on the grodiest of trail conditions. They will keep your feet dry, period. They made a boot believer out of a barefoot/minimalist shoe lover, and your feet will be happy and smiling in these boots whether you hike for an hour or a month.  Also, did I mentionlou2 that Salomon has a 2 year warranty on their footwear? They totally do!! I have had no reason to need it, but it’s always a good safety net to have and twice as long as most footwear warranties.  Salomon believes in their product, 100%. So whether you’re going to the Cincinnati Nature Center, on your first backpacking trip to Philmont, or tackling any of the beastly long distance trails such as the AT or PCT, these boots will treat you right or my name isn’t Louie “Lou-bear” “Sunshine” “American Pie” Knolle.  

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Gear Review: Ahnu Montara Boot

Gear Review: Ahnu Montara Boot

By: Kayla “Clover” McKinney

I love my Ahnu Montaras.

I was immediately attracted to their style and found them feminine yet rugged looking. I got the chocolate chip color, as pictured, but they also come in a variety of other colors. I first got my boots in October of 2014 only two days before embarking on a 3 day, ~30 mile backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  I was nervous at first as to whether or not the boots would be comfortably broken in before the trip, but to my relief they were very comfortable right away. They have an EVA cushion mid-sole which breaks in easily compared to other hiking boots. If you’re unfamiliar with Shenandoah National Park, it’s a beautiful, mountainous park with peaks rising as high as 4,000 feet along the Appalachian Mountains. So basically, there were a lot of ups and downs on this trip which  made it the perfect place to test out my new boots.

My Montaras were very good to me. They fit securely (I got fitted at RRT before purchasing!), with enough room in the toe box to wiggle my toes, but not so much room that my feet were moving around. I normally wear a woman’s size 6.5, but went up to a size 7 for these boots to allow room for thicker socks and potential swelling from hiking. The Montaras have a narrow cut to them, which works well for me because I have small, narrow feet. My favorite part about the boot’s fit is the ankle support. The Montaras have a flexible, bendable ankle which provides stability without too much rigidity.  After some time, the ankle has become accustomed to my foot and moves perfectly with me when I hike. The boots are also very lightweight, which is perfect for me as I am light on my feet and prefer the bare foot, minimalist running style.

Anyway, back to Shenandoah – it rained the entire time we were there. I mean it rained all day, every day. But this made it great for testing how waterproof my boots really were! With eVent water proofing, my feet remained dry despite days of tromping along a wet trail and some stream crossings as well. The eVent waterproofing is very breathable, which I personally experienced the benefits of when I took my Montaras down and up the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon over spring break this year. The Bright Angel Trail is notoriously hot and finishes with a vertical mile from the center of the Grand Canyon back up to the rim. Definitely not a hike you want to do in just any type of boot and I was glad I had my breathable, comfortable Montaras.

After almost a year and several backpacking and hiking trips with my Montaras, they have held up great and are my go-to boot for most trips I take. I have not experienced any issues or unexpected wear from the boot, but if you do, they do have a one year manufactures’ warranty just in case. Overall, I would say the best aspects of the Ahnu Montara boot are their comfort, durability, breathability and waterproofing. I recommend them as a great all-around boot for women!

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Demystifying the Modern Rain Shell

By: Goatman

Autumn hiking: the trees blazing from inside out, the air purified by chilled winds, the campfire smelling like it should. Autumn seems a beautiful time to spend your time wandering around the woods. And then the rains come. Unlike a nice, refreshing summer shower, the rains of fall don’t play nice. They bite and they seep into your bones and set teeth to clacking around. Getting caught in the wrong storm this time of year can be dangerous. Enter the rain shell, an autumn hiker’s best friend. Not to disparage the storms of other seasons, of course.

Much like the shell of our turtle friends from whom we take much advice, a rain shell means protection from harm. Whether it be rain, snow, wind, or cold, modern shells are designed to keep you alive, dry, and moving. There are times when staying in the tent, playing cards, and drinking hot cocoa sounds marvelous. The reality of the situation is that hikers don’t often have that sort of luxury. Hikers gonna hike and, more often than not, moving through a storm means moving to safety. So we throw on a rain shell and move, down the ridge, away from the menacing black clouds and the lightning on the balds.

When you hike (or bike or kayak or whatever you’re doing out in the wild) you sweat. So what’s the use of keeping the rain off if you’re just going to swim in your own slop? So, waterproof, yes, but breathability is also a major issue when choosing a rain shell. The purpose of this blog post is to help you find the right shell for the right purpose. This process can be confusing for a few reasons:

1: “Waterproof” does not mean waterproof. Confused? Good. A little confusion is good for the brain. Makes for good learning. A truly waterproof shell would be a terrible choice for the trail. To be truly waterproof, the material would have to be impermeable, meaning that no water can get in, but no water escapes either. That’s no good. That’s a sweaty plastic sack. So what we’re looking for is more accurately called “highly water resistant” but “waterproof” sounds shorter and sweeter so that’s what they call it. And there are levels to this, of course. To be called waterproof, a material must meet certain criteria. The measure of waterproofing is called Hydrostatic Head, which is fancy talk for how much water they can stack on top of a material before it starts to leak. 1,000 mm = “waterproof”. Will a 1,000 mm rain shell keep me dry if Zeus decides to unleash his fury on poor Goatman for looking crossways at a thunderhead? No. Serious weather rain shells rate more along the lines of 10,000 to 20,000 mm (that impermeable sack we spoke of earlier would be 40,000+). That’s about as technical as this article is going to get. I’ll throw some links down at the bottom for those who want to delve deeper into the science behind it all. What I’m getting at here is that a tag that says “waterproof” on a jacket can mean a variety of different things. Gore-tex vs eVent vs Pertex Shield+ vs H2NO? Here at RRT, we can tell you the difference in waterproofing between our styles of rain shells. Come in and ask. I dare you.

2: But can we tell you about breathability? If you liked the slightly complicated nature of waterproofing, you’re going to love the absurdly complicated nature of breathability! At least in this case, breathable means just that: allowing the passage of air and moisture. You hike, you sweat. Best case scenario, your sweat evaporates and, water vapor being smaller than raindrops, escapes from your rain shell through the tiny holes in the “waterproof” fabric. So there must be some way to test how much water vapor escapes from the material. Of course there is. There are a few ways actually and not one standardized test across the industry. Different companies, different materials, different tests. Do different tests test the same thing? Sort of. They all tell you how much water vapor passes through material. Do any of them simulate wilderness conditions in which you are bouncing off of trees and rubbing bellies with granite and sweating at different rates, in different humidity, on a different mountain, in a different country? No. Nature isn’t a controlled laboratory (thank goodness). So we leave the lab and go out in it and let our skin do the testing. And the companies would agree. They all have their labs but they also have their athletes out in the bush, getting it done.

As I mentioned before, we carry a variety of rain shells at RRT. Below, I will break down the differences, similarities, and various uses of each shell. Remember: these are words on the Internet. If you really want to experience the thing itself, come in and talk to one of us, try on a couple of styles, and see what is going to work for what you want to do.

rab-latokCompany: Rab Style: Latok Alpine

Waterproofing: eVent   Layers: 3   Weight: 18 oz.

 We’ll start with the big boy: Rab’s Latok Alpine, store favorite for keeping you dry in the worst conditions. Designed, as the name suggests, for protecting you on exposed alpine climbs, the Latok Alpine is serious protection. It boasts the highest breathability and is rugged to boot. Going on a mountain-climbing trek where you’re guaranteed to get dumped on for days and want a shell that won’t give out on you, no matter how much punishment you put it through? This is it. At 18 oz., this is also the heaviest shell we carry. Perhaps overkill for an afternoon hike with 50% chance of rain.

 

rab-xiomCompany: Rab   Style: Xiom

Waterproofing: Pertex Shield +   Layers: 3   Weight: 15 oz.

We go lighter from there with Rab’s Xiom. Great jacket to throw in your pack on a long backpacking trip. It’s still Rab and still 3 layers, so the durability is there, but at less than a pound the Xiom won’t weigh down your pack when the sun comes out. Added pit zips make this a highly waterproof and breathable design. Pertex Shield + is Pertex’s highest end fabric for weight and performance.

 

 

 

bergenCompany: Rab   Style: Bergen

Waterproofing: eVent   Layers: 3   Weight: 19.6 oz.

Think of the Bergen as the Latok Alpine’s big brother. It weighs more because it’s bigger and more roomy for more fully fleshed out individuals. If you find the athletic cut of modern rain shells restrictive, fear not! The Bergen is here. All of the advantages of breathability and waterproofing of the eVent liner are still apparent in this jacket. For a couple of ounces more, you simply have more room to be comfortable.

 

 

 

 

zetaCompany: Arc’teryx   Style: Zeta LT

Waterproofing: Gore-tex   Layers: 3   Weight: 11.8 oz.

Arc’teryx doesn’t mess around. A three layer shell at less than 12 ounces, cut to fit the body in motion, with heavy duty Gore-tex lining. Arc-teryx construction is unmatched in the business and, despite its low weight, this shell can take a beating. Though not as breathable as eVent or Pertex Shield, this shell is still a contender for lightweight backpacking in any condition you can throw at it. If you’ve never tried on an Arc’teryx piece, do yourself a favor. These guys know exactly what they’re doing and they do it very well.

 

 

 

or-forayCompany: Outdoor Research   Style: Foray

Waterproofing: Gore-tex   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 16.3 oz.

OR makes some great gear and the Foray is no exception. Gore-tex is big papa when it comes to waterproofing. They were there first and they still do it like they mean it. Sheds water as well as the Latok Alpine and, while losing a bit of breathability, also loses a few ounces. Any advantages to that? Sure. A bit warmer of a jacket can be a good thing in the cold. This is another shell meant to handle whatever you throw at it. They add two way pit zips to compensate for the loss in fabric breathability.

 

or-aspireCompany: Outdoor Research   Style: Aspire

Waterproofing: Gore-tex   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 13.7

The Aspire is the women’s specific OR shell that is much like the Foray for men, but fit specifically to a women’s curves. Gore-tex knows not gender, so you’re still getting a heavy-duty severe weather jacket with the Aspire.

 

 

 

 

or-heliumhdCompany: Outdoor Research   Style: Helium HD

Waterproofing: Pertex Shield +   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 9.1 oz.

We are dropping ounces here. The Helium series from OR, much like the noble gas for which it is named, floats compared to the beefy shells we’ve been learning about. This is a long-distance backpackers’ jacket, truly: extremely breathable, lightweight, and immensely packable. Able to shrug off all but the most extreme rains, this is the sort of jacket you throw on when you’re in for the long-haul, need to keep moving rain or shine, but can then forget about on the nice days. While not the jacket I would choose for alpine excursions or deep winter treks.

 

 

or-helium2Company: Outdoor Research   Style: Helium II

Waterproofing: Pertex Shield +   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 6.4 oz.

I have eaten candy bars that weigh more than the Helium II. A stripped down little brother in the Helium series, this is a minimalists dream. Ultra-light, ultra-breathable, ultra-packable. If you’re the type of backpacker that cuts your toothbrush in half, removes your zipper pulls, and doesn’t bother cooking food on the trail, here you go. Also a great shell for trail-running, mountain biking, or any other high-intensity outdoor activity where you might run into unwelcome rain.

 

 

patagonia-torrentCompany: Patagonia   Style: Torrentshell

Waterproofing: H2NO   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 12.2 oz.

The stylish choice, Patagonia’s Torrentshell is not as waterproof as eVent or Gore-tex and not as breathable as Pertex Shield +, this one lands right in the middle on every scale. Great for everyday wear, in town or on the trail, the Torrentshell will keep you dry as you go about your business. Not an alpinists shell and a bit heavier than our lightweight options, this one is a good all-around jacket with Patagonia backing it up, so you know it is greener than grass (in the environmental sense).

 

finderCompany: Mountain Hardwear   Style: Finder Jacket

Waterproofing: Dry Q Core   Layers: 2   Weight: 14.3 oz.

The most affordable jacket in our line up, Mountain Hardwear’s Finder Jacket is a great starter shell. Though a bit heavier than our lightweight options, this jacket will breathe better than some of the sturdier Gore-tex options, though will not take quite the soaking. Great jacket for layering or to shrug off quick storm, not as useful in serious weather when staying dry is crucial. For the price, however, the Finder is a good all-around jacket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful, technical links for your perusal:

www.evo.com/waterproof-ratings-and-breathability-guide.aspx

www.ellis-brigham.com/advice-inspiration/guides-and-advice/buying-guides/waterproof-fabrics-buying-guide

 

Links to the companies mentioned above:

www.patagonia.com

www.outdoorresearch.com

www.mountainhardwear.com

www.us.rab.uk.com

 

Technology Links:

http://www.gore-tex.com/remote/Satellite/content/our-fabrics

http://pertex.com/fabrics/shield-plus/

http://eventfabrics.com/technology/

 

RRT’s Live Inventory now on Locally.com

 

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Rab Strata Hoodie

Alpha test alpha
Written by: Bryan Wolf

If you have been to Roads Rivers and Trails then you know that we are big fans of Rab technical wear. To date there has not been a piece of gear that left us disappointed or that failed to out-perform our expectations.  While this gear test is on the Rab Strata Hoodie, the real test is on the new technology that is Polartec Alpha.

If you visit the Polartec web site as it is linked above you’ll find scientific proof along with reviews, backing, and support of our military forces that this technology works. This all has great substance and while hand selecting the gear that we use and sell in our store we find that the better gear has that substance. I want to know ratings for breath-ability and warmth, that is how you compare things. How do I know one piece of gear is better than another if not for the credibility of testing and user performance reviews.

That being said I am more skeptical than most when it comes to reading reviews on a website that is self promoting. We have personally found that certain pieces, while maintaining their claims, fail to be the most practical piece for our applications. For example, a high alpine piece created for ski may not be the best for an Eastern United States Appalachian hiker. With this exact issue in mind I wanted to get a little use of the Strata and the new Polartec Alpha technology before bringing it in to the store.

Off to my favorite gear testing stomping grounds; the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The plan as it is now is for a few nights atop Mt. LeConte via the Boulevard Trail. Recent nights have been as low as -9 degrees with about 10 inches of snow on trail. The weekend forecast will most likely add to the snow and it doesn’t look to get warmer than highs of mid twenties. I plan on having proper layers on and will wear the jacket both in motion and while still. I’m a pretty fast hiker so I hope to mostly test the breath-ability of this piece. Since I previously have reviewed a competing technology with a Primaloft jacket (Generator) I feel I’ll be well suited to compare the leading brands and discuss the differences.

I can’t wait, I’ve been needing some mountain time!!  Review coming soon:

Rab GeneratorThe Mountain didn’t disappoint. Upon arriving at the Sugarlands visitor center we were immediately detoured in our plans. The roads were closed at 441  so there was no hope for the Alum or Boulevard Trails, furthermore it meant that we had to make alternative plans for that night. We grabbed a tent site at Cades Cove Campground and enjoyed the solitude of being absolutely the only people staying at the typically bustling site.  The next morning we checked again for changes in road conditions and things had only gotten worse. Cherokee Orchard was now closed half way to the Bull Head Trail. The rangers questioned if packing up the mountain was something we wanted to do with the nights forecast, we of course assured them that we would be just fine.Strata Hoodie

We had to hike up 1.5 miles of road before hitting the 7.1 mile trail to the shelter. Road walking was too easy of course and my pace up the mountain wasted no time in building up some heat. I started with the Strata jacket and some wool base layers. When we got to the trail head it was time to remove a layer and the jacket got packed away. I didn’t ever expect the jacket to last during a 3+ mile pace uphill.  Temperatures were under 20 degrees all day and as you may know they can change rapidly as you hike higher in elevation, or in and out of different ridgelines.winter trekking

It was around mile 4 (including the road) that we stopped for a short break and lunch. The pack comes down and before anything else the jacket hat and gloves go on to retain what heat I had built up. The break was only 20 minutes, but it was very comfortable. When we started hiking again enough heat had escaped that I wasn’t willing to lose the Strata yet. As the trail steepened and our feet slowed, I realized I was not going to take the jacket off for the rest of the hike. At this point I had on Ibex Woolies 150 base, Patagonia R1 Base and the Strata Hoodie. I can tell you that without a doubt the Generator would have been way too hot after even a half mile in this scenario. If you read my Generator Review, that is not a knock on its performance at all; it is a top layer piece for breaks and at camp. The Strata however had a very noticeable difference, it is built as more of an in action piece. Other then the occasional unzipping of the jacket for a quick vent, I had the perfect layer system for what was soon nearing 0 degree hiking.Mt LeConte view

You could assume that changing my layers, say excluding the Patagonia piece would have made this jacket comfortable for backpacking at temperatures closer to 15-20 without incident.  As a stand alone piece there are plenty of puffy jackets to retain more heat, however this is the first that I have comfortably hiked in. The test of the Polartec Alpha in my opinion passed and stood out for all the reasons that they claim. At the shelter that night we would reach -7 degrees while cooking dinner and melting snow. Overnight we would see -12 as a low. While moving around camp I sure was glad that I had my generator, was layered appropriately and had my shell for protection. There is no way the Strata was up for that test.  My suggestion would be to use the Strata as more as a mid layer in extreme cold of negative temperatures to the teens. From mid twenties and up you could probably use the Strata as a camp puffy.Frozen Rainbow Falls Ice Cone

*There are always other factors to consider when picking appropriate layers for your trips conditions, please feel free to comment or call for advice.

You can expect to find the Rab Strata Hoodie and other “approved” cold weather gear here at Roads Rivers and Trails

 

Ahnu Elkridge Mid

Boots Boots Boots
Written by: Louie Knolle  

One of those things that can either make or break a hike or any other kind of walking activity.  I recently learned the hard way, being in desperate need for a new pair.  After hiking 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail over my Spring Break in March, I lost a significant amount of skin on the top of my big toes from excessive rubbing in the toe-box of my boot, and that’s never a good sign.  So when I arrived at the building in which I would await my ride, I took off my Merrells with a sigh of relief. I knew with 100% certainty that I was not going to use them for hiking again.  Don’t get me wrong, they were great boots!  I bought them in the summer of 2010 and had since then worn them for countless weekend and longer hiking trips and they served me dutifully.  Not even giving me any blisters once.  But it was time to let them go.

Elkridge Ahnu

When the opportunity presented itself for me to get a pair, I chose the Ahnu Elkridge Mids; I was very excited. I’ve never hiked (with the exception of winter mountaineering) in anything heavier than  a mid-height/weight boot, sometimes even sandals and trail runners if the trails don’t call for anything too heavy.  So the Elkridge Mids were the perfect next boot for me.  I received them on a Friday afternoon, and I was leaving for a 2 day, 23 mile hiking trip the following morning so it was the perfect chance to try them out.  I know what you may be thinking, “Don’t you need to break them in before you take them hiking?”  Although that is a fantastic habit to be in with any kind of footwear, I wanted to test out just how lightweight they were and the true comfort of the sole right out of the box.  The testing grounds would be Shawnee State Park, also known as the “Little Smokys of Ohio” to some.  It is known for its hills and would be the best place to test run the boots short of actually taking them to a real mountain.

The first impressions were stupendous.  Rising just above the ankle, the Elkridge is of similar height with other mid-height cut boots providing good ankle support if needed without making you feel like your hiking in your grandpa’s boots.  There aren’t any of those pesky extra pegs to lace around before you tie your boot; the lacing system goes slightly higher removing any need of that.  One of the other first things I noticed was the immediate comfort.  With an EVA midsole and a neutral balancing system meant to keep your foot stable and not overcorrect its natural gait, it felt much more natural than most other footwear I’ve worn.  This is a big factor for me when purchasing shoes because I have wider feet and try to wear minimalist footwear on a day to day basis, but sometimes you just need to compromise for the comfort and protection a boot can offer.  Speaking of wide feet, the toe-box is awesome in these.  My feet never once felt cramped and allowed ample room for the natural spreading your foot and toes perform when you step onto the ground.

Elkridge Mid AhnuAs far as performance is concerned, I was also very pleased on how they handled the endless ups and downs of the sizable “hills” that Shawnee had to offer. Since my boots were fitted properly, my feet did not encounter any sliding whatsoever inside the boot, so I kept all the skin on my toes!!  One of the biggest selling points for me is the eVent waterproof fabric inside the boot itself.  It is as waterproof as they come, and by gum, the breath-ability is amazing.  It only plateaued in the high 60’s that weekend, but as a person with sweaty feet they are accustom to overheating in boots. Bottom line, these are great light weight hiking boots.  Whether you’re going out for a walk in the park, need some work boots, lightweight boots for backpacking, or just to wear for everyday use, these are everything you are looking for.  Interested?  Feel free to come on in to Roads Rivers and Trails in Historic Milford to give them a try for yourself.sometimes requiring changing socks halfway through the day if I am hiking long miles.  I actually wore the same pair of wool hiking socks both days I hiked; only changing into a fresh pair after we had arrived at camp.  And by the end of the second day the inside of the boots were still as dry as a bone.  Just to say I tried, one of the last creeks we crossed with about 3 to 4 inches of running water, I walked right through it disregarding the stepping rocks to see if I could actually get these things wet.  I was disappointed (more like really happy) to see that even literally being surrounded on every side of the boot almost all the way to the top, the boots kept me nice and dry.