Posts Tagged outdoors
In my quest for the perfect apres ski boot and all-round, packable outdoor travel shoe, I gave Pakems a trial run. This brand new product designed by a single mom is marketed as a lightweight, compressible shoe designed for use after a ski day. Pakems come in two styles (for both men and women): a high top for winter use and a low top for summer. Both are made from water-resistant ripstop fabric with an insulated, DWR-coated upper, and EVA midsole, and a rubber outsole. Both tighten with a very simple single-pull lace system.
The shoes are undeniably simple, but that’s the point. They’re meant to get you from Point A to Point B in comfort, after changing out of your technical footwear (ski boots in winter, hiking boots in summer). The sole is quite flat, and you don’t get a terribly secure fit, which for me means I won’t be walking in them too far. However, they’re comfortable, and after a day of exercise, they’re certainly a relief to slip on.
How small do they pack down? My size 8 Pakems measure about 10 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 2 inches thick. They weigh about 13 ounces (a size 10 weighs 15). They come with a small compression bag, but I ditched that pretty quickly in favor of simply squishing my Pakems down into my backpack or bag. If you do use the compression bag, it comes with a strap designed to attach to a backpack or even your waist…I found this overkill, but the strap does also work as a ski boot carrying device when you’re wearing your Pakems, which I’ll admit is pretty nifty.
In most cases, I have room in my ski boot bag for a standard pair of snow boots to change into, but for the days I don’t want to (or cannot) secure a ski locker and opt to carry a small backpack all day, the Pakems fit nicely. They’re also nice to keep in the car to slip your feet into for the drive home (from winter sport days or summer hikes). I’d also bring mine along for river rafting days in the early summer or late fall, when my feet get cold after being wet.
My Pakems are comfortable, but not very breathable…again, these are not designed for long-term wear or long distances. They’ll easily get you from the ski lodge to the parking lot or village, and look decent on your feet while grabbing that apres ski drink, but aren’t meant to go the distance. The low top version is ideal for backpackers who like to bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes for evenings around the campfire; I now favor them over my sandals for this purpose, as they keep my feet dry and clean in addition to giving them a much-needed hug after a day of hiking. Think of them as slippers for the backcountry.
The only difference between the high top version and the low top version: the high top covers to just above the ankle, whereas the low top is cut below. You’ll want the high top for winter wear. At the time of my review, Pakems came in only black, but they have now come out with a variety of fun patterns and colors. Pick up a pair at the Pakems website for $70 (high top) or $60 (low top) or Amazon for as low as $47 for the high top. They’re also available at Moosejaw.com.
The Sony Cyber-Shot Tx30 is the absolute best point-and-shoot camera I’ve ever owned. Yes, I have a DSLR that I bring on professional trips because, well, it makes me look like I know what I’m doing, but when given the choice, I absolutely always reach for the Cyber-Shot. Of course, any point-and-shoot compact camera is going to be lighter and smaller than a DSLR, ideal for those on-the-go moments when you need a camera that will fit in your pocket, but the Cyber-Shot Tx30 goes far beyond convenience. It offers high quality images, but more importantly to me, it is absolutely, completely indestructible.
Sony describes the Cyber-Shot Tx30 as ‘certified waterproof, rustproof, shockproof, and freeze proof’ and they are not kidding. I have taken mine everywhere from snorkeling with whale sharks to sandy beaches to ski trips, and it has never failed me. It’s been in the hands of both preschoolers and teenagers, both demographics known for hard use of electronic items. It’s very user-friendly, with an easy-to-navigate touch screen that I can still see in bright sunlight, and turns on and off with a slide of the front panel, rather than at the touch of a button (easier to manage with gloves or while underwater). If your travels will be taking you outdoors in any capacity, this is the point-and-shoot that needs to be in your pocket.
Here’s the nitty-gritty (aka, why your photos will turn out startlingly well): the Cyber-Shot Tx30 has 18.2 megapixels, takes 1080/6oi video, and a 5x optical soon. It also has something called a 10x Clear Image zoom, but I have to admit I don’t know what that means. Sounds fancy.
I took the Cyber-Shot on a five day river rafting expedition, during which I was the only person to take out his or her camera on the water. Yes, all the DSLRs along for that trip took excellent shots of sunsets and cookouts, but they were packed carefully away on the rapids. What’s the point of bringing a camera you can’t use? My Cyber-Shot was on my wrist the entire five days, and I could use it everywhere, from a video selfie jumping off cliff rocks into the river to recording Class IV rapids from the vantage point of a kayak.
Here’s an example of video taken entirely with the Cyber-Shot:
In the market for a big ticket winter jacket? I count my two Canada Goose jackets as the warmest I own, and they’re among my most comfortable, too. Canada Goose’s Camp Hoody is also one of the most versatile, lightweight enough to grab for a travel day or a quick cover up, yet substantial enough for nearly any weather situation. It should be noted right out of the gate that the Camp Hoody retails for $450, which I realize is not unheard of in winter apparel, but still warrants explanation.
The million dollar (or in this case, $450) question, of course, is: is it worth it? What makes the Camp Hoody worth the price? Answer: it’s extreme warmth and coverage combined with its ability to stuff down to almost nothing. This is a highly functional jacket, built for technical situations experienced by true outdoors-women. On a backcountry winter excursion during which down warmth is required and yet space and weight is at a premium, the Camp Hoody would be priceless. For a day on the ski slopes with easy access to the car or locker? Probably overkill (though you’ll certainly be comfortable). Therefore, I refer back to my opening question: are you in the market for a premium winter jacket? If your outdoor travel warrants a ‘yes’, the value is definitely here.
The Camp Hoody is a dream to wear. It sits on your body like a cloud, and you feel light as a feather in it (which makes since, as it’s stuffed with white duck down. The fill power is 750, and the double-layer windproof shell provides incredible protection from the elements. I won’t lie: I haven’t trekked to the Arctic in this jacket (yet), but I have experienced wicked cold days on the slopes have haven’t felt a thing. On the other end of the scale, I’ve slid into this jacket with nothing but a t-shirt underneath to walk the dog in the Oregon fog and wind, and felt completely warm. You get a front storm flap to protect against drifts and wind, and a chin guard behind a two-way locking reversed-coil zipper. In other words, wind is not getting in here. The hood is full-sized and adjustable to fit over a helmet or hat, and the hem falls to the hip with a dropped tail. Once you’re in this jacket, you might as well be cozied up in a sleeping bag.
You get two front zippered pockets and an interior mesh google pocket, a Canada Goose logo patch on the arm, and elastic wrist cuffs that really keep out the snow (and which thick gloves can slide over easily). I squished up the Camp Hoody to bring it along via plane on a Colorado ski trip, and once folded and refolded, it fit in my palm about the size of a melon. Packing tip: lay it flat at the bottom of your bag instead of folding it, and let clothes on top compress it down to nothing.
Pick up the Camp Hoody at Moosejaw and Amazon. On the Canada Goose site, you get your pick of colors, ranging from sunset orange (highly recommended), summit pink, red, white, black, or ocean, though colors are more limited at the retail sites.
I’ve got to tell you, I was excited to try out the new Icebug Ivalo-L winter boots. I’ve been reviewing several Icebug footwear products of late, but none with BUGrip, the brand’s signature traction system…until now. Freezing weather has finally come to Oregon, and I’m ready.
The Ivalo is a very good looking women’s boot that’s lightweight and sleek, with a convenient zip-up closure for easy on-and-off. The outer is suede polyurethane with ripstop nylon, and you get a molded EVA removable insock and a rubber outsole. While the Ivalo looks like a pretty winter fashion statement, it performs like a tough work boot. The secret ingredient: Icebug’s BUGrip traction system, which, in this case, comprises of 16 carbide tip studs. All Icebug shoes have significant traction, but shoes and boots with BUGrip really deliver on ice and snow. You can see them when checking out the boot, and feel them digging into the ice when you walk. You will absolutely not fall down in these boots.
Here’s what’s really cool about BUGrip: these studs are not fixed in place. You can shift them around with your finger when you check them out, and when you’re wearing them, the studs will push in toward the surface of the sole as weight is applied. This movement allows the studs to be utilized only when needed. To quote the Icebug site, how far they are pushed in depends on the pressure exerted by the user and the resistance from the ground. What this means: you can wear the boot straight from ice to dry pavement and everything in-between without problems.
The Ivalo is water-resistant (Icebug is great about clearly marking their shoes as waterproof or water resistant). The zipper is made of grippy silicone, making it easy to zip up while wearing gloves. The only downside I found is inherent in the style of the boot: because of the zip-closure, you won’t get an extremely tight fit. While this is fine for traveling and commuting with the boot, it’s not the model for serious trekking or snowshoeing, but they weren’t designed for this anyway. Who is the Ivalo for? Anyone who walks on ice regularly, commutes to work or is in and out of ice, slush, or slick pavement, or wants a secure, comfortable boot for before or after winter sports like skiing or ice skating. In fact, I think I’ll pick up a second pair for my kids’ great-grandmother, who still walks across ice to check her mailbox every day.
See more reviews of travel shoes for all seasons.
A good pair of gaiters is one of those winter gear items you think you might not need until you realize (too late) that you really, really do. If you’re snowshoeing, nordic skiing, or traveling to a glacial destination this winter, or doing any serious backcountry trekking any time this year, do yourself a favor and invest in gaiters now. Alternatively, they make for a great gift, so put them on your list and hope for the best.
I’ve been playing in some early season Tahoe snow with the Hillsound Super Armadillo gaiter, where even in December, the powder is heavy and wet. I’m pleased to report dry feet and legs after several snowshoe treks. I also wore them through wet sagebrush and dense vegetation on a fall hike off-trail, and enjoyed a lack of abrasions (or visible wear to the gaiters).
The Super Armadillo is Hillsound’s newest gaiter, featuring a base of what they call SuperFabric, which I suppose is self explanatory. Basically, it’s the most durable barrier on the market today. The upper of the Armadillo is waterproof Flexia fabric (a term that’s also quite helpfully descriptive). What all this meant to me as I hiked in underbrush and snow: the gaiters were stretchy, moving with my body, and breathable. I wore them over both nylon trekking pants and waterproof snow pants.
The gaiters are listed as slash-resistant, which makes sense (I’d resist getting slashed, too). I didn’t put this to the test, however, because I grew attached to my pair and didn’t want to push my luck. Even though they’re breathable, they feel quite significant while on; you definitely feel the extra weight (even though it isn’t much). They secure with both a strap under the boot and a full YKK zipper from top to bottom. The zipper is covered by a protective strap at the base and the top, and there’s an extra clip at the top, which, along with the stretch fabric, ensures the gaiters are not going to slip down as you move.
The Super Armadillo retails for $78 on Hillsound or find it on Amazon for a few bucks less. They come in men’s or women’s, and sizes range from S-XL for men and S-L for women. Keep in mind that the gaiter fit very snugly in order to keep moisture and dirt out: if you plan to wear over baggy pants, size accordingly.
If you want to upgrade, consider the Hillsound Armadillo Nano gaiter, which, out of the box, looks a lot like the Super Armadillo, but is made from Schoeller fabric, which offers a wind and waterproof membrane that reacts to changing temperatures. Yes, it would seem to have a brain…adjusting heat retention as needed. Kind of creepy, but also cool. (No pun intended.) As if that weren’t enough, the surface is self-cleaning: dirt cannot adhere to it. This upgrade will only set you back about $20, as the Nano retails for $98 on Hillsound or a $1 less on Amazon.