Showing posts with label Shoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shoes. Show all posts

Gear Closet: Altra King MT Trail Running Shoes Review

If you're in the market for a new pair of trail running shoes this spring, and you're looking for something lightweight and very comfortable, I have a suggestion for you. The new King MT from Altra pairs the company's trademark natural fit with a flashy new design and a grippy sole, to deliver an excellent new option for runners. Provided you don't mind a minimalistic approach to cushioning.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Altra's products. In the past, I've tested the company's Superior 2.0, Lone Peak 3.0, and the innovative StashJack jacket, which has become a mainstay on spring runs. In each case, I came away impressed with the durability, quality, and design of each of those items, and in the case of the footwear, the fit and comfort level as well. Altra uses a more natural foot shape when developing their shoes, and as a result they feel much better on my feet. This translates to enjoying my workouts a lot more, as I stay much more comfortable over extended distances.

I am happy to say that the King MT holds true to form and feels fantastic on my feet too. The wider toe box on the front of shoe provides my toes with the space they need to splay out and move naturally while running. This helps maintain better footing when moving across uneven terrain and allows me to move more agilely as well. This leads to a great sense of confidence on the trail, allowing me to move faster too.

The King MT comes with a Vibram MegaGrip outsole that holds its traction nicely on a wide variety of surfaces. Add some 6mm lugs mix as well and you really have a shoe that was made for running in what would otherwise be awful conditions. I've taken these shoes on snow, mud, and silt and have been impressed with how secure I feel on all of those surfaces. The last thing you need out of a trail running shoe is a sole that won't grip the ground properly. You have nothing to worry about in that regard with the King MT.

Other nice features of these shoes include a wrap around rock plate and a synthetic upper, which protect the feet while out on the trail. The Altra EGO midsole helps to maintain that protection, while also keeping the shoe light and responsive too. The lacing system also includes a Velcro strap that helps to dial in a nice fit, and comes in handy for keeping the laces tied, especially when things get wet and sloppy. That has always been a pet-peeve of mine, but Altra solves it nicely with this shoe.

In terms of weight, the Altra King MT tips the scales at 10.2 ounces (28g), which makes them fairly light, but they don't quite fall into the minimalist category. Personally, I love that these shoes are comfortable without being bulky, although I wouldn't have minded a bit more cushioning for my longer runs. Altra rates these as a lightly cushioned shoe, and there were times where that was evident. As a larger runner, my legs sometimes take a pounding when I'm stretching the distances out, although on shorter runs (read: 6-8 miles) it wasn't as much of a concern. Still, this would be an almost perfect running shoe for me if it just had a bit more shock absorption.

As it stands, these are still an amazing pair of running shoes, and if you're not quite as bulky as I am (6'3"/200lbs), you'll probably find the level of cushioning is more to your liking. In terms of comfort, fit, traction, and design, the King MT delivers on all levels. And priced at $140, they're quite a bargain compared to some other trail running shoes on the market. If you need a lightweight option for your spring running, this is a shoe to have on your radar for sure.

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Gear Closet: Garmont 9.81 Speed III Light Hiking Shoes

Looking for some new hiking shoes as spring starts to inch a bit closer? Looking for something lightweight, but stable, that can offer plenty of protection for your feet? If so, then the Garmont 9.81 Speed III hiking shoe just might be what you're looking for. Recently, I've had the chance to give these shoes a go, and now find myself wearing them almost daily. Although, I wasn't sure that would be the case when I first put them on.

While I had met with Garmont over the past couple of summer Outdoor Retailer shows, this was the first time I'd actually gotten the chance to test a pair of their shoes. I always liked the style and design the company's boots displayed, but good looks don't always translate into a comfortable fit. Still, I was very intrigued with what I saw, and was eager to put them to the test. So, when my test pair of the 9.81 Speed III arrived, I eagerly put them on to get a feel for what they were actually like.

I was immediately impressed with how good they felt on my feet. The polymer heel inserts and EVA midsole gave the shoe a stiff – but comfortable – ride that offered a solid level of protection without much bulk. The wide toe-box was great too, especially when wearing a thicker sock, while the mesh upper was durable and breathable at the same time. The 9.81 Speed III felt a bit like a nice cross-over shoe, straddling the line between a trail runner and a light hiker. For my money, that's not a bad space to fill.

But then, I started to walk around in them and my perception of the shoes soon changed. You see, while I really liked they way they looked and felt, as I wore them around the house and while taking the dog for a walk, I started to notice that the shoes were rubbing against my ankle, creating a bit of a hot spot. I soldiered through, keeping them on my feet for a few hours, before giving up and reverting to something in my closet that wasn't causing me pain.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I really wanted to like these shoes, but for some reason they were consistently rubbing my ankles, causing them to become quite sore. Thankfully, no blisters actually developed, but it was annoying and painful to say the least. Still, I was determined to give the 9.81 Speed another chance, so over the course of the next few days I wore them several more times, for shorter periods while wearing socks that were a bit thicker around the ankle. Gradually, the shoes started to loosen up a bit, and over time the rubbing on my ankles lessened. Now, it's to the point that I don't have the same issue any longer.

Regarding this issue I would say two things. First, everyone's feet are different, so it is entirely possible that you could put these shoes on and never experience the same level of discomfort that I did. My ankles just might be shaped in such a way as that they were not immediately compatible with Garmont's light hiker. The other thing to keep in mind is that every shoe requires a bit of a break-in period, and for these it took a few days to get them just right. Now, they feel great with no hot spots whatsoever.

In addition to being very comfortable to wear, the 9.81 Speed IIIs also offer a nice level of traction on a variety of surfaces. Garmont has equipped them with a Vibram Fast Trail outsole that is designed to allow the wearer to move quickly and agilely on mud, dirt, sand, and even light snow. These shoes perform well in both wet and dry conditions, and even though they aren't advertised as being waterproof, I found that my feet stayed dry in pretty much everything short of dunking them in a stream, and even then I wouldn't be surprised if they came out just fine.

As I mentioned, this was my first go around with a shoe from Garmont, and ultimately I came away quite impressed. They are very comfortable to wear, provide a nice level of stability, and seem extremely durable so far. In fact, other than being scuffed up with dirt from the trail, they still look brand new and fresh from the box, even though I've been wearing them a lot over the past couple of weeks. During that time, I've found them to be an excellent walking shoe, both on and off the trail. Garmont says that these shoes were designed for fast hiking, subalpine trekking, and Nordic walking, all of which I think they would be excellent for. I also think they'd make a good approach shoe for those who like to move light and fast, although they are a bit heavy for pure trail running.

Priced at $140, I see the 9.81 Speed III shoe as an affordable and versatile option for use in a variety of outdoor activities and settings. The fact that they happen to look good is a nice bonus too. Find out more at

Gear Closet: Yaktrax Run Provides Traction on Snow and Ice

As an almost daily runner, I look forward to heading outside to get a workout in, no matter what the season is. In fact, while it is always nice to hit the road or trail in the warmer months, I also relish getting out in the winter, particularly because I know that most of my runner friends have retreated to the treadmill at the gym or in their homes. Heading out into the cold isn't all that difficult, you simply layer up and get moving, and before you know it you're plenty warm. But, the snow and ice can present an entirely different challenge, making an ordinary workout into a challenge just to stay on your feet. Thankfully, their are some lightweight, effective, and easy to use products that can help us overcome this issue as well, with the Yaktrax Run being one of the best I've personally used.

For those not familiar with Yaxtrax, the company makes a variety of product designed to help us stay on our feet in slick conditions. Their traction devices slip over your shoes, and secure themselves into place, providing a much better grip on a variety of wet and slick surfaces. Think of them as performing the same function as a set of crampons, without the long spikes.

As the name implies, the Run model was designed specifically with runners in mind. Made from high quality, durable rubber, the Yaktrax slide over your running shoes and lock into place using Velcro straps. Once properly installed, they stay in place and don't slide around or come loose, even after putting some serious miles on them. But when you no longer need them, they are also very easy to remove until the weather turns nasty again.

The Yaktrax Run provide improved grip on snow and ice thanks to the company's tried and true design. The back half of the product applies steel coils along the sole of the shoe that helps to keep runners from sliding as they plant their foot. But the front section of the Run have a more substantial rubber sole that includes tiny carbide spikes that can really dig into the ground for added stability. With these in place, you can set out on a run with confidence.

Unlike similar products from some of the competition, the Yaktrax Run is made to be anatomically correct for both the left and right foot. Because of this, you have to pay a little extra attention when putting them on, your you may find yourself frustrated and left wondering why they don't want to fit your shoes properly. But this design choice once agains aids in stability on slick surfaces, and makes them more efficient for use when running.

Other nice touches include reflective elements that help the runner to be more visible in low-light conditions, as well as a design that keeps snow and ice from collecting too much in the Run itself. Plus, even though these were designed with runners in mind, they will also fit over light hiking shoes if you want to use them for your walks as well.

Make no mistake, these are not a replacement for a true set of crampons, but then again, they aren't intended to be used in the same environment that a crampon would be needed. But, for runners who want to move more confidently on snow and ice in the winter, the Yaktrax Run is a good investment. I've been impressed with how well they perform and would certainly recommend them to anyone who hates to run inside during the cold months of the year. Adding a pair of these to your gear closet will remove yet one more excuse to do that.

Priced at $40, the Yaktrax Run are a bargain for those of us who run often. And when you consider how much they would save you on buying a decent treadmill, they are a cheap alternative indeed.

Gear Closet: Five Ten Eddy Water Shoes

One of my favorite pairs of shoes that I've tested this year has been the Five Ten Access approach shoe, which I loved for their light weight, comfort, and durability. Since I reviewed them a month back, those shoes have become a staple in my wardrobe, accompanying me on many outdoor excursions. Because of this, I had high expectation of the new Eddy water shoe from Five Ten as well. The latest edition to the company's catalog brings Five Ten's years of experience to footwear designed to be worn in and around wet environments, delivering a fantastic option for paddlers, boaters, or just about anyone else who spends time out on the water.

Designed to be thin and lightweight, the Eddy was created to provide good protection for your feet, without becoming big and cumbersome. This allows them to fit nicely inside the cockpit of a kayak, including smaller play boats. I came to appreciate this design choice not because I needed the extra room, but because some of my larger water shoes often make it difficult to find the pedals that control the rudder on a sea kayak for instance. With these thin shoes, that wasn't a problem, and as a result I felt more connected with the boat in general.

Of course, that's just one element that I came to appreciate with these shoes. As you would expect, they offer quick-drying synthetic materials on the upper that allow water to pass through without retaining excess moisture, and thereby adding any amount of significant weight. The Eddy is also outfitted with plenty of drainage holes that help with this process too. The results are a shoe that is meant to be used on the water, but can be completely dry in about 15 minutes, allowing you to transition seamlessly back to land as well.

The sole of the shoe is made from Five Ten's Stealth S1 rubber, which was initially designed for use on the company's climbing shoes. This helps to give the Eddy a surprisingly great grip on slick, wet surfaces, making it easier to cross tough portages or to scramble in and out of your boat in rocky environments. That same Stealth S1 rubber extends up and around the toe, allowing the wearer to use it to maintain a grip while climbing in and out of the water. Those materials also provide an added protective barrier that isn't always common in this type of footwear.

All of these nice design elements don't mean much however if the shoe isn't comfortable to wear. Fortunately, Five Ten has us well covered there, as the Eddys feel great on your feet both in and out of the water. Better yet, they don't happen to look like a water shoe at first glance, which means you'll feel at home wearing them hiking to the put-in, during your waterborne adventures, and afterwards when you're grabbing lunch and a beer at the local pub.

As a frequent traveler, I always try to limit the number of pairs of shoes I take with me on my trips to no more than two. But, depending on the type of excursion I'm setting out on, I may need to add another pair or two to my bag. The Eddy is a versatile enough water shoe that I wouldn't hesitate to bring it along on any trip that involves spending time on the water. It is not only lightweight and comfortable, but it is also highly packable too. That means it can slip into your duffle bag or backpack without taking up too much room or adding undue bulk – something that endears me to just about any piece of gear.

Competitively priced at $100, Five Ten brings a lot to the table with the Eddy. While there are plenty of other options for good water shoes that cost less than that – including the 3T Barefoot Warrior from Body Glove that I reviewed back in August – few of those other shoes offer as many technical advantages as Five Ten's offering. While the Barefoot Warrior is a better option for stand-up paddleboarders, I'd recommend the Eddy to anyone who finds themselves scrambling through rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water where the footing isn't always certain. This is a much more substantial shoe, that is only slightly bigger and heavier.

If you're in the market for some new water shoes, the Five Ten Eddy is a great choice. This is particularly true if you find yourself hiking over slick surfaces on your way to and from the water. I think you'll be extremely pleased with what this shoe has to offer, and the grippy rubber outsole will be a welcome option for those who need a little extra security along the way.

Gear Closet: Five Ten Access Mesh Approach Shoe

It is amazing how technical and specialized our outdoor footwear has become. In the past, we made due with a single shoe that could serve in a variety of outdoor uses. Today however, we've gotten to the point where having the right footwear is akin to having the right tool for a job. Good shoe manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve their products and make them better for use in demanding outdoor environments. As a result, the shoes we wear are now highly tuned to the activities we enjoy, and we're all better off for it.

One company that has continued to refine its product line in this way is Five Ten. Best known for making mountain biking and climbing shoes, the designers at Five Ten have always done a good job of tailoring their products for the needs of their customers. That same sensibility has been brought over to their hiking line as well, as I recently found in their new Access Mesh approach shoe, a light hiker stealthily designed with the look of a sneaker.

At first glance, it would be easy to mistake the Access Mesh as running or cross-training shoe. It is lightweight, features a low-profile design, and features a technical fit that is more commonly found in that style of shoe. But looks can be very deceiving, and writing this show off as "just" a trail show would be a mistake. Underneath the hood of this shoe are some serious technical features that make it stand out from the crowd.

For instance, the Access utilizes Five Ten's Stealth S1 rubber on its outsole. That is a material that has been put to good use on the company's bike shoes as well, and has a tried and true reputation for providing plenty of grip on a wide variety of surfaces, both wet and dry. The toe-cap of the shoe has also been reinforced for added protection, and it features a "climbing zone" that has been brought over from the line of climbing shoes for added grip too. Throw in a rubberized exoskeleton on the lacing system, which added extra torsional support, and you end up having a highly technical piece of footwear for use in the outdoors.

As the name implies, the Access Mesh uses lightweight and highly breathable materials, which allow warmth and moisture to easily escape. The result is a shoe what performs well in warm weather conditions, both on and off the trail.

When I first put this shoe on I thought that it felt very comfortable on my feet, but felt a little stiff. Part of that is due to the Stealth S1 rubber on the sole, and for a time I wasn't sure if I'd actually like the Access Mesh. But, as I've worn them a bit longer, they've loosened up nicely and now feel very natural to wear just about anywhere. Performance hasn't suffered in the least, it just took me a bit of time to break them in fully. Since that happened, I've been incredibly happy with the fit and feel of these shoes, which don't scream "hiker" if you wear them around the neighborhood or down the street to the store.

I also appreciate the level of versatility they bring to the table. While they have been primarily designed to be an approach shoe or warm-weather hiker, I've also been wearing them while mountain biking too. Because the S1 rubber was first developed for use in Five Ten's biking line, this shoe can serve double duty in that department too. I've also found they make a good travel shoe, since they offer the athletic feel of a sneaker with the support of something more substantial.

As promised, this shoe does hold its grip on a wide variety of surfaces. I've worn them while walking or hiking on pavement, dirt trails, loose scree, wet rocks, mud, sand, and more. For such a lightweight shoe, it handled all of this conditions easily and without problem, helping me to feel more safe and secure. The S1 rubber does its job, sticking to those surfaces like glue, and while I wouldn't necessarily want to go rock climbing in the Access Mesh, you can certainly feel Five Ten's climbing heritage in the shoe's grip.

Priced at $130 the Five Ten Access Mesh is a very versatile shoe that can be used in a variety of outdoor activities. It is comfortable, durable, and designed for use both on and off the trail. I appreciate the shoe's ability to vent away excess heat and moisture, and love that it provides so much support and protection for the foot without looking overly technical.

If you're in the market for a lightweight, versatile shoe that looks good, and won't kill your wallet, you'll want to give the Access Mesh a look. I think you'll find it is a surprisingly great shoe for light hiking, making approaches, or even mountain biking. Heck, you'll probably even find your wearing them for other activities too.

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Gear Closet: Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior Water Shoes

We live in a great time for the outdoor industry. Not only is our gear getting better all the time, it is getting more technical and specialized too. Case in point, over the past few years I've gone from a guy who had just a few pairs of shoes in his closet to someone who now owns the perfect shoe for whatever outdoor activity I'm heading out to take part in. But recently, I added a new pair of footwear to my growing collection in the form of the 3T Barefoot Warrior water shoe from Body Glove, which have delivered lightweight versatility for all of my favorite waterborne adventures.

If you read my article yesterday about whitewater rafting in Quebec you know that my recent trip to that part of Canada was all about spending time on the water. In fact, while I was there I not only went rating, but canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding too. All of those activities were an opportunity to test the 3T Barefoot Warrior in a variety of different aquatic settings, and I can honestly say after using them for a week on the water, I came away very impressed.

These shoes feature a unique design that somewhat resembles Vibram's popular Five Fingers line. But where those shoes require you to jam all of your toes into individual slots, Body Glove has taken the wise step of using a three-toed design instead. As a result, I found it much easier to get the 3T Barefoot Warrior on than I ever did using the Five Fingers. That's because by big toe and second toe can easily slide into place, while the remaining three fit nicely into a larger compartment. On Vibram's offerings I always had to force those last three toes into their proper slots, which felt a bit unnatural to me.

Once the 3T Barefoot Warriors are on my feet, they feel far more natural and comfortable too, providing plenty of protection while still maintaining a good sense of balance too. In fact, up until I had these shoes I had always gone stand-up paddling barefoot as it helped to create the surest connection between my feet and the board I was using. But with Body Glove's shoes I was able to still keep my balance, even on a board that was not amongst the most stable that I have ever used.

As with any water shoe, drainage is of the utmost importance. Fortunately, Body Glove did a great job designing this shoe to allow water to move in and out quickly and easily. That same drainage system also serves to create ventilation for the foot when you're not in the water too, helping it to stay cooler while on land. As a result, you can easily transition in and out of the water without missing a beat.

Made from lightweight, quick-drying materials the 3T Barefoot Warrior are durable and comfortable enough that you can wear them all day without fear. Other water shoes have tended to chafe my feet at times when I wasn't in the water, but I didn't experience that at all here. And while you may get some strange looks wearing them around town, if you do have to wear them in that environment, you're feet won't complain one bit.

If you're in the market for a lightweight and versatile pair of water shoes that you can use in a wide variety of activities, the 3T Barefoot Warrior is an excellent option. I personally really like how they fit on my feet and how well they hold their grip, even on slick surfaces. The fact that they are also highly comfortable is a nice bonus, while the three-toed design makes them easy to get on and off and aids balance too. At $59.99 I think these shoes are a steal, and I believe anyone who takes part in water sports with any regularity will agree. Whether you kayak, SUP, swim, snorkel, or raft, this is a shoe that you'll want in your closet too.

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Gear Closet: Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Hiking Shoes

A couple of weeks back I took a look at the new Altra Superior 2.0 trail running shoes, and found them to be an excellent choice for runners. At the time I mentioned that I was testing another pair of shoes from the company as well, and was eager to put them through their paces. Last week while visiting Quebec I had the opportunity to do just that, and ended up coming away just as impressed.

This time out I was testing the new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid, a hybrid shoe of sorts that blends the best elements of a trail runner with a lightweight hiker. It features Altra's proprietary Foot Shape technology that allows for more room in the toe box for a more natural fit, and its Abound materials that allow energy to return to the foot when walking. They also have a zero-drop sole that allows both the forefoot and heel to strike the ground at the same time, which encourages better form throughout the length of your run or hike.

This being the "mid" version of the original Lone Peak shoe it comes with more ankle support built-in. This not only comes in handy when hiking demanding trails, it also gives the shoe a look that more resembles a hiking boot as well. Since I was using them more in that capacity rather than as trail runners, I appreciated the extra support, even on routes that weren't especially demanding.

When compared to other hiking shoes, the Lone Peak 3.0 Mid is extremely lightweight, tipping the scale at just 10 ounces (283 grams). That made them extremely easy to pack for my Canadian adventure, and helped to reduce fatigue when wearing them for extended periods of time, both on the trail and walking around town. In fact, I'd say that these shoes are more on par weight-wise with the trail running shoes I wear from other companies, rather than most hiking shoes. In other words, if you're in the market for a new pair of hikers and are looking to shave off some ounces, this just might be the shoe you've been looking for.

In terms of comfort, the Lone Peak feels more this a sneaker than a hiking shoe as well. They are very comfortable on your feet while still managing to provide a high level of support in all the areas you need it – most notably the arch, ankle, and footbed. I will say that my feet did get a bit warm at times thanks to the Polartech fabrics used in their construction, but not so much that they were actually uncomfortable. My feet tend to run warm most of the time anyway, so this wasn't completely surprising considering they were being worn on a summer hike.

The other important factor for a trail running or hiking shoe is traction on a variety of surfaces, and the Lone Peak doesn't disappoint here either. It uses Altra's new MaxTrac outsole and TrailClaw lugs to keep you sure footed even on rocks, mud, water, and fine dirt. I suspect they'd be fine on snow – and to a lesser extent ice – as well, although I haven't had the opportunity to test them in that environment just yet.

If there is one complaint I have about these shoes it is a minor one. They can be a bit tough to get on at first, as they have a narrow opening that can be difficult to slide your foot into without taking the laces out of the first few eyelets. The more I wore them however, the easier they were to get on my feet, in part because they started to loosen up some, and because I also learned the best way to get them into place. Still, I was put off by this at the beginning, so it is important to point out. Your first foray with these shoes may have similar results, so don't write them off based on that first impression.

That said, these are one of the more comfortable pairs of shoes that I've had the opportunity to try out in a long time. I really love the wide toe box that gives my feet plenty of room, and I appreciated the amount of cushioning and support that they provide too. On top of that, they are super versatile, transitioning from trail to town without missing a beat. I even wore them on a 35 mile bike ride and came away feeling great too. That makes them a nice set of footwear to have in your closet and a great choice for travelers too.

Priced at $160, these are the perfect shoes for fast packers, lightweight backpackers, trail runners looking for some extra ankle support, or hikers who just want a lightweight, yet durable option. Buy them now at CampSaver.

Gear Closet: Altra Superior 2.0 Trail Running Shoes

Find just the right pair of running shoes can be a bit like searching for the Holy Grail. Legends say that they exist, but actually finding it can be a challenge. As a daily runner, I tend to put a lot of wear and tear on my shoes, and since I am larger than most other runners I typically need footwear that is a bit more substantial than I'd sometimes like. This is especially true when it comes to trail shoes, where the lightweight models have tended to disappoint in the past. That isn't the case with Altra's Superior 2.0 however, as I have finally found a shoe that can provide plenty of comfort and support, while also leaning towards the more minimalist end of the spectrum.

Tipping the scales at just under 9 ounces, these shoes save weight by using a light upper while still maintaining a solid heel and sole. A lot of minimalist shoes cut corners in the amount of cushioning and support that they offer, but that isn't the case here. In fact, I've found that these shoes provide enough protection to my feet that I can use them on both the trail and the road, although they are definitely better suited to the former.

Durability doesn't seem to be an issue either, as after putting a decent amount of mileage on them, the Superior 2.0's look and feel like new. Then again, most of my running shoes tend to look nearly new, even after they've lost their ability to cushion my feet on a run. Still, having used these shoes for more than a month, the only indication that they've been run is the bits of dirt and grime they've picked up from the trail.

Altra has included some interesting design options into the Superior 2.0 that makes them well suited for my feet and running style. For instance, they have a wide toe box that actually gives your toes plenty of room inside to spread out when necessary. The result isn't just increased comfort, but also better stability on uneven terrain too. The difference is noticeable almost immediately, and since I started wearing them I've come to appreciate this approach to the shoe's design.

Underneath the shoe, the custom sole has canted lugs that grip a variety of surfaces – both wet and dry – very nicely. This helps to bring an added level of stability to the shoe as well, and I've found that they work just as well in mud and rain as they do on smooth surfaces and even dry pavement. The lugs aren't overly aggressive either, which I appreciate when transitioning from road to trail and back again.

Running in the excessive heat and humidity of summer my shoes tend to get soaked with sweat on a long run. Worse yet, they don't always dry as quickly as I'd like. But the Superior 2.0 is made with lightweight, breathable, and quick drying materials, which have allowed them to avoid getting too damp in the muggy conditions and dry out much more quickly too. As a result, I'm not putting my foot into a wet shoe and they aren't building up awful odors either.

Altra ships the Superior 2.0 with removable StoneGuard inserts that help protect your feet on sharp, rocky surfaces. Most of the time I didn't feel the need to use them, but they definitely come in handy when running a trail that features a lot of potential rock hazards. I like that the rock plate can be removed however, as much of the time it isn't needed at all.

As I've already mentioned, shoes that lean towards the minimalist realm don't always work the best for me. But the Superior 2.0 has been fantastic in every way. I've run 10+ miles in these shoes on more than one occasion, and they have taken everything I've thrown at them and performed well at every turn. In fact, I've been very impressed and surprised with how easy it has been to run in shoes that weigh so little. Typically in the past, anything more than about 3 miles in lightweight shoes leaves me longing for something with more support. Happily, that isn't the case here, and I look forward to even longer runs once the heat of the summer starts to subside.

If you're in the market for a new pair of trail shoes, and haven't given Altra a look yet, you really owe it to yourself to do so. They're doing some innovative things with their footwear, and I've really enjoyed getting to know the brand a lot better. I have another pair of their shoes in the wings waiting to be tested, and if they perform anywhere close to the level of the Superior 2.0, I'm going to be a happy guy.

Priced at $110 the Altra Superior 2.0 is a relative bargain in my mind. You'll be hard pressed to find a shoe that is this comfortable, durable, and easy to run for that price. Throw in the fact that they are also lightweight, quick drying, and highly breathable, and you have all the makings of a perfect running shoe. Check them out right here.

Gear Closet: Lowa Innox EVO Lo and Renegade GTX Mid Boots

Finding the right footwear to see you through your outdoor adventures is essential to enjoying your time outside. After all, if you're feet aren't happy, the rest of you probably isn't going to have a good time either. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are many good choices when it comes to shoes for our outdoor pursuits, with Lowa making some of the best options for a wide variety of activities, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, travel, or just kicking it around town. Recently, I had the chance to test two very different shoes from the company, coming away very impressed with both. Here are my thoughts on these two boots.

Lowa Innox EVO Lo Light Hiking Shoes
Lightweight and comfortable is the best way to describe these fantastic shoes, which have the soul of a trail runner and the sole of a hiking boot.

At first glance, the Innox EVO Lo resembles an athletic shoe more than a hiking boot, and since they weigh just 22 ounces for a pair, it would be easy to think they wouldn't offer all of the support you would need. But this hiking shoe has a stiff midsole that helps to protect the foot from jarring impacts, while still managing to maintain a level of flexibility that makes it an ideal choice for a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Lowa has packed quite a few features into these fairly simple looking shoes. For instance, the Innox EVO comes equipped with a Gore-Tex waterproof liner that helps keep moisture at bay. This makes them a great choice for use in damp environments, as the quick-drying and highly breathable fabrics that make up the shoe keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day. That's a great combination of performance features to have in any athletic shoe, let a lone a light hiker.

For me, these shoes have a bit of a snug fit, which is something that I happen to like. When it comes to athletic shoes I like to have a good feel for the surface benefits my feet, and these shoes provide that experience nicely. This helps to provide good footing in changing conditions, and gives a nice sense of agility and balance. And since the Innox EVO has a nice, aggressive sole, it feels like you could wear them just about anywhere without fear.

Perhaps my favorite thing about these shoes is there level of versatility. They are great for day hikes of course, but they could also be used for trail running in a pinch. But, they also make a great shoe for travel since they can be used both on the trail or walking around town. If you're someone who likes to travel light, this is an excellent option, as they just might be the only pair of shoes you need to take with you on you travels.

The Lowa Innox EVO Lo hiking shoes are priced at $175, which probably seems a bit pricey when compared to similar shoes from the competition. But because they are so comfortable, durable, and versatile, it actually feels like a true bargain. A pair of these shoes will definitely last you a long time, and see you through a wide variety of adventures. The fact that they look good too is just icing on the cake.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Switching gears from the low-profile, light hikers of the Innox EVO, the Renegate GTX which is a completely different boot with a completely different purpose in mind. This is Lowa's best selling shoe of all time, and after wearing them on the trail it is easy to understand why. The combination of support, protection, and comfort they provide to your feet is exceptional, making them one of my favorite pairs of boots I've ever worn.

Whereas the Innox EVOs are great for day hiking and travel, the Renegade GTX is specifically built with trekking and backpacking in mind. These boots are made from Nubuck leather and feature a Vibram Evo outsole that provide great traction on mud, snow, ice, and other wet surfaces. A Gore-Tex liner does an excellent job of keeping water out, while a climate control footbed helps to keep your feet warm and dry. All of this really helps to keep your feet comfortable on longer hikes, making it much easier to trek for miles over a number of days as well.

One of the key elements you look for out of a good pair of backpacking boots is durability, and Renegade excels in that category too. I've worn these boots on a number of hikes, putting some decent mileage on them in the process. Other than getting a bit dirty and muddy, they actually still look brand new and fresh from the box. I've taken them on trails in Alaska, the Adirondacks, and closer to home, and so far there isn't a scratch, cut, or scuff on them anywhere. In fact, when I wash the mud and grime off of them upon returning home, you'd never know that they've ever hit a trail at all. This speaks well for the long-term life of these boots, which will likely serve you well for years of outdoor adventures.

The other thing that I really like about the Renegade GTX boots is that they are very comfortable, even after a long day on the trail. There are a lot of boots on the market that are durable and offer good traction, or can keep your feet protected and safe from the elements. But few boots can do all of that, plus are comfortable enough to wear all day long too. Lowa has made that boot, which is why it has been such a hit with their customers.

The Renegade GTX is a bit of overkill for short, local day hikes. But if you're an adventure traveler who treks mountain trails or goes backpacking through national parks, these are a great options for those more demanding outings. They are perfect for multi-day camping trips or even light mountaineering expeditions. Warm, comfortable, and very durable, these are boots that will see you safely through a wide variety of environments and challenges, with your feet completely protected the entire way. I fully endorse the Renegade boots for those types of experiences, as I know that they'll offer all of the support you'll need, and then some.

Lowa sells the Renegade GTX Mid for $230, which in mind is a very competitive price for this type of boot. When you consider the fact that a good pair of hiking boots is an investment in future adventures, I think you'll find these are a real bargain. This is a pair of shoes you'll have in your closet for years to come. There isn't much more to say than that, other than you can't go wrong with these boots.

Gear Closet: Hi-Tec V-Lite Flash Force Low Hiking Shoes

Now that fall is officially upon us, and the cooler weather of that season has returned, it is definitely time to head back outside and enjoy your favorite trail once again. This is particularly true as the autumn colors begin to tinge the tops of the trees in shades of gold and crimson. If you're in need of a new hiking shoe to comfortably see you through the season ahead – and beyond – than look no further than the new V-Lite Flash Force Low from Hi-Tec, a boot that offers a high level of comfort to go along with a wide variety of features designed to keep your foot protected out on the trail.

New for Hi-Tec's Spring 2016 collection, the V-Lite Flash will actually be available later this fall. The shoe is a real eye-catcher with its vibrant colors and aggressive Vibram outsole that is designed to maintain traction in a wide variety of terrains, including wet, slippery surfaces. Despite what appears to be a very dense sole, these shoes remain quite light. While they won't compete with a trail runner in terms of weight of course, they are still a lightweight alternative that offers better traction and all-around protection for the foot.

Hi-Tec has also integrated Vibram's RollinGait system into this shoe, which is designed to roll with the natural movement of the foot. This not only improves the comfort of the shoe, but reduces fatigue over time. As a result, you should be able to wear these shoes for longer periods of time, and over rough terrain, without your feet and legs getting quite so tired.

The shoe's upper is will remind you a lot more of a trail running shoe rather than a hiking boot. The synthetic fabrics are designed to breathe, helping to keep the foot cooler while out on a hike. Those fabrics are also easy to keep clean, shrugging off dirt and mud with ease. Despite these features however, I found my feet getting quite warm in them while testing. So much so that I found that in the hot conditions of the summer my feet were actually getting a little too warm, which makes me think the Flash Force shoes are better suited for cooler temperatures of the fall, and possibly even the winter, at least for me personally.

Overly warm feet aside, these are some extremely comfortable hikers to wear on the trail. The Ortholite insert that Hi-Tec includes with the Flash Force feel great on the foot, and they are also designed to improve your recovery following a long day on the trail. That same insert has anti-odor and anti-microbial properties, which meant that even though my feet were overly warm at times, my shoes didn't end up smelling horribly after a long hike. In fact, after putting these shoes to test in the field on numerous occasions, they still look like they just came out of the box, which is a testament to how well they handle wear and tear.

When I met with Hi-Tec at Outdoor Retailer last month, I was impressed with how great these low-cut hiking shoes felt on my feet. That same feeling continued after I received my pair to test as well, and they only got more comfortable after a short break in period. The lacing system on the Flash Force allow you to make them as snug as you'd like, while the overall fit and design cradle my feet perfectly, keeping them very comfortable even when walking on uneven, rocky terrain. And the athletic design of the shoe makes it easy to move fast on the trail as well, without your legs and feet feeling overly fatigued later. All qualities that I greatly appreciate in a good hiking shoe.

I'm looking forward to breaking these shoes out even more in the cooler months ahead. Other than them being a bit overly warm for summer hiking, they are a fantastic shoe in every other way. And I suspect as the season grows colder, I'll actually come to appreciate that warmth quite a bit.

If you're in the market for a new pair of light hiking shoes, and you want something with more of an athletic look, than the V-Lite Flash Force boots just might be exactly what you're looking for. I can't stress enough just how comfortable they are to wear, and how impressed I am with their overall build quality. This feels like a shoe that can accompany you on many hikes, and still continue to maintain their support, traction, and good looks.

The Flash Force will begin shipping this fall with an MSRP of $140. That is a highly competitive price for a shoe that offers so much performance. Check them out when you get the chance. I think you'll like what you find.

Gear Closet: The North Face Ultra MT Running Shoe

Have you ever found yourself really wanting to love a product, but for some reason you just couldn't? That happened to be the case for me with the new Ultra MT running shoes from The North Face, a pair of trail runners that have all of the features you could possibly want out of your footwear, including comfort, durability, and traction. But unfortunately for me, they simply weren't compatible with my feet, which resulted in problems I rarely face when testing a shoe.

Designed to be the ultimate trail running shoe, the Ultra MT is lightweight, highly breathable, and quite durable. It comes with equipped with a Vibram Megagrip outsole and a ripstop upper that includes quick-drying collar linings and fabrics that are meant to keep your foot comfortable, dry, and cool on longer outings. In other words, this is a shoe that has been engineered to take on tough trails, and keep you moving at high speeds.

When I took my pair of Ultra MT's out of the box I was immediately drawn to their clean, minimalist design. These shoes look good, and the Vibram outsole gives them an aggressive edge that fits nicely with their overall ascetic. Putting them on my feet only reinforced the fact that these lightweight shoes were also very comfortable, providing plenty of support, with a snug fit that I prefer out of footwear. It wasn't until I started to run in them that I actually began to encounter any problems.

Eager to put my new running shoes to the test, I wore them to my weekly running group here in Nashville. That night's run was a mere 3.5 miles (5.6 km), which is well below my average daily distances. I figured that was a good way to start to break the shoes in, and see how they actually felt out on the course. It was a hot, steamy night that was eventually broken up by a steady rainfall, which soaked us all throughly. It also provided some solid conditions in which to test these shoes.

In terms of traction, the Ultra MT's performed as well as could be expected, providing sure footing, even in slick, wet conditions. The Vibram outsole kept a firm grip on the ground as I traversed mud, rocks, and pavement along the way. The shoes even did their best to keep my feet dry, although that proved futile considering how much rain was coming down. Still, I was impressed with how well the shoes shrugged off moisture, and allowed me to continue running despite the conditions.

About half-way through the run I first started to get an indication that the Ultra MT's might not be the shoe for me however. At about the two mile mark I began to feel a hotspot on the top of my foot that would eventually become quite painful. It started as an irritant, but by the time I reached the finish line it grown well beyond that. When I got home, and took the shoes off I discovered a small blister had started to appear on the knuckle of my big toe on my right foot. If I had gone much further, it probably would have turned into a significant problem, although at the time I chalked it up to be not only breaking in a new pair of shoes, but unusual conditions due to the rain. I would come to learn that wasn't the case however, and the lesson would be an even more painful one.

My second run in these shoes proved to be even more difficult. I took them out on a 7 mile jog in perfect weather conditions, and true to form I started to feel hotspots on both feet a few miles in. Those hotspots turned painful on the last few miles, and by the time I reached home the skin had been rubbed raw in the exact same spot on both feet. I would end up having nasty blisters that would last for several days, and left me limping around in pain. It was then that I decided that as much as I wanted to love the Ultra Mt shoes, they simply weren't meant to work on my feet.

Selecting the proper running shoe is a very personal thing, and in this case these clearly weren't meant for me. That doesn't mean that these shoes won't work for you however, as every foot is different. I found a lot to like in these trail runners, as they not only felt great on my feet, but provided plenty of traction too. Unfortunately, wearing them resulted in the kind of problems that all runners dread. You might not see the same issues with these shoes that I did, and in fact it is probably unlikely that you will. After all, The North Face does extensive testing on their gear, and if this were a common problem it probably would have shown up long before they ever shipped to retailers. I'm very disappointed however, as I had hoped to put some significant miles into these babies, which just isn't possible with wear and tear they put on my feet.

The Ultra MT running shoe from The North Face has all of the hallmarks of a good trail runner. They are very comfortable, lightweight – yet supportive – and provide plenty of traction. While it is unfortunate that they are incompatible with my feet, perhaps they will work fine for you. Competitively priced at $130 they are even very affordable considering everything they bring to the table. Give them a go if you're in the market for new trail running shoes. Hopefully you'll have more success with them than I did.

Gear Closet: Chaco Outcross Evo 2 Shoes

As mentioned last week when I reviewed the excellent Yura hiking shoes from ECCO, Alaska was a great place to test new gear. The varied terrain, weather, and activities that I experienced there gave me an opportunity to truly put some new items through their paces. Amongst the gear that I tested while there were the Outcross Evo 2 shoes from Chaco, which proved to be incredibly comfortable and versatile. In fact, they just might be my favorite pair of shoes that I own at the moment, as it has taken them no time at all to become my go-to footwear for just about any kind of outdoor activity, as well as just normal daily life.

Lightweight and good looking, these shoes score well in just about every category you could ask for. They offer excellent grip on a variety of surfaces – including we ones – and protect the feet from the challenges of the trail quite nicely.

As mentioned, the Outcross Evo 2 are also very comfortable, while requiring zero break-in time. In fact, the moment I put them on my feet I was immediately amazed at how they felt. This is a shoe that feels a bit like a minimalist trail runner, although the Evo's outsole provides far more protection than that description would lead you to believe.

Meant to be used as a light hiking shoe, that can also pull double duty as a water shoe as well, the Outcross Evo 2 excels in both categories, and more. I've worn these shoes while not only hiking and rafting, but also mountain biking and road cycling too, and they have proven to be equally adept at each of those disciplines. And because these shoes are so versatile, they make a great travel shoe too, possibly eliminating the need to carry an extra pair of shoes or two with me when I take off on a new adventure. As someone who is always looking for ways to cut weight from my bags, this is an added bonus.

When designing the Evo 2, Chaco integrated a soft, comfortable inner liner that actually eliminates the need to wear a sock with these shoes. This helps to keep the foot well protected while pursuing multiple outdoor activities in a single go, allowing the wearer to seamlessly transition from walking or hiking, to water sports, and back again without fear of developing blisters, hot spots, or abrasions. I have experienced none of those calamities while wearing these shoes over extended periods of time.

As you can probably tell, I am completely impressed with the Outcross Evo 2. But, if I had one hesitation about these shoes, it would be long-term durability. So far, I have seen no indication that they won't wear well for a long time to come, but because they are made of such lightweight materials, I can't help but wonder who they'll fare in the long haul. At the moment, they are performing marvelously in this area, and hopefully that will continue to be the case.

If you're looking for a comfortable, versatile, and affordable shoe that can see you through a wide variety of outdoor adventures, it is tough to beat the Outcross Evo 2. Chaco really does have a hit on their hands with this product, which I predict will make believers out of anyone who tries them on. This is one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn, and I think that many readers will find that to be the case for them too.

Priced at $110, I feel that the Evo 2 is quite a bargain when you consider everything they bring to the table. Perfect for light hiking, water sports, mountain biking, and travel, you'll be amazed at how many ways you'll find to use these shoes. That is a testament to just how great they really are, as you'll be looking for excuses to put them on. I can't think of a better endorsement for any shoe than that.

Gear Closet: Keen Uneek Shoes

One of the things I've always liked about Keen shoes is that they tend to be exceedingly comfortable, feature eye catching designs, and are usually built for adventure. That would sum up my thoughts completely on their Uneek sandals, which certainly live up to their name with their unusual look and design.

Over the years I've owned a number of shoes from Keen, and some of them have been amongst my favorite footwear ever. Their classic Newport sandal has been a mainstay in my gear closet for years, and has accompanied me on many trips around the world, including my recent visit to Egypt. But when I first saw the Uneek shoes I wasn't sure what to make of them. They aren't exactly unattractive, but they also don't look like anything you've ever seen before. They take an almost minimalist approach, although saying that would sell-short the amount of support and comfort they provide. This is a shoe that lives up to Keen's outstanding reputation, but just happens to look a bit different than anything they've produced before.

Any qualms you may have about how the Uneeks look are quickly dispelled once you put them on. They mold to your foot perfectly, creating a nice cushion that cradles your arches and provides plenty of support for long days or walking around town, or simply lounging at the beach. The lightweight, airy design feels amazing, and you'll be left wondering how a shoe that is so simple in design can feel so good when worn.

Part of what makes these shoes so unique – for lack of a better word – is how they are constructed. They're built out of just two cords and a sole, with everything weaved together in a way that is so simple, you'll wonder why no else had thought of it first. That construction method is what gives the Uneek shoes their special identity, setting them apart from the crowd in so many ways.

But don't think for a moment that Keen skimped on performance when created this footwear. They make an excellent water shoe for example, quickly draining away moisture and drying rapidly as well. This helps to make them a great option for kayaking and canoeing, hanging out at the beach, or just running errands around town. They make an excellent travel shoe too, as they are not only lightweight, but highly packable.

I have had one issue when wearing my pair of Uneeks for an extended period of time. The ankle straps tend to irritate the back of my feet when they are worn for longer periods, and it gets to the point that I have to take them off or run the risk of developing a blister. It should be noted that this only occurs when I've had them on for several hours, and usually if I've been particularly active. This seems to be more of an issue of how they fit on my feet, and is not a widespread issue. No other reviews that I have seen have mentioned this, but it is important to be aware of none the less.

That said however, it is easy to recommend these shoes. They are so comfortable in every other way that it is almost as if I'm going barefoot when I have them on. Their unusual design illicit comments and questions too, so don't be surprised if others ask you about them when you wear them out in public.

The Keen Uneek is available in six different color schemes and carry a price tag of $100. If you're in the market for a comfortable, lightweight, and unusual shoe, this one will certainly fill those needs very nicely.

Gear Closet: Jambu Bedrock Hiking Shoes

It never ceases to amaze me the number of footwear companies that are producing excellent shoes for use both on and off the trail. Take Jambu for instance, a company that I knew was out there, but until recently I had never gotten the chance to try out any of their shoes. But recently I had the opportunity to put their brand new Bedrock hiking shoe to the test, and came away extremely impressed.

The first think that struck me about the Bedrock shoes was how they didn't really look like a hiker at first glance. In fact, it would be easy to mistake them for a casual loafer if you didn't look closely. This gives them the ability to be equally at home on the trail as they are running around town, a level of versatility that I personally appreciate both while I'm at home, or traveling abroad.

The Bedrocks have a nicely understated design that doesn't make them appear overly flashy in any way, yet they still look stylish and attractive. They have a classic look about them that allows them to be worn with your typical hiking gear, or with casual clothes while out on the town with friends. As someone who likes to travel light, I truly appreciate their ascetic, as they can easily pull double-duty on any trip.

I have to admit that I wasn't enthralled with these shoes right from the start. While they looked good out of the box, when I put them on my feet I found them to be overly stiff, and a bit uncomfortable. But over the course of a couple of days I wore them around the house, gradually breaking them in a bit more. It wasn't long before they felt great on my feet however, and I started wearing them everywhere. I've read other reviews online that indicate that there is no break-in period required with the Bedrocks, but in my case it took a little time. Just keep this in mind when you're trying out these shoes for the first time, in case your experience is closer to mine.

In terms of performance, the Bedrock delivers everything you would expect out of a light hiking shoe. It has a waterproof upper made from nubuck leather that keeps your feet well protect from moisture. It also breathes well too, although I did find my feet getting a little warmer as spring temperatures rose.

The shoe also features what Jambu calls its Hypergrip soles that are designed to provide good traction on a wide variety of surfaces, both wet and dry. I can attest to how well the shoe holds its grip as I've used them on everything from pavement with snow and ice, to muddy, rocky trails slick from recent rainfall. The Bedrock provided sure-footing no matter where I took them, and I was continually impressed with their performance on any terrain that I used them on.

As mentioned above, it took a few days of wearing the shoes before my feet got completely comfortable in them, but once they did these I found that they were amongst the most comfortable hiking shoes I've ever worn. The footpads provide plenty of cushioning, and at the end of the day your feet and legs still feel refreshed and strong. In fact, I was never in any hurry to get these shoes off, which is something I can't say about every hiking boot I've ever put on.

Considering the level of performance they deliver, the Bedrock shoes are also quite light. They tip the scales at just 5.6 oz, which is surprisingly light for everything they offer. I appreciate their lack of weight as well, as once again it comes in handy when packing for a long trip.

Jambu has priced the Bedrocks at $129, which makes them a real bargain as far as I'm concerned. I've tested shoes that cost twice that much and weren't nearly as comfortable nor offered as good of performance.

If you're looking for a new shoe for spring adventures, than look no further than the Bedrock from Jambu. They look great, are very comfortable, and are versatile enough for both trail and town. They just might become your new favorite shoes that you'll want to wear everyday.

Outdoor Retailer Recap (Part 3)

All week long I've been sharing some thoughts on the gear that I saw at Outdoor Retailer last week. If you've missed my previous two installments, you can find them here and here. Before I put the show behind me for another year, and start planning ahead for reviewing some of the great gear that I saw there, I thought I'd share some more of my favorite pieces of equipment that were on display. Some of these items will be appearing on store shelves in time for the holidays, but many of them won't be available until next spring. That gives us plenty of time to start saving for the items that we really want to add to our gear closets in the future. So, without further adieu, here are more pieces of equipment to keep any eye on.

Osprey Hydration for the Whole Family
In my previous OR recap, I wrote about Osprey's great update for the popular Atmos pack, which has a new harness that is incredibly comfortable to wear. The company has also introduced new hydration packs for the entire family, with sizes designed for kids as young as three years old. The entire line has been updated to accommodate just about everyone in the family, with youth packs that are specifically built for the needs of active young people. Soon, every little hiker will have a pack made just for them, and I can assure you that they are adorable.

Nite Ize GearTies
I wasn't all that familiar with Nite Ize gear when I dropped by their booth, but while I was there, it was eye opening. The company makes dozens of products, many of which are truly innovative, delivering some unique functionally for outdoor enthusiasts. One such product is their GearTies, which are flexible cables that are versatile enough to be used to cinch up just about anything, either on the trail or at home. Better yet, the GearTies come with a docking system, which allows you to organize your garage or gear closet in an efficient manner, while still allowing you quick access to anything you need. This is one of those items that you don't realize you actually want, until you see it in action.

BioLight BaseCamp
BioLight continues to produce innovative products that give us the ability to charge our electronic devices in the backcountry, while also cooking our meals. A few years ago they introduced their CampStove, which allows backpackers to burn just about anything they have available, while creating electricity to power smartphones, cameras, and other devices. This year, they're taking it up a notch with the new BaseCamp model, a much larger stove with an integrated grill, light, and the ability to generate far more power. The stove has some innovative controls built right in as well, allowing you to cook in a variety of ways. The BaseCamp ships in September, and costs $299.

Goal Zero Venture 30
Goal Zero continues to push the boundaries of what we can expect out of solar panels, generators, and portable power sources. Their new Venture 30 is a small, hand-held, back-up battery for charging smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other electronic gear. It has smart sensors that automatically detect the best charging speeds for a given device, and it has the ability to charge two devices at once. A perfect travel companion, the Venture 30 will make it easy to keep your device charged up while you're on the road, whether you use one of Goal Zero's solar panels or not. It will run $99 and is set for a spring release.

Concept Shoes from adidas Outdoors
One of the best things I saw at Outdoor Retailer was a pair of concept shoes that may, or may not, be coming from adidas in 2016. The shoes are build for trail running, but have taken the innovative step of using a mountain bike tire as the soles, providing more grip and traction on rough, muddy surfaces. The fact that these shoes actually look amazing only adds to their appeal. A version of the shoe is in development, but what it will look like when it finally comes to market remains to be seen. Still, in their present state, they are already inspiring gear-lust in more than a few of the attendees at OR. Here's hoping adidas deliver on the promise.

Mammut Comfort High GTX Surround Boots
Speaking of awesome looking footwear, Mammut also took the wraps off a great looking boot scheduled for release in the spring of 2015. It is the Comfort High GTX Surround, and it uses new Gore-Tex materials to provide unmatched breathability and ventilation, while keeping the foot warm and dry. These super-lightweight boots still provide plenty of stability and protection in the mountains, and happen to look amazing too. They were on display in both Mammut and Gore's booths, so you know that they are excited about delivering this product to consumers. MSRP is about $199, which is very affordable for a shoe that delivers this much performance. I'm looking forward to checking these out.

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 Pack 
As usual, Mountain Hardwear had a host of great new products on display, including a super lightweight jacket designed with mountain runners in mind. But I was also impressed with their new Scrambler 30 daypack, which looks like it'll be great for short adventures into the mountains, or as a nice travel pack. This year, the pack adds OutDry fabrics, which will make it a completely waterproof product. That adds a new layer of versatility and functionally to a pack that is a great size, and already has a good history. Fans of Mountain Hardwear products will not be disappointed with this update to an already outstanding product.

That's all from OR 2014. I hope to be reviewing a number of these products in the weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned for my thoughts on these gear items.

Outdoor Retailer Recap (Part 1)

I spent the better part of last week in Salt Lake City, Utah, attending the annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Market gear show. As always, it was a lot of fun to catch-up with friends, while soaking up the outdoor adventure atmosphere, and checking out all of the new gear that will be making its way to our favorite shops in the months ahead. As usual, the convention center was jammed with all kinds of interesting products that are indicative of where the industry is headed, with new packs, tents, sleeping bags, boots, and so much more on display. And while I rarely saw anything revolutionary there, the best gear companies in the business continue to refine their gear, giving us clothing, footwear, and other items that perform at an increasingly amazing level. 

While it is impossible to share with you all of the great gear items that were on display, here are a few of the things that caught my eye, and stood out from the crowd. 

Osprey Updates Atmos Line of Packs
For my money, Osprey makes some of the best packs available on the market, and almost every pack that I use for travel or outdoor pursuits comes from the company. It doesn't hurt that they have the best warranty in the business, and are constantly striving to improve their products. My favorite pack of all time is an Osprey Atmos 50 that has been on six continents with me. New for 2015, Osprey will update this very pack with a new suspension/harness that wraps around the body, cradling it snuggly. This new suspension allows for better load balancing, and provides increased ventilation as well. When the pack is placed on your back, it actually fits like a glove, not moving an inch. I have a feeling, backpackers are going to love this bag when it arrives next spring. 

Salomon S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX Shoes
The folks at Salomon had a lot to share as well, as they continue to refine their amazing trail running products. One of the items that they unveiled at the show was a new pair of shoes designed for moving fast and light in the mountains. The boots feature a waterproof upper, built-in gaiter, a flexible carbon-fiber frame, and a lightweight body. Designed by ultra-runner Kilian Jornet, these shoes are built for speed on rough, icy terrain, and he put them to good use on his recent speed record on Denali. He also used a prototype of a great new mountain running pack coming from Salomon as well, and I promise that if you like moving fast and light in an alpine setting, you are going to want this pack too. Both the shoes and the backpack are scheduled for 2015 release as well. 

Keen Uneek Shoes
Salomon wasn't the only ones showing off fantastic footwear. My friends at Keen also unveiled their new Uneek line of shoes, showing us how to completely change the way that footwear is made. These shoes certainly live up to their name, but the comfort and sense of style that they bring to the table is simply unbelievable. You've never seen anything like them, and you've never worn anything like them either. 

Switch Sunglasses
I've been a fan of Switch sunglasses for some time, and each year they continue to make solid refinements to their already great products. The hallmark of their eyewear is the ability to quickly and easily swap out lenses that are designed for use in a variety of different lighting conditions. But their new products include fuller frames that give the wearer the option of adding or removing gaskets that help seal out external elements such as sand, dust, and snow. These great looking frames can pull double duty in all kinds of weather, making them great on the water, on the slopes, or on the mountain. Truly versatile sunglasses that look great too. 

Sherpa Adventure Gear Clothing
The team at Sherpa Adventure Gear has a great new line-up of clothing coming our way. The company already has an extensive collection of apparel for outdoor adventure and travel, but they'll add new items that include PrimaLoft-Merino wool and PrimaLoft-down blends that will add even more technical capabilities to their clothing. The Nangpala Jacket, scheduled for next spring, looks amazing, and should perform well in poor weather too. Meanwhile, the Vayu base layers promise to keep us warm in all of our favorite cold weather activities. Made in Nepal, the Sherpa products are versatile, durable, and look great too. 

5 Owls Personal Shelters
One of the more unique, and interesting, products that I saw at the show was a new line of personal shelters designed for backpacking and travel from a company called 5 Owls. Inspired by the bedrolls that cowboys carried on the back of their saddles, these shelters roll-up to be quite small, and yet contain everything you need to stay warm and dry no matter where you go. An integrated sleeping bag, and an innovative shelter system make them a breeze to set-up. The system is designed to allow you to sleep comfortably under the stars, but have a quick and easy shelter when poor weather sets in. The company's Ranger 2 products is great for equestrian or car camping, while it's Solo Shelter is built with the backpacker in mind. The designer of this product has put a lot of thought into how everything works, and it shows when you see it in action. 

This is just a tip of the iceberg for what I saw at Outdoor Retailer, and I hope to share more in a second post soon. I'm also hoping to get my hands on some of these products down the line, so I can test them myself, and post reviews. There are a lot of excellent new products coming in the months ahead, so prepare your wallets now. You'll want to replace your old gear with some of these updated products for sure.