Roads Rivers and Trails

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Tag Archives: Milford


Historic Milford Association

There was no other place for RRT to start their story; Milford was to be our home without question. Owners Joe and Emily are Milford residents, Joe being born and raised here. Nature Outfitters, which was our predecessor, had a home here for about 20 years before us. The downtown area is special, hosting unique shops, unique restaurants, and a very unique position as a trail junction. We wanted to have a positive impact on the city and its economic development and also on its image and reputation across the tristate.

The Historic Milford Association is a not-for-profit that helps the small businesses in Historic Milford unite and to showcase themselves. The association fights to protect business owners’ interest with local government and allows for a stronger singular voice as a collective. HMA focuses on marketing the downtown, including several festivals and events every year like Hometown Holidays and the Longstone Street Festival.

Both Emily and Bryan have held several board positions since becoming members in 2010. Emily has taken on a larger role and expanded responsibilities, acting as the Longstone chair for both 2013 and 2014. Today, Emily helps push social media and website content while also being the treasurer for the organization. All of these responsibilities are of course done as an unpaid volunteer to benefit the city in which we operate. In 2016 RRT was officially recognized by the Milford Miami Chamber of Commerce with an award for outstanding achievement with-in the community in “Environment and Education”.

Together with HMA we hope to continue to build the historic area of Milford to be an ever growing and beautiful place to eat, shop, and play. For more information on the Historic Milford Association, please visit the HMA website below. For more information on the “Trail Junction” and Milford as a trail town please read the RRT blog by clicking the link below.

Historic Milford Association

Read “The Best Trail Town” Blog

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Valley View Foundation

Valley View is a hidden gem that should not be overlooked. “We had been in Milford for over a year and yet I had yet to venture back to the preserve. It was a group trail run that led me back into Valley View, and since then that path has been one of my most travelled.” Says RRT Owner Bryan. The best part was that the Foundation’s beautiful trails that cut though field and forest are less than a mile from the doors of RRT.

The property hosts wildlife, a community garden, a trail system, a hops field, river access, and a walk through history. Although their footprint is relatively smaller at about 150 acres, it is easy to find yourself exploring a new trail or stumbling upon an old barn or beautiful farmhouse on the property. Their message is simple: conserve land, preserve history, and share with the community.

This message resonates loudly with the crew at RRT. We understand the importance of accessibility to the outdoors for all. That is why we strive to be strong partners with the Valley View Foundation. We want to encourage all of our neighbors to visit and support the organization and to take advantage of this gem in our backyards. In 2018, RRT owner was elected on the the board for the Valley View Foundation so that he can have a greater impact with the organization in both fundraising and outdoor recreation. Bryan’s first task was to help organize the resurgence of “Run for the Bottoms” a 5k and 10k race through the grounds. With over 80 participants year one we had a great success in raising nearly $3,000 for the foundation. Keep a look out for next years event!

RRT has worked to financially support the foundation since 2015 when they held their first in store fundraiser. That year we were able to write a check for an additional $500 to the Foundation, followed by $650 in 2017 and over $1,000 in 2018. We also sponsor and promote their “Taste to the View” fundraising event with premier raffle items like our popular kayaking package!  Teaming up with Patagonia we released a limited edition tee celebrating VVF’s work in the future removal of the low head dam on the East Fork of the Little Miami. This will provide continuing fundraising dollars and bring additional recognition to their awesome work.

For more information on the Valley View Foundation please visit:

Valley View Foundation

Back to Community Involvement Page

The Best Trail Town

The Milford Trail Junction
Written by: Bryan Wolf

What is a trail town? I found this definition online; “A Trail Town is a destination along a long-distance trail or adjacent to an extensive trail system. Whether the trail is a hiking trail, water trail or rail trail, users can venture from the path to explore the unique scenery, commerce and heritage that each trail town has to offer.”  (elcr.org)

Milford Ohio fits the above definition as well or better than any town could. We are in fact the epitome of a trail town. We are home to over 22,000 miles of long distance hiking trail as the biggest trail junction in the United States. We are home to a “rails to trails” program that connects cities more than 70 miles apart. We are home to a National Scenic River that has year-round recreational opportunities. Lastly, we are home to a city that dates back to 1788 and boast unique shopping and dining experiences.

As an outfitter we hope that RRT adds to the qualifications, that we bring additional excitement and attract and inspire more recreational use around the city and that we support users of our trails and river. But we cannot take credit for a single aspect that has built the outstanding resume that you see above. What we are proud of is that we settled in this city because we want to be part of this trail town, and because we recognized it’s potential.

Every year we are lucky to meet and share in the experience of people walking one of three trails across the country, or around the entire state of Ohio. Every day we are lucky to personally enjoy and be immersed in the abundant recreation provided by the Little Miami Scenic Trail and River. Be it by foot, wheels, paddle, or pogo stick, this city ties it all together.

Junction mapThere are a lot of cogs in the trail town system that make us who we are. The over half a dozen canoe and kayak liveries that operate in and around Milford are a big part of that machine. You see the Little Miami River isn’t a one shot or one season river. This is part of the reason why Cincinnati is the self-proclaimed paddle capital. This is why we have the largest and strongest paddling groups in the country. Not because we have short term destination whitewater, but because we have year round beauty and access that is beginner friendly and harnesses the passion of the sport.

One of these great canoe and kayak liveries is Loveland Canoe and Kayak, who operates both out of Loveland and Milford. Owner Mark Bersani had this to say about the Little Miami; “We are fortunate to have one of nature’s best playgrounds right in our backyard.  I love the Little Miami River because of its incredible beauty, rich history, abundant wildlife and accessibility.  It provides awesome recreational opportunities for paddlers, anglers, nature lovers and explorers alike.  When you spend time on the river you can feel the stress of the day melt away as you take in the inspiring scenery and fresh air.”

I reached out to Mark to get some facts, because what good is my nostalgia without facts? The numbers blew me away! In one year Mark will personally put about 16,000 people on the Little Miami River! This is local love right there, we aren’t talking about tourists from other cities. We are talking about a town and its love for the river. Furthermore he added that amongst the half dozen other liveries they would total about 100,000 people per year on the river!

089_LittleMiamiFellas_5-26-15With a healthy and frequented river, so grows the city. This isn’t your grandma’s Milford anymore, although Grandma is still welcome and we love her dearly. In the past five years we have seen the city transform from half empty to overflowing. From a shopping and dining perspective Milford is blowing up, and if you’ve not been here in sometime then you have been missing out. Downtown Milford hosts festivals, has a nature preserve, and even riverside camping. The city grows everyday making it more livable, more shop-able, and more fun.

This year Milford has the opportunity to be part of Outside Magazine’s “Best Towns” competition as we compete to be the best “River Town”. Just having the nomination puts us as one of only sixteen cities to be voted on! So I ask you to please share this, to please vote, and to please spread the word. But also be proud, because if Milford is your city than you should know that it goes toe to toe with cities of a much larger reputation; like that of Bend Oregon, St. Louis Missouri , Charlotte North Carolina, the Appalachian Trails Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and even Portland Oregon.

Click here to vote now (open until 4/29/16)

If you are unfamiliar with the vast trail town resume I’ve mentioned please check it out. You can find the breakdown of all 22,000 miles of trails that cut right thru Milford on the cities website and the link provided at the end of the article. Special thanks to Mark, visit him in Loveland or Milford (lovelandcanoe.com // 513-683-4611).

Click here for Trail Junction details

Click here for Little Miami River Safety

Reconnecting Children with Nature

In today’s technologically driven world, children are spending more and more of their time in front of screens and less time in nature. Children’s pastimes are spent more with video games, TV, laptops, iPads, iPhones, etc. This means less time kicking the ball, running around, climbing trees, and less time spent in what many consider a quintessential childhood experience.

“We’ve gradually allowed exploratory experiences outdoors to be traded for indoor, largely sedentary experiences that depend on learning tools imagined and manufactured by humans.” Evan McGown, author of Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.

The term Nature Deficit Disorder, coined by Richard Louv (author of The Last Child in the Woods), describes the physical and mental consequences of a lack of exposure to nature, particularly in developing children. These consequences include obesity, anxiety, depression, ADD, and ADHD, among other mental and physical disorders. Exposure to and the understanding of nature is vital to a child’s developing mind. Nature is a source of primary learning, and there are many skills and character building attributes that one acquires through exposure to the outdoors.

Children learn both self-reliance and teamwork, stillness and a sense of adventure, self-awareness and compassion from unstructured play in nature. It bolsters their imagination, confidence, resourcefulness, sense of scale, mental and physical strength, and respect for the world around them.

These are not skills that children typically learn hunched over on a couch, staring into a screen. Yet it is these attributes that create well-rounded, happy people.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “Play, especially free play, is essential to development, as it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Yet free play hardly exists in a child’s day to day life. Nature is the best place to allow a child to play freely, and unstructured in a way that inspires their imagination and growth.

But what if you’re unmotivated, scared or just unaware of being outside? This is the reality for many children nowadays. Going outside can be foreign, uncomfortable, and scary. It’s not air conditioned and there are too many bugs. They need strong role models to push them to turn off the screen and go outside. It is best to expose children to the great outdoors early and often. But if it’s too late for you to do this, then consider other options. First, be excited yourself. Plan family trips. Go for walks. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose backpacking expedition; any outside time is valuable. Let your kids bring their friends, so that they can run off with them and have fun.

Encourage them to explore and to have unstructured play. Try to relax and let them explore and be rambunctious.

Consider changing your blogphoto2routines. Could you do what you’re already doing outside? Homework, dinner, reading, relaxation: all of these things can be done comfortably outside in decent weather. Start small. Incorporating nature into your daily life requires a fundamental switch in how you prioritize your time.

“You should sit outside for 20 minutes a day… unless you’re busy, then you should sit for an hour.” – Zen Proverb

Many children, and their parents, teachers, family members and other adult figures, no longer know how to delegate and spend time in nature. It is essential to prioritize time outside every day. It’s as if it is wired in our brains that we do not have time for nature in our routines. In reality, you probably have more time than you think. If you have time to watch Netflix for an hour, then you have time to go for a walk through the local woods. You don’t have to sign your child up for a wilderness summer camp or Scouts if you’re not ready for these commitments. There are plenty of local, more convenient options.

 There is no shortage of activities to do and places to go outside. There are many programs, activities, places and things to do with your children outside in Cincinnati, as well as within a several hour radius of the area. Southwest Ohio is rich in parks and green spaces, as well as miles upon miles of rivers and lakes to explore. Go somewhere new, find places you love to return to over and over again.

Places to Go:

The Cincinnati Nature Center in Milford is a great place to start. 1,025 acres of Eastern deciduous forests with fields, streams and ponds in Rowe woods is an excellent place to hike and spend the day with family. They also have events, a playscape, and a Nature Preschool. The CNC Nature Preschool is for children ages 3-5 years old, where “direct experience in nature is the foundation for our curriculum that is based on Early Learning Content Standards and developmentally appropriate practices.” For more information and rates, visit cincynature.org.

There are many great parks around Cincinnati as well, and to find an unexplored park near you, visit cincinnatiparks.com.

The Little Miami River is a great, calm river to explore with children. There are many liveries in the area which rent out canoes and kayaks as well as providing shuttle services. Check out Mariemont Livery, Loveland Canoe and Kayak, Scenic River Canoe, Morgan’s Canoe or many others for information and rates.

For longer trips, check out Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio, Red River Gorge in Kentucky, Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee/North Carolina, sections of the Appalachian Trail, and countless other options just a short drive away. If you ever need help with trip dreaming and planning, visit the shop and any of us would be more than willing to help you out.

Book Recommendations: 

For more information on local trails, check out the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Cincinnati, by Tamara York, which we always have in stock in the shop.

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv is the inspiration for this blog and is a great book for understanding the fundamentals and importance of nature to a child’s development.

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown is an excellent resource which features specific nature activities and games to inspire connection with nature through free play and sense-oriented activities. Richard Louv said, “this is good medicine for nature-deficit disorder. Coyote’s Guide should become an essential resource for anyone who wants to revive their sense of kinship with nature but needs some help.”

The Best Tent Camping in Ohio by Robert Loewndick and The Best Tent Camping in Kentucky by Johhny Molloy have many good examples of good tent camping for the whole family.

Resource Guides:

There are several comprehensive outdoor guides for the Cincinnati Area. Check out Green Umbrella, a National Sustainability Alliance that seeks to organize events in one comprehensive place.   They promote many outdoor events that are fun for the whole family. For more information, visit greenumbrella.org.

Meet Me Outdoors is a place to find year-round outdoor recreation and nature activities in the tri-state area. They publish an annual magazine which features local activities including places to hike, fish, swim, paddle and backpack. We also always have this in stock (it’s free) at the shop! Meetmeoutdoors.com.

Ohio Leave No Child Inside, ohiolnci.org, is a movement dedicated to getting children outdoors every day.

For a list of local day camps for children, visit cincinnatifamilymagazine.com/family-fun/summer-camp-2015-preview for a list of summer camp opportunities created this year by Sherry Hang.

Resource Link List:

Childrenandnature.org

Cincinnatiparks.com

Cincynature.org

Greenumbrella.org

Meetmeoutdoors.com

Ohiolnci.org

These resources are just the start. They are meant more to inspire and help start you upon a connection with nature and outdoor play. There are many more opportunities left unlisted, places to explore and things to do out there. It’s time to turn off the screens, step outside and explore!

“We don’t intend to simply provide more ‘recipes’ for nature connection – instead we want to help you learn how to cook.” – Evan McGown, from Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.

lilbbeli

Eli “Shinbone” Staggs as a youngin’ with his father.

Outsidecincy.com “Get to Know an Enabler…”

Published December 15, 2013
Written by: Cody Sowers

When I first moved to the Cincinnati area, outdoor gear stores were few and far between. Big box stores littered the outer belt, and only a couple “real” gear stores existed in between. That all changed in 2010 when Roads Rivers Trails opened their doors, and they have been inspiring everyone with adventure ever since.
roads rivers trails
Walking through the doors, you are smacked in the face with gear. High tech clothing, a variety of canoes and kayaks, packs, shoes and more. There is even a replica Appalachian Trail shelter, of course, stuffed with quality gear.
appalachian trail shelter
If the gear was not enough for you, what sets this store apart from the rest is the ambience. These folks know what they are talking about, and they do not just talk about it, they do it! You will be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable and experienced group of individuals that are this well versed in outdoor gear and adventure.
get to know an enabler
If you are in the market for anything related to the great outdoors, or just want to pick the brains of some gear heads, make the trip to RRT which is conveniently located in downtown Milford. Be sure to also check out their website to stay in the loop with their different hike/gatherings/presentations.

Get Outside Cincinnati!
roads rivers trails

You can find this original article and more stories and gear reviews at:
Outsidecincy.com

RRT Boat Pick Up!

What We Do
A Day In The Life Of An RRT Employee
Written by: James Mobley

Well it is kayak season and that means one thing, we need Kayaks!  Every kayaking season means the monthly process of going to get boats for inventory.  This season it was my turn to tag along with Joe White. The days are long but always full of fun and adventure.  The day trek takes us from Milford, Ohio all the way to Fletcher, North Carolina to a factory known as Legacy Paddle Sports. Legacy is owned and operated in North Carolina, where all of our boats from Liquidlogic and Native Watercraft are produced. The whole round trip is 778 miles and takes about 16 hours by the time you include stops and the loading and unloading of the boats. This season our biggest pick up was 27 boats!

So why do we do this?  Because it saves our customers money!  We do not add-on a delivery charge to our boats where other company’s do.  We also get to stay in tune with what is new and going on in the factory of this American Made product!  We are often brought into the factory and onto the main production floor where they share with us the latest technology or products that are in place. (Trust me, Legacy is making some pretty innovative and new products that we are so excited to see released.) The standards at Legacy Paddle Sports is the best in the industry so buy with confidence friends!

While the trip sounds long and like a lot to pack into a day, it isn’t!  Joe is good company, lots of good music is played, and good conversations are always to be had.  I must admit though, I do nod off at times as he drives!  Joe is a champ and is always at the helm as we travel and I continue to offer to drive but it is never needed.  I guess you could say Joe is a road warrior and being behind the wheel is what he loves to do, among other things.  The trips always offer great scenic views as we head south and go from state to state. My favorite parts always come when we get into the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.  The rock faces make me melt inside and all I can think about is my passion for rock climbing.  The rushing rivers filling the valley floor remind me of my love for the water and all the magical powers it brings.  Nature is truly amazing to me!

What I find most enjoyable about these trips are the happy faces from our customers when they come to pick up their new boats!  Many of our customers meet us at RRT as soon as we get back into town to pick up their new boat investment.  This means customers meeting us well after 11 pm.  As we unwrap their boats and help load them onto their vehicle you can see the happiness in their eyes and face!  They know, and we know, that they have made the first steps to make paddling a part of their lives.  They want to immerse themselves into mother nature and be surrounded by all of its magical wonders.  These customers continue to support RRT and share there adventures with us, and we are happy to have them as a part of the RRT family!

Each boat pick up is a process that leads to greater adventure and untold stories. So come on in and pick up your new boat today, and help us keep this boat pick up process going!  I’ve put together a fun video that will help you live our boat pick up adventure.  I hope you enjoy it!!

Paddle On Friends!!!

Gear Review: Osprey Atmos 65

Long Term Test
Gear Review: Osprey Atmos 65
Written by: Bryan Wolf

Its Early Spring 2012, we had just hiked up the Hurricane Trail to the Hurricane Campground. It is late and the rain is coming down fast so we found ourselves with little left to do but set up and consequently stay in our tents. I think we fell asleep still laughing; we were just happy to be out. The next morning we woke at what ended up being the junction of the Hurricane Trail and the AT. What a beautiful way to wake up, the start of a 40 mile trip into Trail Days at Damascus Virginia.

This was my first trip wearing the then newly released Atmos 65. We’ll get to the pack and its features shortly, but before you can recognize what is good and really appreciate it, I feel it is important to look at the category as a whole. Looking back on the trip I quickly remember some perfectly convenient examples of backpacks gone awry and hopefully this mess of stories will somehow defend my love for Osprey packs, but also the importance of a professional pack fitting… by people that wear packs.

The first story happened that same morning. Early risers were jetting down the trail, obvious thru hikers from both the grime and conditioning. Stopping for a break and to simply say hi to the group was a lean and shaggy NOBO (North Bound hiker). Taking off his pack for a while he explained his dilemma. The pack he was wearing had fallen off his waist and consequently dropped to his shoulders. If any of you have dealt with this before you would know that the turn of events next leads you to weakened and soon useless Gumby like arms. What could have gone wrong?

Travel back further, the year is 2006 in deep Appalachian Maine. After 200 miles of grueling trail my buddy Joe and I grab a hitch into Rangley. We pick up a total of 2 knee braces, some fried chicken, Mountain Dews, and Doritos. If you are problem solving here the later 3 items are not related to the issue. Joe had a gap between the pack and his back leaving the entirety of the weight to fall on his hips and impact on his knees with every stride. Then again the guy that sized him up was never really a backpacker…

Why the Atmos?
FROM FIT TO FEATURES

The backpack is one of the most important and customized pieces of gear you’ll need, as important as or maybe even more so than your boots. Sizing doesn’t run like your t-shirts and even if you do get sized, are you sure the pack can accommodate your needs? That brings us to strength number one of the Atmos; the fit.

The pack comes in 3 sizes to match your torso height. From there each pack has an extended range of torso adjustment to meet your EXACT size. The pack should flow with your back, follow your shoulders with the strap yoke ending right under your arms. From there you can make the adjustments to assure the weight is distributed, centered and close to your body. The “Fit On The Go” hip extensions assure that you can both extend or shorten the hip belt to fit your waist in fluctuating circumstances. Does any of this sound helpful to the scenarios above?

If you find multiple packs that fit you perfect then it’s time to break down the features. This is a left or right hose hydration compatible pack with a separate internal sleeve. The top hood, or the “brain” of the pack has one main zipper on the top and one mesh organizer on the bottom. If I had one beef with the product it would be the small zipper opening on the brain limiting access with-in. Through the main duffle you have a removable sleeping bag compartment and bottom zipper for the sleeping bag compartment access.

On the outside of the pack you have well thought out features that will be on competitors’ packs in a few years when they catch up to Osprey’s standards. The Atmos has two fully usable drink pockets and the compression straps on either side can be redone to weave on the outside or inside of the exterior pockets. There is one larger light buckled pouch on the front of the pack and two separate side pockets. The pack rides nice with an exaggerated air scape mesh backing that makes the old school external frame guys drop their jaws. The air scape allows air flow behind your back for four season temperature regulation. Top it off with trekking pole holders and a safety whistle on the sternum strap and you’ve got it.

The packs suspension and framing can hold weight in the 40 pound range comfortably and it will withstand the weight without issue. Another thing to recognize is “The All Mighty Guarantee”. Osprey has an unbeatable warranty and matching customer service.

On The Job
PERSONAL TESTIMONY

bryan rrt osprey

You can see pictures of the pack and read about features on the Osprey website. How about why I like the pack? One of my favorite things is the gear organization and separation. I find it important to be efficient, organized and fully manage moisture in relation to all of my gear. The two hip pockets allow quick access to my headlamp, pocket knife, and a snack. No need to take off the pack for that, I’ve got it. The two vertical zips on the front carry my filter, pack towel, and toilet paper consistently. I have full access to what I need without routing through everything and I’ve separated items like the filter and pack towel that may be wet.

In the large outside pouch I find it is perfect to gorge safely with a rain shell and rain pants. The pocket seems to dry and drain easy with the lighter outer fabric and keeps the items I may need in a hurry there while being the furthest from the rest of my gear. Other reviews label the Air Scape back panel as a summer feature while I find it to be far from that simple. On my recent Mt. LeConte trip in the snow I found it convenient to manage my temperature as a whole. If I was cold in the front and hot on my back I’d otherwise need a Snuggie to figure things out, and I’m sorry but I’m not packing a Snuggie. The Air Scape gives me consistency in my layering.

I feel like 65 liters is perfect for trips other than those needing a bear canister and the weight of the Atmos pack from small to large are all under 4 pounds. I wear a small torso and it weighs in at less than 3 1/2 pounds. There is a size difference in the pack capacity due to the torso size, but it is hardly worth noting.

Please note that the female specific version of the Atmos is the Aura. Please see an experienced staff for a full customized fitting. Otherwise risk being the gimpy Gumby, and nobody likes a gimpy Gumby. To get sized for your pack and get a full run down on other pack features stop by Roads Rivers and Trails in Milford, OH.

Gear Review: Vibram Fivefingers Lontra

A True 4-Season Minimalist
Gear Review: Vibram Fivefingers Lontra
Written by: Bryan Wolf

Just this past fall Vibram Five Fingers released a new model of toe shoes called the Lontra. The Lontra was the answer I was looking for, finally an insulated Vibram so that I could enjoy my barefoot lifestyle all year long. I ordered my first pair and was not disappointed in the least. This “shoe” was hot! The concept was flying off the shelf and my feet were super toasty. I would wear them around town, everyday use, and chilly early morning runs. The Lontra was built for more though; the Lontra was built with the 4mm midsole and TC-1 rubber the same as the Treksport. I needed to take this on the trail and give this a test so it is worthy of the RRT wall.

The test subject: Ice Man. Familiar with winter trekking, I earned my trail name over my winter thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I have been wearing minimalist footwear for about 6 years. My first pair was the Vibram Classics and my Vibram collection is now at a very disturbing 9 pairs. I have enjoyed half marathons and week-long backpacking trips with them. I feel ready for the test at hand.

The test would be conducted on Mt. LeConte. LeConte stands at 6,593 feet in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The mountain has the most elevation gain in all the Smokies and is a mere 55 feet shorter than the tallest mountain in the eastern United States. LeConte will typically see 100+ inches of snow fall a year and its icy conditions are typically met with chain or diamond studded boots. How long, how cold, and how winterized is the Lontra really? We would go up Rainbow Falls trail, stay the night at the top, and go down Bulls Head trail the following morning.

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You Are The Technology
THE MAKE UP OF A 4-SEASON SHOE

With minimalist footwear “you are the technology”. That is the slogan used in Vibram advertising. No strike absorbing heel pad, no rounded arch or shifting sole, just you. So what is the Lontra? A Lontra is a North American Otter apparently, fair enough; it is also a minimalist five fingered toe shoe. The Lontra is the only insulated model with a micro fleece lined interior for both wicking perspiration and also added warmth value. It is labeled as water resistant with fully tapped seams. It has an extended neoprene cuff that comes around the ankle as well to keep out debris like snow. As earlier mention they also gave it a thicker sole than other non-trekking models at 4mm and with some more aggressive mini lugs for traction. The 4mm sole will also provide added insulation from the frozen ground you may be traversing. Like many models and activities the Lontra feels best with a wool micro weight toe sock. This will also add warmth and was used in this test.

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The Results
RESPONSIBLY WEARING YOUR VIBRAMS

The following review is based off of a prolonged trip with continued exposure to the elements.

On many levels these fury fleece finger shoes excelled. On the other hand, I would not choose them for this trip if I were to do it again. While they were plenty warm to start the journey they could not maintain it. The trip started at near 50 degrees, that temperature would drop sharply with elevation gain and we would be in temperatures just below 20 degrees up top. It was a 7 mile journey up the mountain and the top 4 miles of hiking were covered in snow and ice. My feet could not sustain their warmth despite my body burning off heat from a strenuous uphill climb. Once on the way up and once more at the top I would switch to some warm down booties while taking a break. The booties stopped the numb feeling momentarily so that I could put the Lontras back on and the hike could safely continue. On the way down we faced deeper snow and slightly heavier winds to chill the feet. Since we were moving faster down Bulls Head trail I was able to get to warmer temperatures fast enough to avoid a break. My toes I guess were comfortably numb.

Outside of the insulation value of the shoes they performed great! The neoprene cuff fit tight and kept out all debris and snow keeping my ankle and foot warm and dry. The sole of the shoe, although not modified for snow or ice versus other trek models still did well in those conditions. I did not have any issues with slipping and considering I was constantly on ice they did a fair job of blocking off winters chill as well. Given that it was snow and not rain, the shoes seemed waterproof during my test. Walking over streams of ice cold water I would have been in serious trouble if they were not. I would not trust them to be as waterproof as my boots but for these conditions they did great. Any sweat that had built up in the shoe definitely contributed to the struggle to keep warm.

Overall they were fun to backpack in and lived up to their advertised uses. I wanted to push the envelope and find their limits and I think I did that. I would recommend them for temperatures below freezing if the use is less remote and exposure is under 3 hours. I would recommend them for prolonged use at temperatures above freezing with or without winter’s ice and snow. This is a significant improvement from other Vibrams, I previously was not comfortable with prolonged exposure under 60 degrees.

Please remember that I am an experienced outdoorsman and that you need to take use of any gear, especially Vibrams, at your own pace. Vibram has a great guide to wearing your new minimalist shoes on their website. Know your limitations and please be responsible. You can find men’s and women’s Lontra proudly on the Roads Rivers and Trails shoe wall.

“Down” Gear Clinic

Who Wants to get “Down”?
Gear Clinic: Education and Implementation of Down
Written by: Bryan Wolf

A Gear Clinic is the day that everyone shows up to work in the outdoors world. Why? Well that is simple, because we are gear junkies. A gear clinic means two things to a gear junkie: First, we are about to be exposed to the newest and best information in that particular product category. Second, we are going to be offered a sick crazy deal on the clinic of the day.

A sales representative comes in the store and spends anywhere from 1-3 hours reviewing everything about the products, and in this case it would be down. RRT has had clinics over down sleeping bags, jackets, and down treatments.

Here is Your Down Clinic
Behind the Numbers

Like most anything, not all down is created equal. Down, which is typically a byproduct of the meat industry, can be either goose or duck. We’ll discuss the difference between goose or duck, the fill power of down, the contents of down fill, down maturity, and what’s new in down technology.

Think of the feathers around the exterior of a goose, these are tough with large stems. A goose or duck will actually derive its warmth from what is under them, the down feathers or down plumes. Down plumes are the lightest insulation available. The more loft, the greater the barrier between you and the harsh cold. Loft is going to be dependent on both fill power and how many grams of that fill power are being used?

“Fill Power” is the number of cubic inches that are displaced with a single ounce of down. So if we use 700 fill down, it will displace 700 cubic inches of space with just one ounce! That is why the outdoor world loves it! When you compare the additional weight that you can save with higher fill power, it can really add up.

It’s best to look at the fill power and the grams of down used. 100 grams of 700 fill will be warmer than 75 grams of 700 fill. Also, equal grams in a 500 fill jacket will not be as warm as that in a 700 fill jacket. If information is not available on grams or fill power, it’s likely to be of poor quality. In the outdoor industry, most down products will be 500-900 fill.

A typical down sweater may be 650 fill and 100+ grams. The Rab Microlight is 750 fill and 140 grams of fill. The Montane Nitro is 800 fill and 150 grams of fill. A competitors down sweater at the same price uses a 600 fill and a unspecified weight (But it does have a more trendy name sewn on the front).

What Down Is It?
Some Quality Assurance

About a year ago, the adventurous crew at RRT finally fell in love with what we feel to be the best sleeping bags on the market. There are a slew of factors that make Sea to Summit sleeping bags so awesome, but our favorite part is how they test each batch of down product.

This is the IDFL test report. The test details the percentage of down clusters, fibers, feathers, and other impurities. This report also verifies the ratings of fill power promised to the consumer. Most times, the test brings back over qualified ratings! Hopefully, most consumers like me are done buying cheap, unaccountable, and short-lived pieces of gear. You can understand how awesome that each Sea to Summit sleeping bag comes with its own report.

With the cost of goose down on the rise, you can find many companies switching to duck which has been thought of as lower quality down. While goose has its benefits, duck down is not much different. Duck down has more natural oils adding extra weight. The oils also can cause the down to have a slight odor when wet.

Another great aspect of going with a creditable down supplier and manufacturer is knowing the maturity of the down. Each fiber of the down cluster has hundreds of smaller fibers on it, and beyond that even tinier fibers on those fibers. A mature goose or duck plume will develop more and more of those tiny offshoots which act as tiny hooks that keep the down fibers from separating and creating cold spots. Basically, the more mature the bird, the less chance of cold spots through the down. When you apply this knowledge to sleeping bags, lower quality, less mature down will not cling to itself as well as more mature down. The down fill will separate sooner and you will be left with a cold spot in its absence. A cold spot in a sleeping bag that is meant to keep you safe and warm is unacceptable. Mature down will be more dependable and will also have a greater life span.

Using Down, Even When It’s Wet
Where modern technology is taking us.

The buzz is out and everyone is wondering if the technology is ready and real. Through a few innovative processes, down can be treated to become hydrophobic. Down has notoriously been the perfect solution for insulation except for when it comes to a cold kid in a wet down bag. Down naturally becomes very matted down and loses its loft (the only thing that matters) when it is wet. Enter Down Tek.

Down-Tek, besides being a Cincinnati company is also the most environmentally friendly of all down treatment providers. Down Tek treats down to become anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and biggest of all water repellent. Its water repellency is best described as the “Lotus Effect” where water molecules do not adhere to the down feathers. The treatment doesn’t add any weight to the bag either.

I’ve attached a picture for a fun look at this effect, or you can visit Down-Tek for a demo video. Despite being sloshed around in a jar of water the down retains its loft after being strained out which is truly amazing. There is a lot more detail to this as you could imagine, and the truth is, you should take care of your bag and keep it dry anyway with or with-out dry down.

Currently both Sea to Summit and Big Agnes are using down from Down-Tek. This spring unveils all of their respective sleeping bag lines utilizing this technology. Today in-store we have the Talus from Sea to Summit showcasing the Down-Tek. The Talus3 is 700 grams of 750+ fill power goose down, guaranteed to be 90% or higher in full down clusters only. The Talus uses only mature down fibers and has an EN rating of 16/1/-35 degrees.

Now you know what all that means and about the wonderful world of down. Come by the store and speak with a clinic specialist and as always, a product user.

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