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Apparel, Contests, Footwear, Outdoors, Uncategorized
Banner-WendyE Last year we did a monster Shoe Review… now, it’s time to do it again. 5 of our Veteran Writers picked ELEVEN Top Brands and we’re reviewing our top picks; find out which of our choice pairs fits you best. WIN-instructions-03

Scarpa company profile

Scarpa is an Italian performance footwear company whose American base is in Boulder, Colorado. Since 1938 they’ve been rocking the ski and mountaineering market with technical, highly functional boots. Scarpa also has developed a line of high alpine running shoes. This innovative company has developed several ‘firsts’ in the footwear industry including the first Gor-Tex boot. Our feet thank you, Scarpa.

Neutron – 16.4oz/pair, $129

This shoe is designed for running long trail miles in comfort. The neutron has a super lugged sole for tackling rocky and uneven terrain. And while duel density EVA midsole with a 6 mil drop means cushion and comfort for the long training days, a synthetic and mesh upper keeps your feet breathing happy. The Neutron is long distance trail shoe, right out of the box. IMG_5390
A trail shoe built for long, comfortable miles on gnarly terrain.
1. Upper/Inside Shoe Composition The upper shoe is made of synthetic leather and polyester mesh. The leather provides side support while the mesh allows total breathability and moisture escape. The lining is made from a comfortable polyester that eliminates hotspots. 2. Midsole Shoe Construction The midsole is designed to keep your feet happy during extended time on the trail. Built with compression molded EVA and a wider toe box, comfort is company during the long training days. The 6 mil drop means major cushioning over rocks and roots. 3. Outer Sole Construction The Neutron’s outer sole provides serious traction while protecting your feet from rocky terrain. The tread is made with Vibram Genetic technology and with arrow shaped tread design, it creates 360 degrees of response and security as you tackle uneven trails.
A breathable and cushioned shoe that responds to your every movement.
We tested these shoes on the rocky, ankle breaking trails of Northern California and as approach shoes in Yosemite Nat’l Park. IMG_5393 Almost like slippers, these shoes were comfortable and fit well, right out of the box, no pressure points or hot spots. The Neutrons have a great balance between nimble and stiff and while rugged, they feel light on the feet.  While running the shoes felt solid and there was little to no foot slippage inside the shoes as we ran over creek beds and down steep drainages. The lugged sole and grippy tread totally surpassed our expectations on the trails here. Jagged rocks and roots are hardly noticeable as these shoes cool over them. While on approach in Yosemite, these shoes gripped the granite slabs surprisingly well. It wasn’t until traversing steep angled slabs that  our tester wished she had specifically designed approach shoes. Despite several hours on steep ascents and descents, our tester never had any issues with hot spots or blisters. IMG_5387
In conclusion…
If you’re looking for a responsive shoe that can stick with you for miles, this is it. The Neutron can provide comfort and cushion for sensitive feet and provides support for the longer training days.

Official Contest Rules: Enter by commenting for a chance to win one of five pairs of shoes from this review series. One entry per review (so enter 16 times y’all!). Prizes have no monetary value and are limited to the selection of seven pairs revealed throughout the series. Winners announced August 2, 2016!

WIN THESE OTHER SHOES!

Read the reviews & comment:

99-Bridger-01

99-Inhaler-01

99-Neutron-01

99-Norvan-01

99-Mazama-01

99-Hydroventure-01

99-Versatrails-01

99-Monolith-01

99-Scapegoats-01

99-Akasha-01

99-Trainers-01

99-Puregrit-01

99-Maupins-01

99-Northpeak-01

99-Core-01 99-Agravic-01

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Apparel, Gear Reviews, Outdoors
IMG_3822
Wool vs. down is an ongoing conversation in the outdoor community. For a long time, wool was our foul weather best friend because of its ability to insulate while being wet. But now, as our industry grows, so does its technology. Some companies, like Big Agnes, are now using DownTek, a weatherproof down that continues to hold loft even when wet. So what now? Is wool a thing of the past? The company, Ibex, has found a way to compete with down “puffies” by make their own version of a wool puffy. Take a look as we explore the two puffy insulates and help you choose the best jacket for your adventures.
IMG_3829
The Wool Aire is like a puffy without the puff. There’s tons of warmth from the merino wool insulation but it has a much sleeker look. There’s no marshmallow effect with this jacket. The 100 g/m merino wool insulation keeps things toasty near freezing and regulates body temps when things heat up.  While the jacket is great for the 30s, anything colder and unless you’re working up a sweat, you’ll want to start piling on the layers underneath. Raining? Slushing? Get pushed in a lake? Whatever. The properties of merino wool continue providing warmth and insulation despite being wet or dry. Surprisingly, this layer is great at cutting wind and the hood adds the perfect finishing bit of protection. At only 14.56oz, this jacket competes with other down jackets in their warmth to weight ratios. Winter, spring, summer in the North Cascades, Trek Tech would take this in confidence anywhere you’re guaranteed wet and cold weather.
 IMG_3827 IMG_3819
This mid-weight, DownTek insulated puffy is the perfect warmth to weight ratio. This 700-fill power jacket weighs 15oz and keeps those winter temps at bay. We found that the vertical baffling not only adds to the warmth factor but also slims the look of the jacket. The rip-stop nylon shell repels winds up to 55mph (we may or may not have tested this by leaning out of a car window going down a highway), perfect for spring skiing where the winds get nasty up on mountain ridges and mornings are still cold as F@&k. This piece is an excellent addition to the winter camping, back country skiing, Colorado brewery hopping collection. The down used to insulate this jacket is DownTek, more specifically a treated down that protects the pockets of air that are used to insulate in a down product. This means you can sweat or get rained on and the down will hold shape and continue to insulate. Pretty ground breaking stuff, although we’re not sure if all the old geezers out there will trust it…
IMG_3848 (1) IMG_3840
With the same ball park cost, same packability, same weight…it comes down to stand alone warmth and what you’ll trust in wet conditions. Both puffies are excellent winter and spring weather jackets ready to keep you warm, insulated, and dry.
IMG_3851
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Apparel, Gear Reviews, Outdoors, Roam, Travel
5 years ago, during a 10 day expedition, we hiked a section of road paralleling the Lost Coast of Northern California. We were 6 miles in and all of the sudden, a mountain bike rushes past us in the woods, not 10 feet off the road. “WTF??,” I thought. A couple minutes later a truck drives past with 2 all-mountain bikes and a moment later we came across a sign saying “Paradise Royale Mountain Bike Trailhead.” Later, after the trip, I researched the trail and what little I could find all said this trail was the epitome of what mountain biking should be. And thus the dream began of returning and riding those 14 miles. IMG_3381 And yes, it’s taken 5 years to get back there, because who the f&#k wants to drive 5 hours to ride 14 miles? This better be a damned good trail. Lucky for me, it was. We headed over for a quick weekend, taking with us our bikes and some essential gear to test out. Getting there in the afternoon, we hit the trail, excited to see what all the hype was about. And let me tell you, the hype was valid. IMBA has teamed up with the BLM of the King Range and Lost Coast of Northern California to create and maintain a spectacular, environmentally sustainable, and challenging, 14 mile single-track trail. With plans to build another 15 or so miles onto the existing one, this could be one of the best trails in the North State. Nestled in the King Range, this trail rolls and climbs, and flows through beautiful forest and past breath-taking views (as long there’s no fog). It has an ascent that lasting almost 3 miles, making even the most fit in your group break a sweat. However, your exhausted and cramping legs are rewarded with some of the most fun and flowy downhill I’ve ever ridden. Grinning and hollering would be an appropriate response during these seemingly endless miles of decent. Getting back to the truck, we were thoroughly exhausted yet feeling accomplished, pizza was the only thing left to make this trail complete. IMG_3352 Things I found to be important to remember about the Paradise Royale trail: This is a trail best for those experienced on a mountain bike. Though dismounting is rare, there are definitely technical sections of this trail as well as steep uphill and downhill. Be sure to know the riding skill of everyone you take with you. This trail is can be total sufferfest for those brand new to mountain biking. Give yourself ample time to ride this trail. The average time is 2-3 hours, however, this could greatly differ on your riding skill and level of fitness. You definitely want it light out to ride this trail (unless you’re specifically doing it as a night ride) and the fog significantly decreases your light as dusk draws near. Plan to be fully committed to riding this loop. There’s very few bail spots on this trail once you leave the paralleling of King’s Peak Rd, and cell reception is spotty at best. If you’re unsure about being able to ride PR, it’s best to play around on the King’s Frolic section of the trail. IMG_3324 Having good gear on a trip like this is also a plus, here’s what Trek Tech took to the trail: DiamondBack Mission Pro Mountain Bike: $5,500 This is true all mountain machine, and a great choice for this particular trail. With 27.5” wheels, fatter tires, and 160mm of suspension, this thing rolls and flows over everything. We got to the long 2 mile climb full of switchbacks and let me say, while not the most aggressive climber, it is certainly capable. I may have missed my light and nimble cross country bike, but I was seriously impressed with the way this beast climbed. However, once we got to the long decent, I wished for my XC bike no longer. This decent is built to be ridden fast, and this bike responds. Never have I felt so confident and stable on a downhill. This bike compliments the flow trails and commands the more technical trails. IMG_3362 Pearl Izumi Canyon Short: $80 Many of us mountain bikers can’t quite get on board with all that spandex look, but a lot of us don’t like all this extra fabric waving around and getting caught as we ride. The Canyon Short is the in between. This lightweight, stretch pair of shorts were the perfect bottoms for this longer ride. The detachable chamois liner protected the goods while the outer stretch fabric protected the looks. IMG_3299 Pearl Izumi Elite Gel FF Glove: $40 For cooler weather, full finger gloves are a necessity for me. I don’t want to be thinking about cold fingers while trying to enjoy a downhill section. I also love having padding on the longer rides. My ulnar and radial nerves tend to get a little grumpy after a while, so that precise placement of gel padding the Elite Gel gloves protected those nerves. The gloves allowed me to fully focus on the trail and kept me from experiencing any distracting discomfort. IMG_3316 Giro Xara Helmet: $130 It’s ironic how a good helmet can make you forget you’re wearing one. The Xara is so light and so comfortable; I had to remember to take it off. Riding through soaking wet forest, the Xara deflected raindrops and any rogue branches that tried to hit me in the face. With a design for superior airflow, my head stayed cool when the rest of body was sweating on the grueling switchbacks. IMG_3313 Dakine Drafter 12L: $125 Everybody needs a best friend. The Drafter was mine on the trail. Enough space to fit the needs like a pump, chain lube, some food, and water, and a little bit more to fit the rest. It has a helmet carry system on the outside of the pack that can carry both a full face or a trail helmet. And because of the air mesh back panel and shoulder straps, my sweat marks were only a minor distraction when I took the pack off after the ride. The Drafter is the perfect pack on those short-middle distance rides when all you need to carry are the basics plus a little extra. IMG_3301 Oakley RadarLock Glasses with Trail specifc Prizm Lenses: $220+ These glasses are impressive. Not only do they enhance color, sharpness, and clarity, they enhance specific colors. The Prizm Lenses brought out the reds and browns of my surroundings, making the trail stand out more to me than anything else. These lenses enhance safety. They do, however, tend to fog up after you stop if you’ve been sweating, nothing most mountain bikers aren’t used to. The frame is a whole other thing by itself. Comfortable and totally secure, these bad boys are going anywhere on those fast or bumpy trails. IMG_3373 So, if you do find yourself hankering for a road trip, or just want to ride this trail so badly, you just don’t give a shit about the drive, here’s some things to make your trip worth it. Tolkan Terrain Park. Challenge your cycling skills and test your courage on this beautifully built terrain park. The guys who built the Paradise Royale trail designed a labyrinth of wall rides, jumps, ladders, a pump track and other obstacles, all of which range from beginner to advanced. IMG_3376 Treat yourself. There are several bed and breakfasts, VRBO’s, AirBnB’s, and Inns you can stay at. You don’t have to camp at a campground, though it is always fun to “rough it.” Eat right. Pizza and Fish ‘n Chips. Does a mountain biker need anything else? Okay, beer. But that’s why Delgada Pizza and Shelter Cove RV Camp Store & Deli have it all. Delgada Pizza has some seriously tasty pie and you can pick up a cold one and some ice cream at the same time. The RV Camp Deli, surprisingly has excellent Fish ‘n Chips that go great with several local 6-pack brews the Camp Store offers. IMG_3396 Go hiking. That 14 miles isn’t going to take you all weekend. Head over to King’s Peak (Further down the road from Tolkan Campground) and hit up summit. At 4000ft it’s the highest peak in the King Range. Or, if you prefer the ocean, head down to the Lost Coast for some incredible day hiking on the beach. See the sights. Shelter Cove is a truly beautiful place. Take a drive along Lower Pacific Dr. and stop off at all the different vista and beach access points. Finally, head over to Black Sands beach and watch the massive waves and hikers finishing the north half of the Lost Coast. IMG_3393 It takes a long time to get anywhere over here, so slow down, be patient, and enjoy the unique and incredible scenery the Lost Coast area has to offer.      
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Apparel, Uncategorized
Director: Andrew Morgan Our first ever Trailer of the Week aligns with our Better Businesses series. Director Andrew Morgan’s documentary, The True Cost, explores and discusses the current world of the apparel industry. He looks into the hidden and very real ‘cost’ of what it takes to make all the clothes we buy. Through interviews and research, Andrew is working to educate the public on the lives affected by the apparel industry as well as its impact on the environment. Look for it at a theater near you on May 29th.
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Apparel, Outdoors, Uncategorized
Outdoor Research Women’s Expressa Skort: $60 outdoorresearch.com The Good: Function, class, and an article of clothing you can use for almost anything you want in warm weather. The Bad: If you can get the right the sizing, absolutely nothing. The Ugly: If you don’t like your butt, don’t get this skort. For the longest time, I always thought us women had to shorts or pants while hiking, running, or doing anything outdoors. If you wore a skirt or a dress, you weren’t really that ‘outdoorsy’. Let me take a moment to bury that opinion 6-feet deep. The Expressa Skort by Outdoor Research has made its way on to my 10 essentials list while proving to be just as useful for a night out. For you ladies that gravitate towards clothing that work for more than just one activity, check out this Swiss Army knife of a skort. With its breathable and lightweight fabric, you can take this anywhere in any warm weather condition. I wore the Expressa on a couple hikes and runs, all of which were in 80+ degree weather and remained completely comfortable, even while sweating. The inner shorts relieved any potential for chaffing and their stretch allowed total mobility as I scrambled down trails to get to the rivers we hiked along. There’s even a little side pocket along the waist line for a little pick me up during your trek. About the only athletic activity this piece doesn’t have enough mobility for is yoga, which I attempted only once. Though it put up a valiant effort, I think I’ll stick to leggings. The quick-dry polyester material allows me to get my work out in- whatever the adventure, and then proceed to hit up the brewery in town with just the change of a shirt. While showing off a bit of your assets, the skort is classy and sleek enough to fit in downtown when paired with a good top. I even managed to pull off the Expressa at a wedding! With a variety of neutral colors, pairing and matching with stuff in the closet is a breeze. TT Expressa 4 My only cautioning with this piece is the fit. I ordered this offline in my normal size and when I got it, well…let’s just say I couldn’t even try it on. Trying on this skort in too small a size is like getting into a wet swimsuit- almost impossible. I suggest to any female who has any junk in her trunk to go a size up from what she would normally wear. And use OR’s sizing chart! I should have done that when first purchasing it. When fitted correctly, this skort hugs the rear and looks fantastic. That being said, if you don’t like showing off anything back there, you might want to consider one of OR’s dresses or the Ferrosi Skort, which is a bit more rugged as well as longer in length. TT Expressa 3
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Apparel, Uncategorized

Dare2B Impassioned Jacket, $200; en.dare2b.com

The Good- Hit up two worlds with one jacket! It’s useful for both looking good next to the mountain as well staying uber warm on the mountain. It’s a jacket that can handle the cold and snowy weather.

The Bad- Although versatile in environmental settings, this jacket is really just functional in cold weather. Unless you’re sitting still, you’ll overheat rather quickly if it’s over 32 degrees.

The Ugly- The white version of this jacket definitely made me feel like I was wearing a marshmallow (with a little ‘diva’ mixed in thanks to furry hood). But hey, if that’s your style…props to you.

Hailing from the motherland (Manchester, England to be specific)- these guys know how to make a jacket for the cold. The Impassioned jacket is insulated with high loft synthetic down and it does its job. Walking around in below freezing temps- nothing, not even a little chill. The insulation is like the Great Wall of Puff Coat Nation. With its ARED 5000 coated fabric, it holds up well against rain and snow. But if it’s raining, it’s probably too warm for this coat. If it gets much warmer than freezing, unless you’re sitting still, you’re sweating buckets. I took this jacket out for a few turns down at Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe where the temperature was at about 40 degrees. I made it 3 runs and I was dying (and no, I wasn’t working that hard). I literally was melting in a synthetic down oven. Higher up on the mountain where it was a bit colder and the lifts moved a bit faster, the coat was of some better use, but even then, I didn’t last long. Packing the thing in a pack was a pain, it took up a significant chunk of space in the backpack. So, when is this coat a good choice? Skiing and hanging out in the dead of winter, absolutely. Spring skiing or anything above freezing, nope.

Now, take a gondola ride down to Heavenly Village where the ski bunnies are sitting around drinking mojitos all day, and you’ll fit right in. One of Dare2B’s goals with this jacket was to be able to create a product that could be chic for the mountain town as well as functional for the mountain face. So for the woman who likes to take a few runs then hang out by the lodge sipping her favorite drink, this could be your ideal ski coat. I would say the fashion level rises a little higher than the function level, but not so much so that you can’t hit the slopes and kick some guy’s ass to prove you’re a legit skier or snowboarder.

If you’re willing to put up with the marshmallow look (they have black and purple versions which diffuse this situation significantly, as well as improve safety while on the slopes) it will be one of the warmest coats in your closet. The fur on the hood is removable incase it gets in the way of your vision…or is just a little too diva for you. Other features include an adjustable hood, tons of pockets, and an adjustable/removable waist belt so you can show off those curves if you so choose. Really, aside from the puffiness, this jacket can be customized to your own personal style. My favorite feature? The crazy soft inner stretch cuffs. My wrists and hands have never been so in love.

With the Impassioned Jacket, that little bit of diva you know you have is able to have a little fun while also being able to own the slopes no matter how cold it gets.  Recommended to the sassy, the stylish, and the girl who just wants to have her [frozen ice cream] cake and eat it, too.

 
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