Posts Tagged Adventure Gear
Sometimes, it seems like there’s a different daypack for every day of the week—for an entire year. Some are better for certain types of hiking or trekking, but I’ve found a great all-arounder in the Kelty Women’s Redwing 40.
The pack isn’t new. It’s a tried-and-true classic Kelty design, but has recently gotten a facelift. One of the things I like the most about is that it balances the need for a variety of organization pockets with a super-roomy main compartment. I feel like I have plenty of ways to stash items I need to keep separately, in a place I’ll (mostly) remember where I put them. And then, I still have tons of room in the big compartment.
The 41-liter pack’s suspension system is tailored for a women’s frame, and includes a LightBeam aluminum stay, plus well-padded shoulder straps and waist belt. The back panel wicks moisture away from you, and is ventilated as well, so you don’t have to bathe in perspiration on those warm hiking days.
Aside from all the awesome pockets, the pack is hydration compatible (you need to provide the water container, however) and includes side compression straps and ice-ax loops. I was initially skeptical of the big carry handle on the front of the pack, until using it and realized it’s much more handy than carrying the pack around by the top loop.
I’ve been wearing the Redwing 40 around the floor of the gigantic, and sometimes overwhelming, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show in Salt Lake City this week. I’m on my feet here all day, and having the pack along has been a great help.
Considering that I’ve lamented girly colors in travel gear in Practical Travel Gear reviews in the part, I think it’s worth noting that my Redwing 40 is the bright turquoise (called “jewel”) color. See? I can do color.
I’ve said it before, I really do test out all the gear I get for review. That’s why during the last window of sunshine, I was stomping around in a muddy creek not far from my house. That day I walked five miles in a pair of Keen Voyageur Hikers. My hope was that they’d leave my feet content enough to warrant packing them for an upcoming hiking trip in the Austrian alps. The verdict? Oh, so close.
I’ll admit to a bit of skepticism, the Keen sandals that everyone is so, uh, keen on (sorry) have never fit my feet properly. I wasn’t sure that these would either — I was pleasantly surprised. As always, ordering clothing or shoes on line is a bit tricky — fit seems to differ wildly between brands. These hikers were true to fit, the 8 was indeed an 8, the fit was perfect. (Note that the Keen site says they run about a half size small, I didn’t find that to be true.)
I was surprised to learn that the Voyageur hikers are not waterproof — this seems like an oversight to me, though in my stomping around through muddy creeks and on the edge of Puget Sound my feet stayed dry. This lighter weight boot is designed for wicking — meaning the moisture is meant to move out of your shoe — it’s more of a hot weather hiker than a creek crosser.
Keen’s Voyageur Hikers come in a low and a mid height. I opted for mid for the extra ankle support, something I appreciated in the scrambling – can’t find the trail head — oops are we lost? — part of my test hike. Fatigue after long walks means my ankles sometimes give out, too, so it’s worth a bigger boot with a little extra weight to save myself from a sprain. The lacing is easily adjustable for a secure fit, too; that’s probably part of why the fit is so solid.
Because the Voyageur is made for warm weather hiking, the uppers are a mix of fabric and leather. This means you get a little color in your earth toned hiker, and hey, that’s kind of cute. That fabric, however, could be tougher, the tongue on my pair started to fray after a few days of city wear and that one long hike. That’s too soon. Keen does have a 30 day “no questions asked” return policy.
As for how the hikers felt on the trail, they were great, just great. I walked on a rocky beach, in sand, on a moss covered tree, in a muddy creek, along a slippery boardwalk… You name it, that big hike covered the range of terrain and the soles were grippy and solid on every surface. My feet were comfortable the whole time, and they weren’t sweaty or damp when I took the boots off at the end of the walk. (Mind you, I was also wearing really good socks.)
Here’s what I want: I want this boot in a waterproof model. And I want it to not show the early wear and tear on the materials. The Voyageur is so trail friendly and such a good fit for my feet that I was genuinely disappointed to find it anything less than perfect. Once more — Oh, SO close.
Interested in other trail shoes? Tim reviewed the Viper, here and the Boulder from Wenger, here. (And if you need to waterproof your hiking boots that didn’t come that way to start, check out our review of products from Nikwax.)
Spend five days getting in and out of your snow pants in all kinds of weather — rain, snow, wind, general messiness, you’ll absolutely find out if they keep you warm and dry. I packed Merrell’s Meadowlark Trail Pants for my Antarctica trip and put them to the test. They passed. While all around me, people discovered that their supposedly waterproof gear was, oops, not actually waterproof, I stayed dry. And warm, with only one light pair of long underwear underneath.
I’ll start at the top. The pants have built in Velcro cinches at the waist to adjust the fit. (I got a size too large, it turns out, I could have used a belt — there are loops — but I erred on the side of too big for movement rather than too small for being penned in.) The waist is lined with fleece; no itchy stuff next to your skin if you cover up the Velcro. There are two zippered front pockets and one lower down on the side — good for small things, I wanted a back pocket for my keys.
The legs are vented with taped zippers on the inner thigh, I never used those, I was never too hot. At the ankle, there are zips and sewn in gaiters. I wore these pants with wellies and I never got water in my boots. Grippy rubber along the bottom of the gaiters holds them in place around your ankles. And there’s some cute floral decoration for just a little bit of girliness while you’re out being tough in the elements.
The outer fabric — Merrell’s breathable Opti-Shell — is completely wind and waterproof, and the insulation kept me warm without making me feel overly bulky. I wore these in snow, in pelting rain, in sharp winds, I was never cold or overheated. The pants are tough, comfortable, and after a week of rugged use, they’re showing very little wear.
You’ll have to make space in your luggage for these, but if you’re playing outdoors in bad weather, they are absolutely worth it. I tested them. I know.
Related: Columbia’s Back It Up Snow Pants
We review a lot of luggage and bags on this gear blog, but most of it won’t cut it if you’re someone who is climbing a mountain in extreme conditions or needs to protect a whole bevy of tools and equipment.
Brooks-Range produces high-quality, made-in-the-USA products that are meant to stand up to more than just an airport luggage handler in a bad mood. This duffel bag is a great example. It’s tough as nails and will take on years of abuse from you, the weather, or wild dogs and bears.
When they say “This is not your average duffel bag,” they’re not kidding. It’s got a practically impenetrable laminate construction and heavy-duty zippers with flaps that go over them. Heavy double stitching and extra bar tacks keep buckles and carabiner-ready straps in place. It’s not advertised as waterproof, but I doused it with a hose and the clothes inside stayed dry, so I think you’re in good shape if it rains or you’re in a snowstorm. There’s nothing to soak up water, so it’ll dry in a hurry.
The interior is fully lined and there are several organization pockets, including a mesh one on the flap.
The smallest version is the size of a gym bag and comes with regular carrying straps on both the top and side, plus a shoulder strap. It has a capacity of 42 liters (2560 cubic inches) and retails for $92. Larger sizes come with tuck-away straps allowing you to carry it as a backpack as well and go up from a capacity of 70 liters. For something so strong though, they’re not all that heavy: 2 pounds 12 ounces for the smallest and less than 5 pounds for the monster 140-liter version, which is $135.
There’s just one big problem with Brooks-Range products: they’re almost impossible to find outside of a few specialty retail shops. They’re pretty much invisible online, so you have to order direct from their site if you’re not near one of these retail stores. (Ignore the REI and Backcountry logos: if you search “Brooks-Range” on either site you come up empty.) These guys had a booth at the winter Outdoor Retailer show I attended in January though, so hopefully this dearth of distribution will improve in the near future.
See more at Brooks-Range.com
Related post: Brooks-Range Field Organizer with Waterproof Notebook
My family is not very impressed with most of the travel gear that I am reviewing on this blog, but every once in a while I’ll pull out something that makes my daughter go, “Wow, that is so cool!” When I stuck a notebook from Brooks-Range under the bathroom faucet and wrote a note in pen while the water was gushing down, I felt like a magician wowing the audience with a new trick. I shook off the water, rubbed my hand over the writing, and nothing smudged. Thank you ladies and gentlemen—good night!
That all-weather notebook is the core piece of the Brooks-Range Field Organizer Package, a little pouch system that I’ve been using in an appropriate place: the jungles of Costa Rica. It has helped me keep my writing work organized with places for pens, my iPod Touch, a notebook, receipts, business cards, and whatever printed materials I pick up.
You don’t have to be a writer to make use of this though. Anyone who is traveling into the backcountry and wants to keep track of things would probably find this useful, as would rescue personnel, scout leaders, and adventure guides.
The organizer itself is rugged lightweight nylon in easy-to-spot yellow and red, closing with a Velcro tab. It has six pen loops and multiple pockets on the inside, which folds out. And hey, it’s made in the USA.
The Brooks-Range Field Organizer package lists for $22, which includes the waterproof notebook.
See more Brooks-Range outdoor adventure products at their website.