Hammock Underquilt Showdown;

Hammock camping is no longer reserved for just warm weather.

The Paddle Junkie's - Base Layer Buyer's Guide

Prepare for the cold! We run down our picks for the best base layers around.

Pentax K30 Rugged DSLR

The world's first DSLR that can take all Mother Nature has to offer

Shell Jacket Showdown

We test the most bomber shells on the market, here are our picks...

Gear of the Year 2012

Our picks for the best gear of last year.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coalatree - Cash Work Jacket - Gear Review

As the winter season finally winds down, I can finally start putting the down parkas and actually wear a normal jacket again.  I ran into the crew at Coalatree at ORShow back in January, and I am finally getting the chance to test drive their Cash Work Jacket.

At first glance it looks quite a bit like the rugged work jackets seen on construction sites everywhere.  After about 5 seconds of inspecting this jacket, what you realize is that appearance is where the similarities pretty much stop. While still durable and trail capable, Coalatree chose a more user and planet friendly path.  Committed to being sustainability ambassadors, they use recycled or organic materials whenever possible. Bluesign approved, utilizing sustainable production methods for textile manufacturing from field to finished product.

The shell and lining of the jacket is about 60% poly and 40 % S. Cafe, a material made infused with recycled coffee grounds to improve UV protection, odor control and drying capabilities. The material is soft to the touch, and had a weight I'd compare to a heavy sweatshirt rather than a work jacket, making it a great Spring/Fall option.  With waterproof zippers, elastic waist and cuffs and a small leather patch they keep the work wear feel and function alive.  Though not "waterproof" it does surprisingly well in wet weather.  It will saturate, but I found it to shed raindrops well when caught in an unexpected shower.

All in all, this is a really cool option if you want a mid-weight jacket that looks the part of work wear, but doesn't sacrifice any of the comfort of your go-to soft shell.  Those that are earth-conscious will appreciate Coalatree's efforts toward sustainability and innovation.  I have this jacket in heavy rotation of late, it's been ideal for the MN "Spring", 20-50 degrees and possible rain/sleet/snow at any moment.

MSRP is $69.99, but they are blowing this out to make room for Summer product.  You can steal this right now for just $34.99, seriously...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Women's Lifestyle Gear Buyers Guide

We know the ladies like gear as much as the next guy.  That said, the cute factor is on the mind of many when choosing stuff for their everyday lives.  Much like our Men's Lifestyle selections, this is a list of Women's gear that blurs the lines between gear and glamorous.  On the tail end of Winter, you may be able to snag a couple of these items at end-of-season prices, talk about win-win.

Teva "De La Vina Low" Boots:
These riding inspired boots make the transition from the stable to the street without any effort at all.  Teva does what they do best by giving these a flip-flop feel by using their Mush® foot-bed.  These low cut, wrap style boots are a woman-on-the-run's dream with super easy on/off via the side zip entry.  They are warm enough for an evening out, even on a frigid Minnesota winter night and are waterproof in the off chance there is any liquid water in your path.  They do run a little narrow, and some may prefer a little more heel, but that is really nit-picking.  MSRP: $140

Horny Toad Wynter Fedora:
Winter head-wear has long been dominated by the pom pom topped stocking cap.  This fedora delivers real warmth without sacrificing anything in the style department.  The slightly fuzzy appearance gives it a more casual feel, while still amping up the style factor.  Made from a blend of Angora and Wool you get the thermal protection you are looking for but the knit sweatband inside means your head never gets itchy.
MSRP: $58

Helly Hanson Garibaldi Boots:
There is something familiar about these boots at first glance, but that is where it ends.  These are some seriously bomber boots from Helly and they are ready for Mother Nature's worst.  The somewhat classic styling has a number of modern touches that can't help but get you noticed.  The quilted fabric back panel and faux fur trim prove that these aren't your grandma's stompers. They are waterproof and insulated for  sub-zero temps, so you don't need to sacrifice warmth for style.  Throw in Helly Grip outsoles and you are as sure footed as a billy goat even on the slickest pavement.
MSRP: $150

Costa's Inlet Sunglasses:
Costa's new 2014 line boasts a whole new Women's collection that gives the ladies a bnch of stylish options, without sacrificing the performance you expect from a pair Costa shades.  You get funky shapes and colors to match any personality and 580p lenses that sport 100% UV light blocking and polarization to all but eliminate glare on the open water.  They really are the best of both worlds, fashion and function Costa style.  MSRP: $169

KEEN's Custom Newport Sandals:
With warmer weather on the horizon, getting a new pair of sandals is a pleasant diversion.  Hop on over to KEEN's new custom website and kill a couple hours building Your perfect pair of Newport H2's, their flagship all terrain sandal.  Tinker with webbing, stitching, microfiber accents, lining, laces and outsole options until you can't see straight.  What you end up with is a tried and true sandal that's uniquely YOU.  
MSRP: $130

Mountain Hardwear's Stretchstone Flannel:
The people at Mountain Hardwear just get it.  This flannel is like the super hero of outdoor apparel; Clark Kent while running around town but Superman on the trail.  Built for climbing, the stretch fabric lets you contort your body any way you need to without getting in your way.  Snap closures let you throw it on or rip it off in no time flat.  The generous hood provides sun and precip protection and will still fit under your helmet when the need arises.  Available in 5 colors, you can easily grab one that will compliment your ensemble, whether it's for an afternoon of kid shuttling or a weekend at the crag.
MSRP: $85
Farm to Feet "Boulder" socks:
We love socks, and wool socks in particular.  Farm to Feet adds in another factor we love to see; 100% Made in the USA!  Literally, every step in the process is based here in the US.  The sheep that grow the Merino wool eat grass in the fields of Wyoming, and the Nylon and Spandex are made here in here, not some factory in China.  Manufacturing of the yarn and eventually the socks themselves happens in the Carolina's.  In the end, you get great looking, incredibly well fitting, and fashion conscious sock that stack up to any wool sock on the market (no matter how Smart they are).  Available in 18 styles and countless colorways.
MSRP: $18

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Helly Hansen's ODIN Series Insulated Shirt - Gear Review

We're now in the throws of winter, time to bundle up. When heading out the door, there are all kinds of reasons to avoid bulky layers while trying to stay warm. From active endeavors to a evening on the town, a giant down puffy jacket may not be the most practical.  Multiple layers are necessary when it gets extremely cold and, if like many of us, go in and out the door multiple times a day; enter the ODIN Series Insulated Shirt/Jacket.  More shirt than jacket, it's got a familiar flannel twill exterior but thanks to a durable water repellent (DWR) finish you can get wet but not get wet.

This shirt is extremely versatile when it comes to the cold. It is still fashionable while maintaining its ability to keep you warm. The PrimaLoft insulation is extremely light and flexible but extremely warm and water repellent. The ability to wear this shirt as a mid layer or outer layer allows for many options when trying to dress for the weather. I personally wore it as both and it has outperformed my expectations. I have no problem walking around with just this and a t-shirt on most days, or when it goes seriously frigid I can put my shell jacket on over it for incredible protection. It does an exceptional job of regulating body temperature and goes from the outdoors to indoors with out having to find a coat check.

Having worn this shirt almost daily for the last few weeks I have encountered no malfunctions of the zippers or buttons. Everything seems extremely well made and durable. There is however one addition that I would like but is not necessary; pockets to place my hands in would be extremely welcomed.

MSRP: $120 on sale for $60...


Saturday, February 1, 2014

GSI Commuter Java Press - Gear Review

When we first tested the GSI Java Press about 2 years ago, we really didn't think you could improve upon that back-country coffee machine.  Well, enter this little beauty.  This is the little brother to the 30 ounce camp size version.

This is the ultralight hiker's coffee press, or a great option for the java press addict on the run.  The science behind the coffee press isn't akin to nuclear physics, but that doesn't mean you can't get creative. GSI took what appears to be a fairly standard thermal coffee bottle from the outside and replaced the guts with a two layer press system that ditches the traditional plunger all together.
Let me set the scene for you.  Pull on the top and out slides a clear plastic bottle, just small enough to fit inside another nearly identical exterior shell.  The base of the now removed interior bottle has a rubber "O" ring and a mesh filter bottom.  Pour grounds and hot water in the bottom of the neoprene covered shell, let steep for a couple minutes.  Now slowly slide the interior tube back in place and the filter separates grounds from java goodness.  Unscrew the leak proof lid and add creamer or sugar, if that's your thing.

It makes about 15 ounces of joe per press, so you get 2 good sized mugs at camp, or enough to make it all the way to the office without caffeine deficiency induced road rage.  A quick rinse and it is ready to go again, or throw it in the top rack of the dish washer for a "like new" appearance.  I have run dozens of batches of grounds through this and it works as well today as it did when it came out of the box.  It may only make half the coffee of it's big brother, but I use the commuter for just that, commuting.  Beats the heck out of gas station java any day...

MSRP:  $19.95

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter Outdoor Retailer Show in Review

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Outdoor Retailer is the largest Outdoor Gear trade show in the US and is held in Salt Lake City.  It happens twice a year, Summer and Winter, and attracts both brands and retailers from all over the world.  Bringing in roughly 1100 Brands and over 20,000 attendees, it is simply HUGE. Now a few days removed from the show the fog in my head is starting to clear.  Between having 50 brand meetings in 3 days and the never-ending happy hours, things can get a little fuzzy.

You may have followed along on our social media sites and caught a glimpse inside the world of the ORShow, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.  After seeing literally thousands of products, I picked a few that I just thought were cool.  I wasn't looking for the most amazing technical advances, just the most lust worthy.  'Lifestyle crossover" was a term used repeatedly at this show and what it really means is brands are looking to make gear that works as well on the street as it does on the trail.  We like the sound of that...

One great example of how gear can disguise as everyday apparel is this flannel shirt jacket from MH.  At first glance it looks just like any other plaid in your closet, but hidden inside are technologies that make it a legit addition to your gear arsenal.  Its flannel twill weave exterior and microfleece lining both sport MH's Wick.Qtm moisture wicking tech, so while it keeps you warm it can easily shed any moisture you produce should you get a little too warm.  $100

Possibly the coolest product I saw at the show. Want perfectly framed action selfies?  Tired of watching your kid's game through a viewfinder?  Pair up a huge range of cameras like a camcorder, GoPro or even your camera phone with the AIMe robotic mount and keep the action in view automatically.  AIMe's little buddy EmIT is a beacon worn by whatever you want to film, and AIMe will rotate 360 degrees and tilt 120 degrees to keep EmIT in frame from up to 150 feet away.    $299

Always innovating, Columbia dropped a whole new line of insulated jackets on us and they are calling them TurboDown.  Coming in 3 grades; Diamond, Platinum and Gold, you get a range of both protection and cost.  The Cadillac set-up, Diamond Series, marries the already proven Omni-Heat reflective technology and thermal insulation into a new two layer combination with premium 890 down insulation.  Compared to similar down-only jackets Columbia's TurboDown delivers over 30% more heat retention along with a sticker price that the average human can justify.   Most expensive jacket in the line $325 (Diamond), with options at $180 (Platinum) and $150 (Gold)...  Killer deals.

Simon Beck is a "Snow Artist" who creates amazing giant geometric designs in snow with just a drawing, compass and a pair of snowshoes.  Think crop circles in the snow.  In partnership with Beck, Icebreaker is launching a line of their merino wool base layers emblazoned with Beck's designs.  You get killer insulation with unique designs and $1 from the sale of each piece will be donated to Protect Our Winters (POW) a non-profit representing snow sports enthusiasts trying to effect climate change.

Garnering accolades from a number of media outlets, this new multi-day hiking pack from Granite Gear is just killer.  They already make some amazing packs, but this one has a couple new features that really set it apart. A real Maple wood core frame sheet and front zippers to gain access to the pack from top to bottom make it one of the most user friendly pack made.  This 70 liter pack will comfortably carry 60+ pounds and do it with style.  Oh, and did I mention these guys are from our great state of Minnesota?  MN Pride!  $349

Hanwag may be new to the US market, but they have been making bomber hiking boots over in Germany for nearly 100 years.  Their double stitched construction sets the standard for durability and they find a way to inject some great off-mountain style while doing it.  These Tashi hikers utilize Yak leather, a first for me.  Because Yak leather is considerably stronger than cow hide, they can shave it 2.5 times thinner without sacrificing ruggedness, making these boots significantly lighter than their cow born counterparts.  Plus, how many guys do you know that have Yak leather boots, right?  $380

In the world of ultra premium active sunglasses, the list of players is pretty short.  Revo was once at the top of a very short list.  In the last decade however, their reputation has slid some while under the Luxottica umbrella (think Oakley and Ray Ban).  Well, in a coup of sorts, Revo just bought itself back out from the sun glass mega-giant and has it's eyes set on rebuilding the brand to it's once legendary status.  Though the catalog isn't huge yet, styles like the Guide we reviewed a while back and the Heading above are sure to get people's attention.  Personally, we can't wait to watch what happens.  $189

Far less technical and all about style, the boots coming out of Oliberte' simply blew me away.  I NEED to add these to my collection.  One of the only Fair Trade certified boot makers on the planet, the African factories hand select leathers and partner only with other socially and environmentally conscious vendors and factories.  You can't help but feel like these boots were hand made 50 years ago.  Even brand new they look well loved and oozing with character.  The 2014 line has expanded styles for both men and women as well, so keep your eyes peeled.  And they are a bargain at only $170

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gear of the Year - Men's Lifestyle Edition

It is the times when we get to truly escape, even if only briefly, which so many of us cherish.  We spend hours and countless dollars getting the perfect gear for a particular adventure.  Meanwhile, life just keeps happening and our daily "gear" may not be all that thoughtfully selected.  We spent the majority of the fall hunting for items that blur the lines between Lifestyle and Trail Ready.  So, here are a few things we love for off trail, but don't forget your style.

Icebreaker's Stealth Hood:  This is one of those jackets you can wear literally anywhere.  From a spring day at the ballpark to a winter day traveling, you simply can't go wrong with the Stealth.  Lined with Icebreaker's amazing 100% merino wool, but with a polyester soft shell outer, you get warmth, breathability and mild rain protection in one neat little package. Two deep side pockets provide tons of storage and one chest zip pocket keeps your essentials handy. Drawstring hood and waist adjustments and Velcro cuffs help keep the elements at bay. An athletic fit that allows sufficient range of motion so you can ride your bike or grapple with a boulder unimpeded. The perfect balance of ruggedness and style, so whether it's casual Friday or crag weekend the Stealth is ready to tag along. 
MSRP: $324.99

Wolverine's 1000 Mile Krause Boots:  These boots are an immediate style upgrade.  Named after the founder of Wolverine, G.A. Krause; they went above and beyond to make sure they lived up to his reputation.  American made with special attention to the details, top quality Horween Dublin Leather and classic styling make these boots a Team Paddle Junkie favorite for both the office and an evening out on the town.  A full lace up, with contrast stitching highlight it's archival pattern and toe cap.  These boots are not your hikers; what they are is the ultimate boot for any activity on tarmac.  They are a bit pricey at $555.00, but this is definitely a case of you get what you pay for.

Dakine's Benny ShirtJac:  When your go-to plaid flannel just doesn't cut it, grab this hybrid shirt/jacket.  A non-traditional red and black plaid takes a classic favorite and adds a little style.  The 80g Poly Micro Fill in the body and arms provide enough insulation to take the chill out of a winter day, but once you find yourself back inside you aren't overheating.  I am a huge fan of live music, and this is the perfect companion for a night at the club.  It will keep me warm while waiting in line to get in, but I'm not looking for the coat check.  Heading out for an afternoon hike, you don't need a super technical rain jacket, just grab your buddy Benny and you're good to go.  They run a little big, so bump down a size if ordering online.  MSRP: $135

KEEN Flint Pants:  When ├╝ber awesome footwear maker KEEN announced that they were diving into the apparel market, we were more than just a little excited.  Their first attempt at pants hit it out of the park.  These incredibly well thought out bottoms sport articulated reinforced knees, bomber seams and overall construction that should lat these pants last a lifetime.  Pockets, these things have more storage than a Sprinter van, and even the pocket linings are reinforced so you wont be losing gear through little holes. Large wide belt loops help keep the pants securely planted where you want them without the risk of loop blowout. Made from a heavy cotton canvas, they are obviously solid while still being soft and comfortable.  The only problem with these pant is that I need to wash them occasionally, which means I need to wear something else.  So, KEEN, if you can figure out how to get these to clean themselves, that would be great.  MSRP: $115.00

SealLine Urban Shoulder Bag:  When looking for a messenger style bag, waterproofing may not be a concern for the average guy, but we are not average guys.  I needed a bag that I could proudly carry into a meeting with prospective clients as well as to haul around my necessary gear at an outdoor event.  When covering a music festival or a sports show, the possibility of getting caught in the rain is always in the back of your mind.   This rugged bag holds more gear than you'd expect while keeping it safe and dry inside.  While not a "dry bag" water falling from the sky simply can't get it.  Trust me, it's tried.  Available in Small ($169.95) and Large ($189.95).

Columbia Sportswear's Zonafied Softshell:  We did a full review of this jacket not too long ago, which you can find HERE.  The short versions goes something like this.  AWESOME!  This unassuming looking hoodie is loaded down with some of Columbia's most epic technologies.  Take an already great softshell made, add Omni-Wind Block as well as the OmniHeat lining and zoned insulation and you have a personal cocoon against the elements. When normal softshells are stored away in the closet until temps come up a bit, the Zonafied is rocking all day long.  "35 degrees and windy, HA!  I scoff at you silly weather..." - Zonafied Softshell  MSRP: $180 (another major bonus, you can afford this without a second mortgage too.)

LocallyGrown T-Shirts:  Show a little home state pride in these environmentally conscious t's.  Available in just about every state (well, a lot of them anyways) and the subtle messages and creative graphics help convey the spirit and ethos of the people that reside there.  Made from a super soft Poly-cotton-rayon blend and printed using eco-conscious inks, they are not only comfy but easy on Mother Earth at the same time.  See if your state is represented here.  Let everyone know you are "Locally Grown" and look good doing it.  MSRP:$ 32.00