travel hats

Posts Tagged hiking

Granite Gear Leopard AC 58 Backpack

 Testing out the Leopard AC 58 has served as my introduction to Granite Gear, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Of course, their Leopard series has been tested by far worthier outdoors-people than me: gear testers Justin ‘Trauma’ Lichter and Shawn ‘Pepper’ Forry took the packs on a trek through the Himalayas. For those of us with slightly more humble itineraries, here’s my take.

Leopard AC 58 backpackThe Leopard AC 58 includes a lot of bells and whistles. I mean, a lot. There are multiple loops and hooks for just about anything you think you’ll need, from gear loops to crampon holders. And with extra ties and buckles, you can customize to your heart’s content. The pack is highly adjustable: not only do you select torso size (regular or short) and belt size (small through XL), but the shoulder straps offer more height options than any other pack I’ve tried.

And the customization doesn’t end there. I’ve never seen a pack with more flexibility in terms of storage space. Hidden pockets and panels abound, and all can be expanded or shortened by the use of clips and ties. The biggest challenge it remembering where you stashed everything. The expandability carries over to the main compartments, too: when you’re hiking light, it’s easy to tighten down the straps and roll down the top compartment opening to utilize a very small space, but all these sections also expand to impressionable depth. This is a pack for the fast and light hiker, that can adjust to carry bigger loads when necessary.

The pack features two sections that allow the greatest capacity-flexibility: the sides and the top. On the sides, clips keep side panels folded almost nearly in half for when you need a streamlined look, and the back panel lies close to the main compartment. Fill the compartment, and the back panel expands and the side panels can be let out. At the top, the pack’s roll-top design works like the closure on a watertight dry bag: fill as much as you want, then roll to close. The extra space is sizable.

The Vapor Airbeam frame offers weight savings (this is where that fast and light hiker is pleased) and the total weight is only 3 pounds, 5 ounces. I was skeptical about the Airbeam frame at first: with a full panel of fabric, would it feel too hot? Nope, it remained comfortable on a long, dry hike for my husband, who kindly tried it out for me. We didn’t need the extra space on our hike, so I battened down the hatches, so to speak, taking the time to find all the nifty pockets and tie-downs. (My favorite is the small zippered pocket at the bottom of the back panel, perfect for a phone or keys.) I was also very pleased with the water bottle holders on each side: I can be picky about this, as I hate having to struggle for my bottle when I need it. Standard water bottles slid into and out of the stretchy pockets easily.

Can there be such a thing as too many bells and whistles? Sure. If you’re not a hiker or backpacker who has differing packing needs for various excursions, you might not need all this flexibility. Ditto if you don’t carry a lot of technical tools and gear. If, however, you have a variety of needs, the Leopard will be all things to you.

The Leopard AC retails for $249 at Granite Gear and is also available at Moosejaw, Backcountry, and Amazon. Interested in the women’s specific model? Check out the Leopard AC 58 Ki.

, , , , , ,

No Comments

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle

lifestraw-go-bottleLifeStraw Go is one of the best new products I’ve reviewed this year. To understand the Go, however, it’s important to be familiar with the original LifeStraw product. Named the Best Invention of 20o5, LifeStraw is a personal water filtration system that’s as simple as it is effective: it’s essentially a straw that one can dip into any water source and drink from safely. The original LifeStraw can be used with various water bottles (or used solo), and of course, the implications of this invention for the promotion of worldwide health is staggering. (Important side note: your LifeStraw purchase supports LifeStraw product use in the developing world.)

The LifeStraw Go takes the LifeStraw product one step further, but I’m happy to say they still manage to keep it simple. What you get is a BPA-free water bottle with a standard flip-top bite valve, which is connected to the original LifeStraw (included). The straw removes bacteria, protozoan parasites and turbidity from contaminated water (the exact amount is 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria removed) and there’s no aftertaste, since the bottle does not use iodine or chemicals. The size of the bottle is 23 ounces, and it weighs just under 8 ounces.

Here’s all you do: scoop water up with the bottle (or fill the bottle at any source), screw the lid back on with the LifeStraw filter attached, and drink. When the water bottle is empty (or if the filter gets clogged), blow out of the straw. Reuse again and again. That’s it!

For our family backpacking trips, the LifeStraw Go won’t replace our larger water filtration system, but for solo ventures into the wilderness, it will be my companion. When my teen son treks a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail next summer, he’ll have it with him as a backup filter, and it will accompany him on his upcoming service trip to Costa Rica. While most of the water he will encounter will be bottled, he has a knack for finding unsafe water and drinking it while abroad. Now I won’t have to worry.

In short, I’ve reviewed a personal water filtration bottle in the past, and I have to say, LifeStraw Go is vastly easier to use. You get a carabineer included as well. Plus, you can always take the LifeStraw off the lid and use it solo if you’d like. The LifeStraw weighs only 2 ounces, making it a good backup filter to pack in any bag. Consider it insurance while in the backcountry or abroad. 

Buy LifeStaw Go for $34.95 on the LifeStraw site (and they will ensure a child in Africa one school year’s worth of clean drinking water), or check prices at Moosejaw and Paragon Sports. For a bargain, you can pick up a five pack of bottles at Amazon for $59.

no iodine, no chemicals

, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Wolverine Alto Leather Hiking Shoes

Wolverine Alto Hiking

Two years ago at this time I was hiking around in a pair of Wolverine shoes with the ICS disc in them and I raved that I’d finally found a pair that fit right and performed great. I still use those sometimes, but lately I’ve been hitting the trails with a pair of Alto Leather Trail Shoes on my feet. Different materials on top, but same great outcome.

Wolverine is known for making rugged, dependable boots that won’t let you down. In many cases their work boots are on the kind of people who had better not let you down: the guys who do tough jobs in tough places. This same ethic applies to their hiking footwear, which may be light but never lightweight.

These Alto hiking shoes are made from quality leather, but not just solid pieces that will stretch over time. There are thicker reinforced sections crossing down from the laces for extra stability. Each layer provides support and protection, from the padded tongue to the Ortholite footbed to the tough rubber sole with good tread and a toe guard. There’s a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry if needed.

Wolverine Alto hiking shoes

The secret ingredient that sets Wolverine apart is the ICS disc under the insole that you can take out and adjust. If you have flat feet like me, you set it one way. If you have high arches and tend to wear down the outside heel of your shoes, another setting. Two more are extra stiff and extra soft. You can pull the disc out and switch it if trail conditions change.

There are lots of little features I like, such as tough nylon loops the good laces go through, a padded cuff around the ankle, and a loop on the back for pulling them on. The soft leather broke in fast, but there’s nothing wimpy feeling about these, either in the support or the structure.  Being all leather, they’re not as super-light as pure synthetic ones, but they’re certainly not going to drag you down on a long trek. I’ve been hiking around the mountains of central Mexico in these and have been quite happy with how they performed on giant boulders I had to hike down and how they didn’t feel too heavy on my feet.

You’re limited to brown or black on the colors, but kudos to the company for making a wide option. Buy the Alto Leather Trail Shoes direct from Wolverine for $139 or shop online at Amazon. This is a new spring release, so you should start seeing them in stores soon too as everyone moves out the old seasonal inventory.

Don’t miss a review! Get the RSS feed or follow Practical Travel Gear on Facebook.

, , , ,

No Comments

Super-tough Pack Polo Shirt From Sierra Designs

tough backpacking shirt

Want a travel shirt that was actually meant to be used with a backpack? One that won’t look totally shot after the straps have rubbed it for weeks? This Sierra Designs Pack Polo was designed for the real world, not for the runway.

There’s one little four-letter word that we travel clothing reviewers utter with a lot of frequency: “pill.” As in “It didn’t take very long for that shirt to pill.” Or maybe “This f-ing jacket started pilling the first time I strapped on a backpack.”

Sierra Designs TrailwearWhether a verb, a noun, or a gerund, it’s not a happy pill, that’s for sure. It refers to the little fuzz balls on the fabric that come up when it’s rubbed. I’ve tossed some pieces of clothing in the trash can without reviewing them over this and it’s my number one beef with merino wool items in general. Some manage to avoid it, but more often they look good for a few wears and then have fuzz balls all over if you don’t treat them like the Shroud of Turin.

So when Kelty rolled out this new line of shirts that actually had “pack” in the name, I was downright excited. I first saw them at the Outdoor Retailer show, when the rep rubbed sandpaper against one—and kept doing that all day. This polo doesn’t feel like sandpaper though: it’s as comfortable as any other travel shirt I wear. It’s just a whole lot tougher.

Besides the fabric meant to take abuse, you’ve also got shoulder seams that aren’t on your shoulders. If you’ve trudged across Southeast Asia as a backpacker or hiked along a major mountain range carrying what you’ll need for days, you know seams right under the highest pressure points of your straps are not a good thing. There’s also a front zipper pocket that’s barely perceptible, but you can actually get to it despite having a pack on with a sternum strap buckled. Now that’s smart design!

You get all the properties you would expect in a quality synthetic fabric travel polo shirt: lightweight, quick-drying, wicking, and wrinkle-free. It’ll probably be the longest-lasting $69 shirt you’ll ever buy.

Bottom line: this is my new favorite travel shirt. I’ve worn it hiking and taken it traveling. Each time upon my return, I have tossed it the washing machine on a setting far above “delicate.” It looks like new and feels great.

You can order the Pack Polo direct from Sierra Designs or get it online at Amazon or Moosejaw. There’s also a long-sleeve version $10 more) and a henley version ($10 less), equally tough.

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

Oboz Bridger Hiking Boot

You know that stereotype about women owning too many pairs of shoes? Guilty as charged, though with an unexpected plot twist: instead of sling backs and peep-toed heels, I own hiking boots. A lot of hiking boots. My closet is wall-to-wall waterproof uppers and arch support.

Oboz BridgerFinding the right pair of hiking boots is as personal as finding the right overnight pack or pair of skis: there’s no right answer, just the right boot for your foot, your terrain, and your excursions. I realize not everyone can own a hiking boot for every occasion (that honor is reserved for obsessive types like me), so if you’re looking for a solid all-purpose boot, the Oboz Bridger fits the bill. The boot comes in both men’s and women’s versions, and is categorized as one of Oboz’ classic hikers. Fun fact: the Montana-based Oboz company gets its name from the term meaning ‘outside Bozeman’.

The Bridger is constructed of a full leather upper with a pliable collar. Out of the box, the all-leather boot looks like it will be stiff or bulky, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. When worn, the Bridger is soft and flexible, if not the most lightweight. You get a sticky rubber sole with an outsole with nylon shank for stability, side lugs, and excellent arch support in the insole. (I do like a high arch, so this was a plus for me.) The boot is waterproof but still breathable: it uses ‘Bdry’ technology that ensures the membrane blocks water on the outside while releasing sweat from the inside.

My first hikes wearing the Bridger were on wet trails spotted with ice and slush, and I experienced no leaking whatsoever. I didn’t need the customary band-aids I bring along for breaking in boots, and I experienced good traction on the slick trail and in mud. As this review goes live, my Bridgers are with me on a late winter trip to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks, where so far, they’ve performed well in wet snow an dried out reasonably well by fireside overnight.

The Bridger comes in walnut and Rio red for women, retailing for $160 on Oboz, and in Sudan or black for men for the same price. They can also be found on Amazon, Planet Shoes, or REI.

, , , , , ,

No Comments