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If you’re anything like me, Christmas is wonderful….but giving gifts is not your strength. I end up waiting until the last second and then stress buy. And what about stocking stuffers? I mean, people can only get so excited about an orange.

Wild Beginnings thought it would be a good idea to bring you the best idea ever for gifts or stocking stuffers.

Socks.

No, really! The sock company, Feetures makes highly technical, incredible socks that have become a big deal in the outdoor industry. With different cushion levels, heights, and compression, there’s something everyone in the family, outdoorsy or not.

I spent the summer and fall running, hiking, and hanging around in camp shoes in Feetures Socks with cushion of all levels. Here’s why I love them.

Heavy Cushion: These low profile, no show socks are my go to for trail running. I personally love the extra cushion for Northern California trails. If you’ve never ran on a trail near Redding, CA, let me educate you. They’re hard (that’s what she said). But seriously, trails around here are basically concrete 8 months out of the year with sharp gnarly rocks everywhere. Even with trail shoes that are built with cushion, that extra bit of sock cushion is a welcome feel. And if you do happen to be running in a minimalist shoe, you’ll find yourself most grateful for this heavy cushion.

Light Cushion: Ski season training is upon us and that means gym time along side trail time. The ultra light to light cushion Feetures work great on gym days. I don’t know about everyone else, but this ‘glistening’ shit people talk about, it’s not my story. The lighter cushion gives a lot more breathability and less slippage as you’re working on those bosu squats. Feetures light cushion compression sock that works circulation wonders as well as socks specific to relieving planter fasciitis pain.


Elite + Merino: Did I mention we’ve been hiking a lot this year? Backpacking trips almost every weekend means a lot of miles in boots with a pack on. Now, I grew up with the 2 sock method, but not anymore. I found just the Elite Merino sock with medium cushion was perfect for long days on the trail. Not only did I manage to escape blistering, the Merino wool blend helped significantly in reducing the stench that comes with removing your boot. Trust me, your tent mate will thank you. 

Rollga Foam Roller

For the more avid athlete or recovery guru in your crew, we suggest a foam roller. I’ve been especially stoked on the Rollga foam roller. This funky shaped roller is omni directional and designed to restore functional movement, increase mobility, and aid in all kinds of muscle recovery. They even make instructional videos so you can be sure to get the most use out the thing. I’ve used it all year after backpacking trips, ski training sessions, and long trail runs. It’s one of those comforts you look forward to and fantasize about while on the trail…

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Gear Reviews
Winter can be tough on the feet. It’s wet, cold, and if your feet fall prey to those two things, life sucks. We had a chance to try out some winter footwear from Garmont this season that took care of those things and fit the bill for both town and trails (raise hands in excitement). The Rambler GTX and DragonTail MTN GTX are two models that don’t mess around. These shoes have serious tread, excellent support, and are most importantly, waterproof.
Garmont Rambler GTX: $270
unnamed-4 These boots mean business! This is one of those boots that will do a lot and not put up a fuss about it. We wore these boots snowshoeing in Washington, hiking through snow on Mount Shasta, and traveling on some gnarly trails in the North State of California. When you wear these, don’t be surprised if the heel feels a little tight, this is Garmont’s heel lock system. Essentially it help prevent slippage in the heal reducing the opportunities for blisters to form. The higher upper cut adds that much needed ankle support when wearing a pack while the lacing system provides forefoot sensitivity for those technical hikes. Super light weight yet relatively rigid, these boots can travel on trail, over rock, and even in alpine conditions We recommend working up to higher mileage when first trekking in these boots, our tester noticed it took a few times before he felt the boot was broken in and his feet were comfortable. IMG_3042
Garmont DragonTail MTN GTX: $190
unnamed-3 These low top, light hikers are awesome for the outdoor lifestyle. If you frequent trails and mountain towns (our favorite is Winthrop, Wa) these might become your go to, especially in wet weather. The GorTex lining means feet stay dry when traipsing through puddles either on trail or through town. The tread has enough grip to handle both dirt and rock for day hikes and longer approaches. We took these shoes on hikes through snow, scrambling on rock, and wore them every day in that small town of Winthrop. We love when shoes work for multiple occasions and think the cut of this shoe rides that line well. Supportive yet low profile, these kicks pair with casual pants just as well as hiking pants. IMG_3088
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Gear Reviews
The Good: Solid built with a design to save necessary body parts for skiing. The Bad: Your buddy’s injury when he decides to go with a cheap crappy binding. The Ugly: #websitemakeover So, what’s there to talk about with a downhill ski bindings? If we’re being honest, your average Jo Shmo wouldn’t think very much. But to people who’ve suffered injury due to release malfunction and failure, a good binding can mean everything. Well, the folks over at Knee Binding said ‘what the hell?’ to the 70,000 ski related injuries every year and decided to change the industry. They know their stuff and created a binding that was strong, super functional, and saved the knees. IMG_6437 IMG_6447
What Makes Knee Binding Different
Knee Binding has a third dimension called a Purelateral heel release. This means the heel can detect forces that typically cause knee injuries and release before you screw yourself over for years to come. Basically, you can catch an edge on the tip, tail, or tip and tale and the binding will release before your ligaments do. The other big deal is the FlexFloat mounting system. This allows the ski to flex naturally when it needs to and move with the terrain. Pre release is significantly minimized with this feature. Lastly, their professional grade bindings are made here in the USA, and who doesn’t love that. Knee Binding makes several bindings with Dins ranging from 3-14. IMG_6443 IMG_6452
The Mist
Did you know, women are more susceptible to knee injuries than men? No? Me either. Thanks, KB, for the beta. They sent us over the Mist, a women specific binding, to try out on the slopes of Mount Shasta. The Mist, while relatively lightweight, remains rigid and durable. When we stepped into these bindings it was like stepping into a set of jaws. It just felt insanely solid. As we headed downhill, the feeling of confidence, knowing your bindings had such a versatile range of release, was overwhelming. IMG_6441
So, how do we know all this for sure?
There’s a plethora of videos on KB’s website showing the manufacturing process and testing of the binding. Actually, their whole website is filled with good to know information about bindings, knees, and everything in between. These guys could use a serious make over on their website, but hey, I guess when you win a bunch of awards,  your website can look like 2001.  
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Gear Reviews

Hurtta Extreme Warmer: $88

Sometimes our winter adventures are just too cold to bring our furry friends along. Not all of them have coats like Huskies or Berners. Well, Hurtta decided that just wouldn’t do, so they made a dog coat that would allow pups to withstand some pretty cold temps.  And since our canine intern here at Trek Tech loves winter adventuring, we had to try it. img_6374 img_6409 The Extreme Warmer is a serious parka for pooches. While covering all the major muscle groups, the jacket still allows for full mobility. This is important for dogs like the Roaming Retriever who find bounding through the snow far better than walking. The shell of the Warmer is weather resistant while the liner is covered in foiling so to reflect back the heat your pup’s putting off. We find this super helpful when the temps drop and Sauvie slows down. If your dog doesn’t hate it too much, there’s a protective hood that can be pulled up and ever their ears and synched down when the winds pick up. Understandably, Sauvie despises this feature despite its usefulness. One of the best things about this jacket is all the adjustability. There are several synching points and the strap that secures the jacket around his body is easily adjustable. The leg loops are another nice securing feature to this parka. img_6398 img_6366 While the Roaming Retriever frequents the snow quite often, we’ve never taken him winter camping. We thought we would give it a go since we had the Extreme Warmer. A couple of us headed up to Mount Shasta, near Panther meadows around 7500ft where the high for that day was 26 ….and the low was scheduled to be 15. That 15 degrees ended up being 9 degrees that night. Unsurprisingly, Sauvie was in heaven the whole time. Bounding, leaping, and charging through the snow, we’ve never seen a Golden Retriever more in his element. All was well, even when the sun went down. The temperature immediately starting dropping but as long as we stayed moving, our intern was happy. Sauvie only began shivering in his coat when we sat down to start cooking, so we finished up and moved to the tent. Curled up between the two of us on a pad and sleeping bag, Sauvie slept the night away, periodically licking our faces through the tiny face holes of our sleeping bags. img_6377-1 If you’re out adventuring in the snow and cold and you’re four legged friend doesn’t quite have the furry coat required to keep them warm, the Extreme Warmer by Hurtta will provide that extra layer of protection and insulation. This coat now lives in our car during the winter season so Sauvie always has the ability to adventure with us, no matter what the conditions. img_6391
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Gear Reviews
RMU Valhalla Skis: $799 Rocky Mountain Underground is a small company that makes some serious skis. Nestled in Breckenridge, CO, these guys know a thing or two about snow. We had a chance to check out a pair of their women specific skis that have been built with input from female guides, patrollers, and professional skiers; the Valhallas. Needless to say, the stoke was high to get these skis out on a mountain. The Valhallas are a 5 point ski that have a rocker tip and tail and camber underfoot. Basically, with the rocker tip and tail and a 104mm waist, these skis love powder. The camber allows them to handle other conditions and terrain as well but not quite as gracefully as powder. clone We went to Mount Bachelor last weekend near Bend, OR to test the Valhallas. We headed up to the mountain after they received a massive dumping and 8 inches of fresh, cold snow covered the slopes. We’re pretty sure it never got above 20 degrees the whole day and while we struggled to avoid vertigo for the first half of the day, the sun came out that afternoon. The bottom line is the Valhallas in fresh, untracked powder are like a dream. They float pretty effortlessly and with 17.5m turn radius, require just a quick hop to get them turning through trees. Once things got skied out and choppy, however, all of the sudden I was grateful for all the PNW skiing I grew up doing. These are bit of beast in rough snow, requiring a more advanced skier to reign them in. It took a few runs, but by the afternoon, I learned the rhythm of the Valhallas, when they needed aggressive handling and when I could just let them do their thing. img_6872 The Valhallas are light skis and get a little knocked around at slower speeds. If you’re trying to make turn after turn in rough snow, you’re going to burn out quickly. But when we let these things rip, even through the crud, they settled in like a fighter jet. It’s a weird paradox to feel stabler at higher speeds than casually making your way down the slope. Here’s the deal- The Valhallas thrive in that cold, deep snow. If you live in or travel frequently to places like Utah, Colorado, or even Bachelor in Central Oregon on a good year, these skis are an absolute blast. But if you mostly ski the northwest where champagne powder is an elusive unicorn and the mash potatoes and cream cheese are in plenty, it’ll be hard experience the full potential of these skis. img_6347
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Gear Reviews

MSR Deploy TR-3 Winter Poles: $159.95

The Good: A lightweight, easily adjustable touring pole that can compact down small enough to be carried in a pack. The Bad: The included snow baskets aren’t very helpful on a storm day with lots of powder. The Awkward: There’s no way to talk about ski poles with out things sounding sexual. Back country skiing is a game of adjustment. You’re constantly adjusting layers for the conditions, speed for the distance of tour, and ideally, pole length for the type of terrain. Varying pole length can be amazingly helpful in differing terrain, but an amazing pain in the ass if you don’t have quick adjusting poles. The MSR Deploy poles bring lightweight adjustability to the table, allowing you to get the most efficiency out of your ski tour. img_5959 Winter came early this year in Northern California so we’ve been rocking the rock skis since October. We’ve already had the chance to take these poles on several tours on Mount Shasta. Surprisingly, we’ve brought them along in both corn conditions as well as powder days (all hail the snow gods!) During tours we were able to quickly adjust the length of the poles with MSR’s Trigger Release. By simply pulling up on the trigger below the pole handle, the pole shaft easily moves up and down to your desired length (is there any way to not make this sound sexual?) Simply release the trigger to lock the poles into place. We found that it requires two hands to lengthen the poles but only one to shorten it (nope, there’s no way). img_6343 img_6340-1 We absolutely love how light and compact these poles are. The shafts are built will a 7000 series aerospace aluminum, keeping it super lightweight while remaining stiff and solid (here we go again.) The aluminum build gives your poles a bit of rattle while skinning up, but so far it doesn’t indicate any compromise in quality. The pole handles have a catch for aiding in lifting your risers on the way up while the straps are glove friendly and have a ‘break-away’ safety feature for on the way down. The straps are even comfortable and lay flay against the hand with out gloves. MSR offers these poles with snow baskets and powder baskets that are sold separately. We strongly suggest getting the powder baskets if you plan for any storm days. The included snow baskets are definitely not sufficient for powder. For those looking for a lightweight, strong, quickly adjustable pole this season, the Deploy TR-3s fit the bill, just be sure to throw those powder baskets in the shopping cart as well.
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Gear Reviews

EzyDog Element Jacket: $40

The Roaming Retriever is a golden who loves TRAILS. He loves to be off leash and the longer the adventure, the better. But most importantly Sauvie loves trail in ALL types of weather conditions; snow, rain, freezing cold mornings…it doesn’t matter. We have a dog that gives us the look of ‘you hate me’ if we don’t take him out on the trail. So to keep Sauvie safe and comfortable on those shitty weather endeavors, take along the Element Jacket from Ezydog.

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This canine jacket is perfect for a one coat quiver for active dogs. The shell is wind and weatherproof, made with 600 denier (really tough) material. The lining is this magic stuff called non-piling fleece, and if you’ve heard of it, you know we’re not joking when we call it magic. Super soft and warm, this stuff holds up over time to the constant abrasion of dog fur. Fitting this shell over Sauvie is, well, Ezy (I couldn’t resist). The neck hole is wide enough to fit over a collar so there’s no hassling an excited trail pup. The straps at the bottom of the chest plate clip to the upper jacket and are both adjustable and stretchy, allowing for optimal fit and comfort. img_6295 Tested on the trails of Northern California, we’re digging this jacket for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s the perfect weight to warmth ratio for an active adventurer with fur of any kind. The fleece liner adds just the right amount of warmth to a frosty morning run. Second, it’s leash compatible. Sadly, dogs can’t always be off leash. The Element has a double zipper of the back allowing the leash access to the collar or harness underneath. Third, it comes in colors! We love the orange simply for visibility but EzyDog also makes a red and blue version. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset For the active dog adventuring in iffy weather, the Element Jacket is a great addition. It’s not a puffy or a parka so snow camping might be out. It is, however,  a perfect layer for dogs on the move during the fall, winter, and spring season.  
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Gear Reviews

Functioning Fashion: Gregory Pierpont Backpack

Sometimes adventures and travel take us places other than mountains. For front country travel, we want a pack that’s just as functional as our multiday packs but sleek enough to fit through crowded places. The Gregory Pierpont  is a 23.5L pack out the Avenues Collection. It bridges the gap between a fashionable urban pack and a functioning traveling pack. The sleek and streamlined look is deceiving, hiding this pack’s insane durability of the 600 denier polyester ripstop weave and water resistant bottom panels. img_6272 img_6282 We feel the Pierpont successfully border lines professional. Our tester doubles as a DJ for weddings and found this pack to be the perfect piece of gear for hauling a laptop, headphones, cables, etc, to his events. His only critique was the side pocket wouldn’t expand enough to fit a water bottle when fully packed. And although the dedicated laptop sleeve will fit a 15 inch laptop, it’s a tight squeeze. The little tweaks aside, the Pierpont speaks to millennials in its trending and modern look and delivers durability and performance to the professional who needs function before fashion. img_6280
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Gear Reviews
As winter approaches, don’t let the cold and wet weather keep you inside! Hurtta supplies several pieces of gear that are built to be durable and warm enough for harsh conditions. We’ve gathered a few of The Roaming Retriever’s favorites to show you how to have the most active winter you can with your four legged friend.

Hurtta Active Harness: $40

Sometimes your dog just needs to be reminded it’s safe with Alpha. And sometimes we need reminders our canine’s are strong, excitable animals. The Active Harness by Hurtta is a strong and durable harness for your pooch that has extra padding for comfort. This harness is easy to put on, easy to adjust, and easy for your dog to move in. Allowing for full mobility means a comfortable fit for your pup. img_6226 img_6245 We use this harness anytime we take the Roaming Retriever in public, rain or shine. While he does great with other dogs off leash, the territory that comes with a leash can cause a bit of reactivity. With a clip for the leash now by his shoulder blades, the active harness allows his humans a lot more control with a lot less discomfort for Sauvie if he lunges. The harness provides a feeling of safety for both human and canine for adventures ranging from trails to downtown. img_6207

Hurtta Summit Parka: $80

Snow and cold weather should never keep you from adventuring with your pup. When the temperature drops, let your pup pull on the Summit Parka. The Summit is basically a puffy for your puppy. Similar to the Torrent Jacket- it fits easily over the head and then a strap fastens the jacket around the body. Leg loops on the inside of the jacket keep it in place as Sauvie races through the snow. img_5890 We find this parka to be perfect for hikes or skis through the snow in cold conditions. It has the perfect balance of warmth to breathability that is necessary for dogs who are active in cold weather. It’s also a great piece to throw over your pup to warm them up if they’ve been unprotected in cold weather. We recently brought this layer on a trip to the Trinity Alps. after a hour of hiking in the cold and rain in his Torrent jacket, we switched Sauvie to the Summit after getting back to the vehicle. The Summit is built with HoundTex coating so it handle the weather just as much as your pup can. img_5889-1

Hurtta Outback Boots: $30

Snow, Granite, the nasty chemicals they use to de-ice the roads, these can all have major effects on your pup’s pads. The Outback boots cover the entire paw while still providing excellent grip and mobility. The boot bottoms are made of durable rubber than sticks to just about anything Sauvie decides to travel over. The Velcro strap allows quick and easy adjustability and the upper shoe is made of weatherproof Houdtex Softshell. img_6190 img_6179 At the risk of being stoned to death, I’ll admit we got these after learning the hard way. Our first backpacking trip with the Roaming Retriever included a lot of travel on granite slabs and some unforeseen cross country travel. As amazing as Sauvie did, by the end of the trip his pads were worn and even raw in a couple small places. Talk about feeling like the worst dog mom in the WORLD. Sauvie now has boots that we take on every backpacking adventure, just in case. img_6176 These boots will hold up great for a dog that hikes. Our dog runs frantic with excitement for the first mile on trails so we have trouble keeping the boots on until he calms to a walk. Of course, it also takes some time for a dog to adjust to weird obstructions on their paws. We are constantly throwing these bad boys on Sauvies paws for small amounts of time just to get him not walking like a spastic duck. And yes, there are treats with every Outback Boot fitting. img_6264
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