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Keen Marshall Flexible Hiking Shoes

Keen Marshall shoes

If you’re only going to be doing light hiking or walks now and then and want something that’s comfy and flexible right out of the box, Keen’s latest Marshall shoes are a good bet. Just be ready for a trade-off in the cushioning and support.

We’re big fans of Keen shoes here at Practical Travel Gear and between us have tried a lot of different versions over the years. Most have a few characteristics that set them apart: they’re not super-narrow, they have protection for your toes, and they’re built to last.

You get all three of those as expected with these Marshall hiking shoes. They’re also lightweight, so they’re good to travel with, and the mesh allows your feet to breathe well when you’re on the move. I actually took off a pair of leather shoes my feet were sweating in at one point and put these on. When I took off the Keens, my socks were dry.

The Marshalls have a good lacing system to adjust the fit and pull tabs on the back and on the padded tongue. There’s a good tread on the bottom that grips rocks well.

Alas, you’re going to feel every bump and crevice in those rocks because the cushioning on these is quite minimal. The shoes fit like a pair of slippers out of the box, with no breaking in necessary. The downside of that is the flexibility means there’s not a whole lot besides the tread between your feet and the ground. Like barefoot running trail shoes, but looking like something much sturdier from the outside.

Keen Marshall hiking

After wearing these around for a few months, my conclusion is that they’re great for light hikes of a couple hours on flat trails or for navigating cobblestones in the city. I wouldn’t do any serious hiking in them though for long distances with a pack on. They also fit me really well, but I have flat feet. People who need more of an arch support might not be as thrilled with the casual fit as I am.

I do like these shoes a lot and will keep wearing them on trips where the adventures won’t be too challenging. At a list price of $110 though (and $130 for the WP waterproof version), Marshall feels like a shoe that aspires to be a bit more than it really is. Too see all the color choices and check for markdowns, surf a few different options: the Keen website, Amazon, Zappos, or Backcountry. There’s also a women’s version.

See more reviews of Keen Footwear products.

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Tough as Steel Travel Socks: Keen Olympus

Olympus Lite socksWould you feel better about buying a pair of socks if you knew there was no way you could wear them out? With these Keen Olympus Lite ones, you are getting some socks that could last as long as you do.

If you’re doing some serious hiking or just spending your days walking as you travel around the world, the unglamorous pieces of fabric covering your feet are a crucial wardrobe item. Wear crappy cotton ones and you’ll regret it sooner or later. If the higher quality ones you’ve packed wear out mid-trip, your replacement selection in some remote corner of the Earth may be limited.

People often have a tough time justifying spending $15-$20 for a pair of socks, even though the wrong ones can mean serious discomfort and delays and good ones can stave off fatigue as much as well-designed shoes can. Great socks can often outlast those $120 shoes you just bought. These are definitely worth the price, with high-tenacity nylon fibers in key areas advertised as “15X stronger than steel.”

They’re contoured to fit your left and right feet and I like how these are clearly marked, with a “L” or “R” in a yellow rectangle. There’s no seam on top your toes and there’s serious cushion where it needs to be, in the high-impact areas. You also get a contoured arch support. So they protect your abrasion areas and are supremely comfortable.

There’s quite a cocktail of ingredients going into the weave here: Merino Wool 48%, Nylon 36%, Dyneema Polyethylene 10%, Polyester 3%, Spandex 3%. Apparently this is a winning combination. When they put these socks through abrasion testing rigors in a lab, the technicians usually see a hiking sock withstand 8,000 to 9,000 abrasions. These went past that and kept going, and going, and going—past 75,000 and as high as 95,000. So behold some new “guaranteed for life” socks, made in the USA.

Keen Olympus socksThere are several versions of this sock style for men and women, in different lengths and three colors. If you want something heavier, you can also get an Olympus Crew that doesn’t have “Lite” in the name, pictured here. The fiber composition is a little different to make them thicker and warmer, but they’re just as tough.

These socks are tough in another way too: you don’t have to treat them like they’re something precious. Throw them in the washing machine on cold or warm and you can even toss them in the dryer (on low) without them shrinking. Or of course you can sink wash them on the go at night and they’ll probably be dry by morning.

Pick up a pair of the Keen Olympus Crew socks at the Keen site, Amazon, or Zappos. Pick up a few and you might not have to buy any more travel socks again.

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Keen Revel II Boots

Keen Revel II boots womenDo you find that winter boots are a little like the Goldilocks story, where you’re searching for “just right” but you have to endure “too hot” and “too cold” before you get there? The Keen Revel II boots can speed you past the experimentation stage to the right amount of insulation in the chilly winter weather.

With an upper of waterproof nubuck leather and a rugged rubber outsole, the boot keeps rain, ice and snow on the outside, so you can enjoy your adventures—even if they’re just down the street to the market. On the inside is a moisture wicking lining, pulling any personal moisture away from your skin.

But that’s not all. Keen’s “Trapolator” underfoot insulation system boosts the inherent warmth of all those materials, and provides a little extra oomph to keep your feet warm in cold conditions, allowing you to spend more time outside when you want to.

That rubber outsole has the famed Keen toe guard, plus a TPU stability shank and razor siping—all to keep you upright and stable on sketchy ground. In winter, when even the smallest thing can send you sprawling, that’s a bonus.

I’ve worn these boots in icy and snowy conditions, and as someone who’s notorious for cold toes in the winter, I haven’t had trouble keeping my toes toasty in these boots. Just right.

The Keen Revel II boots are available in Raven/Comfrey (gay with green trim) and Coffee Bean/Burnt Henna (brown with orange trim), and list for $160 on the Keen website. On Amazon, they’re priced from $113 to $206, depending on size and color. You can also find them at Backcountry and Moosejaw.

See more Practical Travel Gear Keen Footwear reviews.

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Custom Keen Newports Just Like You Want Them

Keen custom sandals

The weather where you are might not be making you think about sandals, but if you’ll be taking a vacation to a hot place or you want a truly original gift idea, check out this Keen custom shoes offering.

The original Keen Newport sandals were a revolution that launched a company and they’re still super-popular for several reasons. They’ve comfortable, functional, cool, and protective of your toes. Plus they’re terrific for water activities like kayaking and river rafting. Now they can come in whatever color combination you want as well. Keen Newport design your own

Keen gave me a code to try this process out and it was a pure delight. Well, for my teenage daughter anyway. I knew she’d go crazier with the choices than I would, so I let her loose on the Keen Custom page so she could make her own unique pair.

After picking her size, she chose from 20 strap colors. Then from 13 stitching colors. Then from 14 microfiber colors for the tongue and sides. After that the lining, from four choices. She chose the woven tab colors (from 7 options) for the two pull tabs, then picked from 10 bungee lace colors and 5 colors for the plastic pull tab at the end. Last was the outsole and midsole, which produced the only bit of whining: sorry kids, gray or black there.

It gets topped off with a yellow and black Keen logo no matter what, but it would take a math club contestant a few minutes to figure out how many combinations you can get from all that. It’s a lot of choices. She went back and forth a few times trying different options, which is easy to do on the intuitive website. Each time you change something, you see the result on the screen and you don’t have to ever hit a back button and start over.

At the top of the screen is how hers came out. Here’s another pair I mocked up with random choices. Obviously a much different look.

Custom Keens

This process takes 2-3 weeks, so order today if you want them by Christmas. (To avoid that stress, print the custom page and buy a gift card for $130 instead.) The process was very smooth though, with Keen keeping us updated: a verification e-mail that pictured the shoes as we’d ordered them, another e-mail later that it was in process at the factory, then one when the shoes were on their way.

Sure, these cost more than a pair of regular Newports you buy off the shelf, but how much is it worth to have bespoke travel shoes like nobody else’s? For now anyway these don’t come in kids sizes, but the women’s sizes start at 5 and the men’s at 7. See more at the Keen custom shoes page.

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Hiking Day Pack Round-Up

It’s hiking season, and whether you’re hitting the trail for a long trek or short jaunt, you’ll want one of the four day packs below accompanying you. Of course, day packs aren’t only for hiking: no matter what sort of traveling you have planned, chances are you need a backpack to store your stuff. Whether you need a backpack to put into service as a carry-on, touring pack, or cycling pack, one of the below will likely fit the bill.

mountainsmith mayhem

35L packs:

MountainSmith Mayhem: Mountainsmith’s Mayhem has the look and feel of a larger backpacking pack with the size capacity of a large day pack. You get all the bells and whistles, including multiple loops for trekking poles or tools and compression straps for attaching extra gear. Like a backpacking pack, the Mayhem comes equipped with a hip belt and chest strap, and lumbar support to the back panel. You get a hydration bladder sleeve, side water bottle pockets, and a removable safety whistle. The fabric is ripstop nylon made with 420d Nigh Tenacity Nylon Duramax, and a zippered top pocket stores car keys and other valuables. Pick up the Mayhem in black and yellow at Mountainsmith for $129, or Amazon or Backcountry for as little as $90.Best for serious day hikes and short-term backpacking.

patagonia travel packPatagonia Lightweight Travel Pack:
The Patagonia Travel Pack boosts a 35L capacity like the Mayhem, but has a nifty party trick: it packs down into its own internal pocket to become he size of a large fist. Store the Travel Pack in a larger bag or suitcase, and have it on-hand for situations in which you find you need an extra carry-on or additional day pack. In this day and age of luggage fees, it’s great to pack this Patagonia away for travel en route. And it’s no flimsy thing, either: the Travel Pack is made of nylon double ripstop, and while thin and lightweight, it includes a waist belt and padded shoulder straps, a chest strap, and wide top-loading opening drawstring closure and snap-down compression strap. Pick up the Patagonia in Tupelo yellow, Larimar blue, or black at the Patagonia for $79 or at Backcountry or Moosejaw for the same price. Best for travel days and multi-sport outdoor adventure.

keen aliso

20-30L

Keen Aliso:
The KEEN Aliso pack has a 22 L capacity, and while it performs adequately on the trail for short hikes, it’s a far better commuter pack and travel pack. You get a laptop sleeve compartment inside which can convert to a hydration sleeve, and thickly padded shoulder straps so that heavy laptop doesn’t give you a neck ache. There’s no waist belt, but the construction is rugged, with a wide exterior zippered pocket and several organization slots internally. The Aliso is a nicely sized pack for when you need or want a streamlined look. Pick one up in bright chartreuse or forest night at KEEN for $80 or Amazon on sale for under $50. Best for air travel and work commutes or shorter day hikes.

kelty shrike women's backpackKelty Shrike: The women’s Kelty Shrike carries 26-30L in a very roomy main compartment, with a nicely sized zippered top pocket for valuables. With external loops for attaching extra gear and a wide top-loading mouth, the Shrike acts more like a 35L pack. With a shoulder strap system designed especially for women’s frames, the Shrike is the most comfortable day pack I’ve tried. (There is a men’s version too for the guys.) The waist belt is lightly padded and you get a chest strap as well. Inside, a roomy laptop sleeve doubles as a hydration storage compartment. Pick up a Shrike for $99 in light green or black at Kelty or at Altrec for the same price. Best for longer day hikes and serious road trips with outdoor adventure stops.

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