Our picks for the best gear of last year.
Prepare for the cold! We run done our picks for the best base layers around.
The Paddle Junkie crew spent 4 days wandering the halls of the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to find the coolest gear released at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. This is what we found.
7 Guys, 6 Days, 150+ pieces of Gear... More fun than could be imagined.
Our top picks from all our reviews of 2011.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It's true that the race is 5 kilometers (roughly) long, but that is only the beginning. The 3.02 mile course winds its way through Afton Alps, a local ski hill, so it isn't going to be flat. Now let's talk about, um, obstacles?.. Here is where things get interesting. Some of the most inspired include, running and jumping over a scrap yard of old cars, repelling down a steep ravine, crawling across a cargo net, and scurrying under barbed wire through a pool of sloppy mud. I have a feeling it is going to be a bit harder than I gave it credit for.
To salvage both my physical and mental well being; food, beer and music will be served up at the finish line! Unfortunately, registration is closed at this point, so if you are not registered - maybe next year...
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
GU Chomps: These things are by far my favorite of the GU products. They are like a cross between gummy bears and jello shots, how can you go wrong? These made for a great mid-day snack when I started feeling a bit sluggish on a long paddle. The fruity flavors were more refreshing than a handful of chocolate and peanuts, especially on an 85 degree day. Watermelon and Strawberry were our favorite flavors, but blueberry-pomegranate and orange were not far behind.
GU Energy Gel and Roctane Ultra Endurance Gel: A few years ago I tried a few different energy gels that were in our triathlon race packets. They were freakin' nasty. So, I have avoided them for quite a while. GU gets these right. No matter what, the texture is always going to be a bit strange to me, but these things taste awesome. With about 16 different flavors to choose from, you will find your favorite. You may be surprised at which one it is though. The Mint Chocolate tasted like a gooey Andies' Candy (REALLY GOOD!!!) and the Vanilla Orange was a Dreamsicle shot. They have two formulations to choose from, with the Roctane packing a bigger energy punch than the original energy gels.
GU Electrolyte Brew: When you are filtering lake water in the back-country, the taste leaves something to be desired. In addition to masking the "unique" flavors of your local water source, GU Brew helps pump you full of Electrolytes to keep your body running at peak levels. These all tasted really good and dissolved quickly and completely. If you are hitting the gym, pair this up with the Recovery Brew to help you replenish what you lost during your time on the treadmill.
GU Brew Electrolyte Tabs: One of the problems with bringing drink mixes into the back-country is simply the amount of space they take up. Enter GU Tabs. One tube holds 12 tabs, each of which mix with 16-20 ounces of water. These flavors are lighter and more subtle than the Brew Packets, but are great for adding a little taste and replacing those nutrients lost during exercise. I noticed a bit of an "alka-seltzer" taste, but it wasn't enough to dissuade me using these again and again.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
For our recent venture into the Boundary Waters I had the privilege of testing out the Grand Portage Canoe Pack. This cavernous pack looks and feels every bit the part of a turn of the century craftsmanship, until you put it on. Once loaded and strapped to your back, you know just how well thought out this pack is. A perfect blend of vintage materials with modern pack features. The incredibly comfortable padded shoulder straps, which come standard on all Frost River Canoe Packs, make the simple leather straps of their competitor's bags seem like a torture device. Add in a tumpline, waist belt, shock-cord and D-rings and you can secure and carry even the most ridiculous loads.(by-the-way, those all come standard as well!)
Admittedly, I can't speak on the longevity of this bag having only half a season to judge, but I am not gentle on my gear and this bag doesn't have a scratch. Once home and unpacked, I was unable to find a broken stitch or a loose rivet anywhere. At some point on our journey out of the BWCA the sheath on my hatchet came off and the blade was in direct contact with the canvas; no holes, no tears. You can't get that kind of durability in most modern materials. The four-way fold over design of the top flaps create a barrier against the elements and make the pack easy to load with a wide range of gear volume potential.
I love the classic design and unrivaled ruggedness of this bag. It may not have 50 little pockets for each chap stick and spork on your list, but in my opinion that's a good thing. Less is more in the back-country. My one request would be for a pad on the attachment point of the shoulder straps at the top of the pack. Once I had the pack seated the way I wanted it I had an unavoidable rub, not terrible but annoying.
Taking advantage of the fashion world's current obsession with Americana, Frost River and Woolrich have teamed up to create a line of amazing wool packs. Check out coverage of this project by Selectism.com.
Size: 21" x 22" x 9" box design... or about 68 Liters, but you can push it closer to 75 if overloaded....
Friday, July 8, 2011
I have two young children and the idea of dipping them in DEET scares me. I am not usually a worrier when it comes to things that are "bad" for me (been carrying a tiny bottle of 100% DEET in my daypack for years), but my kids are different for some reason. The "All Natural", "Botanical" and "Chemical Free" labels on products have historically meant citronella in a spray bottle and work about as well as wearing nothing at all. Enter 45ºN 68ºW and their Natural Insect Repellent. Made completely from pharmaceutical grade botanical oils like Neem and Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, it is 100% safe and still protects us from potential diseases spread by insect bites.
I was not loaded with confidence when these arrived. With the never ending winter of 2010-2011, it wasn't until June that I even had a reason to pull them out of the closet. The smell test was not very reassuring. I would even go so far as to say it smelled good. Bug dope can't smell good and work, right? Apparently it can... I wore this stuff for 5 days in the BWCA, the Mecca for mosquitoes and horse flies, and it worked amazingly well. After an afternoon swim I needed to reapply so I ran a little head to head test against the good old 35% DEET spray. One arm in each. It was too close to call, a dead heat. It lasted for hours and it seemed to hold up to sweat pretty well.
DEET and other chemical sprays are known to discolor and eat several materials. I sprayed a few different items; canvas, nylon, cotton and vinyl and none were adversely effected by the 45ºN 68ºW spray.
Now, I can take the kids on a hike in the woods and not worry about the bugs or the chemicals. This stuff performs as well if not better than traditional products, it's safe and actually smells pretty good. What more do you want? That's piece of mind that you can't put a price tag on. Well actually you can... MSRP: $13.99
Thursday, July 7, 2011
|Aqua Socks - circa 1985|
|Teva Churn Water Shoes - Welcome to 2011|
I have to admit, there were a couple of times I was wishing the Churns had a bit more traction. The soles are tacky when wet, which is perfect for slick rocks or boat decks, but I would prefer something a smidge gnarlier for hiking and back-country trails. I do feel that the water-shedding abilities and comfort of these shoes outweighed the lack of traction though. These are not single purpose shoes either. Mine see plenty of action when the weather man mentions the word rain. If I'm gonna get wet, these shoes will be on my feet.