Showing posts with label Trail Running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trail Running. 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.

Find out more at altrarunning.com.

Video: Karl Meltzer - Made To Be Broken Official Trailer

Last year, ultrarunner Karl Meltzer set a new record for the fastest time on the Appalachian Trail, covering the full 2190 mile (3524 km) distance in 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. That's averaging roughly 48 miles per day for those keeping tack at home. Now, a full-length documentary film about his experience is about to be released, and we have the trailer for it below. This just gives you a glimpse of what to expect from the film, which his entitled Karl Meltzer: Made to be Broken. The doc will officially debut next Thursday, April 13. But you can find out more about Karl, this tremendous achievement, and the film itself by visiting its official website. It looks amazing and I can't wait to watch the full thing.

Want to Take Part in A Groundbreaking Study on Kilimanjaro This Year?

Kilimanjaro is one of the most alluring challenges for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers from around the globe. Each year, thousands flock to its slopes in an effort to reach its lofty summit – the highest in Africa at 5895 meters (19,341 ft). But, many of those climbers never make it to the top, and some even experience serious health issues along the way. There are even a surprisingly high number of deaths not he mountain each and every year, usually due to complications with altitude.

This year, a the University Hospital of Gießen and Marburg in Germany is conducting a study of how our bodies react to altitude in an effort to learn about how to threat this suffering from altitude sickness. To do that, researchers are looking for 25 people to participate in a study that will take place on Kilimanjaro this September. But, the study isn't looking for just your average trekker. Instead, they would like to find mountain bikers or mountain runners who are willing to join them on the mountain and consent to being tested throughout the climb.

The Kilimanjaro Summit Challenge will take place from September 24 through October 1, and will begin with a three-day training camp prior to the start of the climb. This will allow participants to acclimatize to the altitude and for the researchers to study how the altitude is impacting their bodies.

Rainer Braehler, who is organizing the event, tells adventure sports journalist Stefan Nestler "Up to now, pursing sport seriously on a mountain like Kilimanjaro was a dream limited to just a few elite athletes,but with this study, ambitious amateur athletes can now test their limits at very high altitudes – with the reassurance of full medical supervision.”

If you think you'd be interested in joining the study, you can find all of the information you need, including price, dates, and full agenda, and how to apply by clicking here. Not only will you be going on an adventure of a lifetime, you'll also be helping science find ways to help us be more efficient at altitude. 

Video: Wonderland - Great Adventures in the Wilderness

Remember that sense of wonder you would often have when you first set out into the wilderness? That feeling that you were exploring a place that no one else had ever seen, and the potential for discoveries were unlimited. That is the same sense you'll get from this video from Salomon TV, which reminds us that great adventures await us outside in nature. All we have to do is go find them.

Video: Enduring the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Trail Run

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is considered one of the toughest trail running events in the entire world, drawing hundreds of competitors from across the globe on an annual basis. In this fantastic short documentary we get an inside look at that race courtesy of our friends at Columbia Sportswear and Teton Gravity Research. As with most long-distance endurance events, the race is a blend of agony and joy, with runners pushing themselves to their absolute physical limits over the course of the 103-mile (165 km) route. Along the way they pass through three different countries – France, Italy and Switzerland – as they take on some of the toughest and most beautiful terrain the Europe has to offer. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Video: How Every Runner Feels Each Morning

Here's a video that most runners will be able to relate to. It's that resistance we all must overcome before we hit the road or trail where it feels so much better to just stay in bed or relaxed on the couch. Sometimes we need a bit of motivation to get out the door, although usually once that happens, it's all good. The clip captures that little voice inside all of our heads so very well, and urges us to fight that resistance. Get out there and run. You know you'll feel a lot better afterwards. This is motivation on those days when you just don't want to exercise.

Territory Run Co. - Fight the Resistance from Steven Mortinson on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Mountain Hardwear Thundershadow Jacket

Good rain gear is essential for any outdoor adventure, particularly in the spring when frequent showers make it a challenge to get outside as often as we'd like. The right rain jacket can be a revelation however, allowing you to comfortably and easily enjoy your favorite activities no matter the weather. That's what I found in the new Thundershadow Jacket from Mountain Hardwear, a category-defining product that is a dramatic improvement over my previous rain jacket. 

Before I started writing this review, I stopped to think about the last time I wrote about a dedicated rain jacket. Looking through my notes, I saw that it was exactly seven years ago to the day that I posted a review of the Helium Jacket from Outdoor Research, which at the time was one of my favorite pieces of gear. But times have changed, and fabrics and materials have evolved dramatically over that period of time, providing better all around protection with greatly improved breathability, something that is key to any piece of waterproof gear. I still wear that Helium jacket on a regular basis, and it has accompanied me on trips all over the world. But, as my gear has improved over the years, I've noticed that it doesn't perform as well as I would like. 

With that in mind, I was eager to see how far good rain gear has come since I wrote that review. So when I was offered a Thudershadow Jacket to test, I jumped at the chance. It has been fairly rainy where I live recently, which has provided plenty of opportunity to put the new jacket through its paces. What I discovered was that I could indeed have a rain jacket that provided a protective layer from moisture on the outside, while still allowing the moisture underneath to escape as well. 

Mountain Hardwear used its proprietary VaporDry fabrics when creating the Thudershadow. Those materials have been tested and perfected in other products over the years, and have proven themselves to be extremely efficient at not only keeping moisture out, but venting excess heat and perspiration as well. As a result, I stayed much drier than I did with my old rain jacket and didn't find myself peeling out wet clothes after a particularly energetic hike or run. That couldn't be said about the Helium, which often left me almost as wet as the rain if I wore it for extended periods of time while working hard on the trail. 

Of course, waterproof and breathable fabrics are nothing new to the outdoor industry, even if they have come a long way over the past few years. But Mountain Hardwear also managed to mix its VaporDry materials with a 40D ripstop fabric that has some surprisingly good stretching properties as well. This prevents the Thundershadow from inhibiting your range of motion, which makes it great option for not just hiking and backpacking, but trail running, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities too. And since those same fabrics are lightweight and highly packable (the jacket stuffs into its own pocket), it is a great choice for travelers as well. 

Weighing in at 11.8 ounces, the Thundershadow isn't the lightest rain shell on the market, but it isn't especially bulky either. At that weight, it hits the mark for performance and durability, without adding too many extra ounces to your pack. If you're extremely weight conscious you may want to look elsewhere, but for the rest of us this jacket strikes a nice balance. 

Other features of the Thundershadow jacket include a large, fully-featured adjustable hood that is helmet compatible and a pair of zippered chest pockets that are accessible even while wearing a pack. There are also pit zips that provide even more ventilation for when things really get heated up, although to date I haven't had to use them much. I imagine as temperatures continue to warm into the spring, they'll come in handy though. 

Priced at $175, this isn't a rain jacket for your casual outdoor enthusiast. But for those of us who demand good performance and a high level of comfort from our gear, and frequently find ourselves in the backcountry when the weather takes a turn for the worse, this is a jacket that will prove invaluable. It offers an impressive blend of both protection from the elements and a high level of breathability, two factors that will help to keep you dry. Its stretch properties will make the Thundershadow a favorite with outdoor athletes as well, which makes it very easy to recommend to readers of The Adventure Blog. 

If you're in the market for a new rain jacket this year, this is an excellent option. I waited far too long to upgrade mine, but now I'm very glad to have this one in my gear closet. 

Buy online at REI.com

Gear Closet: Osprey Duro 6 Hydration Pack

Trail runners listen up! There's a great new pack you're going to want to check out, and probably add to your arsenal. The new Duro 6 hydration pack from Osprey delivers the level of quality and thoughtful design that you expect from that company, with a few nice additions that you're definitely going to love out on the trail.

The Duro 6 is just one part of Osprey's new line of hydration products, which also include the Duro 15 and Duro 1.5 packs, the Duro Solo belt, and Duro Hand bottle holder. The ladies version of the packs go under the name Dyna instead, but offer very similar features, just with a more female-friendly design. These packs are designed to be lightweight, comfortable to wear, and offer plenty of storage options for everything from a short training run to a an all-day race.

While Osprey's long heritage of creating excellent backpacks can be easily seen in the Duro 6, one of the first things you notice is that it also includes a design that is closer to a vest-style hydration pack, which have become increasingly popular amongst trail runners in recent years. I personally have come to really appreciate this type of pack as it keeps the bag from jostling around too much while I run, and yet doesn't impede motion in anyway either. Plus, the Duro hugs the body nicely and is so comfortable to wear, that you almost forget that you have it on. That's not something I can say about some of the other running packs I've tested over the years.

Despite it's relatively small size – just 6-liters of carrying capacity – the Duro 6 has plenty of room in its main compartment for carrying an extra jacket, wallet, keys, and a few other spare items for out on the trail. Better yet, the harness itself has a number of well placed, zippered pockets for carrying snacks, gels, and even your smartphone, while larger harness pockets provide room for water bottles too. As if that wasn't enough, there is a larger stuff pocket on the back and two stretch mesh pockets on the sides as well. In short, there are a surprising number of places to carry all of the gear and food you'll need out on your run.


The Duro 6 ships with a very nice hydration reservoir that can hold up to 1.5 liters of water. That reservoir is easy to fill, seals up tight, and slips in and out of its designated sleeve within the pack with ease. It's bite valve offers plenty of water on demand, while Osprey's patented magnetic retention system keeps the hydration bladder's hose out of the way until you actually need to take a drink. This is a feature that another pack I've been testing lately does not have, and I found myself sorely missing it while on longer runs.

As someone who tends to get very warm, and sweat a lot, while on a run, I always worry about how much adding a pack to the mix will potentially increase my discomfort out on the trail. But, I can honestly say that the Duro 6 is so lightweight and easy to run with, that I haven't really noticed much of an impact in this area at all. Granted, I've been running in relatively cooler temperatures so far, but this vest/pack hybrid has been a joy to run in, and has now supplanted Osprey's own Rev 6 as my new favorite running pack.

While this bag is obviously aimed at trail runners, it can also pull double-duty as a mountain biking or light hiking pack as well. In terms of carrying plenty of water and offering a surprising amount of onboard storage, you'll be hard pressed to beat the Duro when you also factor in all around comfort and efficiency. If you're in the market for a lightweight, versatile pack for your favorite outdoor aerobic activities, this is a great choice. And since it comes with Osprey's All-Might Guarantee, you can bet its built to last too.

Priced at $110, the Duro 6 is in my book, a very good value. Osprey has managed to pack a lot of features and design elements into a compact package that trail runners are absolutely going to love. And with spring just around the corner, you know you're going to want a new pack to help you get back up to speed out on the trail. This one will do that, and more.

Buy at now at REI.com.

Osprey Packs | Duro/Dyna Series | Product Tour from Osprey Packs on Vimeo.

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.

Longest Running Streak in History Ends After 52 Years

Like me, I know a lot of Adventure Blog readers are regular runners. Not only is it a great way to stay in shape, it helps me to unwind and let go of some stress, while also being an excuse to get outside for an hour or so everyday. On average, I run six days a week, usually taking Sundays off for a rest. Probably the longest I've ever gone without a break is 35 days or so, as part of a fitness challenge. That's not a bad streak for an amateur. It also isn't anywhere close to the record set by Ron Hill, a former Olympic athlete from the U.K. who just saw his string of uninterrupted running days end this past weekend.

On Sunday, Hill took his first day off from running in 52 years, 39 days. The streak began back on Dec. 21, 1964 and continued through January 28, 2017. That's 19,032 days for those keeping track at home. Hill said that he went out for his usual run on Saturday, but after just 400 meters his heart began to hurt, and that he final 800 meters of his 1 mile jog, the situation got worse. So, he decided to hang up his running to determine what went wrong, saying "There was no other option but to stop. I owed that to my wife, family and friends, plus myself.”

Over the course of his very impressive streak – which is a world record by the way – Hill ran at least one mile each and every day. For more than 52 years, no matter how he was feeling, what the weather was like, or what other events were going on in his life, Ron went out for a run. It must have felt incredibly strong for him to not do that on Sunday.

Streak runners are quite proud of their impressive string of days that they run at least one mile, and American Mark Washburne tries to keep tabs on the longer streaks that are underway in various parts of the globe. Now that Hill's has come to an end, he says that the next longest streak belongs to Jon Sutherland, a 66 year old who lives in West Hills, California. His current streak sits at 17,417 days, which is about 47.5 years. He still has a long way to go to catch Hill, but at his age it could be done, provided he stays healthy and determined. Perhaps even more amazing, is that Washburne has averaged 11.2 miles per day over the course of those years.

I'll be thinking of both of these men when I set out on my run later today. Both are definitely impressive. I know that after my 30+ day streaks that my body was fatigued and ready for a break. I can't imagine going years without taking a rest day.

National Geographic Announces People's Choice Adventurer of the Year

Way back in November National Geographic announced its selection for the 2016 Adventurers of the Year, with ten very worthy individuals earning that title. But of course, that still left the winner of the  People's Choice Adventurer of the Year, which is awarded to the person from the original list who earned the most online votes from general public. That voting took place through mid-December, and now all of the ballots have been counted and the recipient can be named at long last.

This year's Nat Geo People's Choice Adventurer of the Year is none other than Mira Rai, a trail runner from Nepal who is blazing her own route. The naturally gifted runner didn't even begin competing seriously until two years ago, when she inadvertently found herself taking part in the Kathmandu West Valley Rim 50k race. But having grown up in the Himalaya, and spent her whole life adapting to the challenges of those rugged mountains, running was simply part of life there. In that first race, she ran further than she had ever gone before. She was also the only female participant, and yet she managed to finish even though she didn't have fancy gear, equipment, or even food and water.

Since then, her career has taken off, and Mira has attracted the attention of sponsors. But, in 2016 she suffered a ruptured ACL that kept her from running as much as she would like. So, to refocus her energy elsewhere she organized the first race to take place in her home village, a simple outpost where most people are content to just eek out a subsistent living. More than 100 people came to participate, and the always-jubuliant Rai proved once again that she could beat the odds.

Now, she has done that yet again. Bolstered no doubt by a lot of votes from back home, the Nepalese runner now stands alone as the People's Choice Adventurer of the Year. Read more about her story here, and check out the video below to get a more personal look at this inspiring trail runner.

Congratulations Mira! This honor is well deserved.


Pursuing a Speed Record on the Hardest Mountain Trek in the World

A few months back, a team of endurance athletes set out to Bhutan to attempt to set a new speed record for trail running along the Snowman Trek, largely considered to be one of the toughest trekking routes in the entire world. The goal was to complete the entire route in less than 14 days – fave days faster than the previously best known time. Along the way they faced tough trails, lots of altitude gain and lost, the thin air of the mountains, altitude sickness, brutal weather conditions, and more. Now, a few months after the expedition wrapped up, National Geographic Adventure has the story of this daring adventure in the High Himalaya.

The team that set out to run the length of the Snowman Trek consisted of endurance athletes Ben Clark, Anna Frost, Tim Olson, and Chris Ord. They had a support team with them as well to help carry gear and supplies, but even getting a group of locals to help with the logistics was a challenge. No one wanted to join the team, as all of the experienced guides in Bhutan thought that their plan was impossible to complete in the time that they had set for themselves. The original trek leaders and support crew quit right before the team was preparing to embark on their quest, leaving them scrambling to find others who were at least willing to try.

But the finally did get underway, and the details of their story are fascinating and at times harrowing. I don't want to spoil too many of the details, as the Nat Geo story – written by veteran endurance athlete Mat Hart – is incredibly well done. I will say this however, the group did manage to set a new speed record on the Snowman, and in the process redefined what can be done on that intensely demanding route.

Read the entire story here. It is a good one, and well worth a look. I'll be thinking about this group of runners when I set out for my own nightly run later today.

Gear Closet: Mountain Hardwear's 32 Degree Insulated Hooded Jacket

It's no secret that Mountain Hardwear has long been one of my favorite outdoor brands. I've always appreciated their no-nonsense approach to making great gear for use in some of the most extreme environments on the planet, and over the year's I've come to rely on the company's commitment to quality and performance. But, as the company grew and found more mainstream success, it also seemed to lose some of its focus. Its products were never out-right bad, but they for a time Mountain Hardwear was no longer delivering top-notch, cutting edge products that we'd all grown accustomed to seeing from them. By their own admission, the company got a bit complacent, which is not something that sits well with its core customers.

Thankfully, that era seems to be a thing of the past, and MH is currently in the process of righting the ship and getting back to the basics that made it such an innovative brand. As a result, over the past six months or so, it has been releasing some fantastic products, including the Dragon hoody I reviewed a few weeks back, and the awesome new StretchDown Jacket that has broken new ground. Better yet, I've seen a glimpse of things to come from Mountain Hardwear, and I can promise you the company has some amazing things in the pipeline for next spring and beyond.

But, if you're looking for something in their current catalog that stands out as a great piece of performance apparel, look no further than the 32 Degree Insulated Hooded Jacket. It is an exceptional piece of gear designed to keep you warm and moving fast on the trail, that also happens to be priced great too. This high-performance soft shell carries a price tag of just $130, making it extremely affordable, even for those of us who have never worn any of Mountain Hardwear's clothing before.

Weighing in at a mere 9 ounces (255 grams), the 32 Degree jacket is meant to be a lightweight option for skiing, snowboarding, winter trail running, or backpacking and hiking. Insulated with Mountain Hardwear's very own proprietary Thermal.Q Elite synthetic materials, it can keep you warm and comfortable on the trail, even when the temperature starts to plunge or precipitation begins to fall.

That said, it should be pointed out that this jacket is not waterproof, and although it does offer solid protection from the elements, it isn't the best option for wearing in a steady rainfall. Instead, it is a lightweight option for those active days out when you want to move fast and light. The cut and design of the jacket is meant to conform to the body nicely, providing warmth without hindering motion in anyway. I've found that it does exactly that, allowing me to move well while running, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. For me, there is nothing worse than having my range of motion inhibited, but thankfully that isn't a compromise I have to make here.

One of the more interesting design elements for the 32 Degree jacket is its body-mapped insulation, which distributes it to places on the jacket where it is most needed. In this case, most of that insulation has been placed on the chest area to help keep your core warm while outdoors. That leaves the sleeves and lower half of the jacket with less insulation, allowing those parts of the body to breath more and vent out heat and sweat in the process. As a result, you tend to stay drier – and thereby warmer – when wearing this hoody in your active pursuits. The placement of the insulation also comes in handy afterwards, which is often when a chill can set in.

While this jacket obviously performs very well on its own, I've also used it as part of a layering system as well, and found that it works great in that capacity too. Throw a shell over the top, and you suddenly add water and wind-proofing to the mix. Add a baselayer underneath, and you're truly set for cold and inclement weather. This level of versatility makes it a great option for just about any outdoor pursuits, as well as a good choice for adventure travel too. And since it is so lightweight and thin, it won't take up much room in your luggage either.

As mentioned, one of the true strengths of this jacket is its price. You'll be hard pressed to find so much performance out of a jacket that is this affordable. The fact that it has the Mountain Hardwear logo on the chest tells you that you can expect durability and quality as well, which means it will be a garment that you'll be able to take with you on many future adventures. It also happens to be a great holiday gift for that outdoor enthusiast on your list.

Find out more at MountainHardwear.com.

The 2016 Adventure Blog Holiday Shoppers Guide (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted my first round of picks for the best gifts for the outdoor lover in your life in the form of Part 1 of my Holiday Shopping Guide. Most of the items that made the cut are products that I've personally used and really enjoy, but they also mostly focused on the basics for the general outdoors, including boots, a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and so on. Today, in Part 2 of the shoppers guide I'll offer up some suggestions for other categories as well, including travel, running, cycling, and so on. Hopefully you find these suggestions to be good ones as you get ready to head out and start hunting down the perfect gift for the adventurer on your list.

Altra Men's Superior 2.0 ($110)
If you're looking for a great trail shoe for the runner on your shopping list, look no further than the Altra Superior 2.0. I practically ran the bottoms out of mine this year, as they are comfortable, lightweight, and offer plenty of room in the toe box. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find a shoe that offers better balance and control on the trail. (Buy at REI.com) (Note: These are on sale at both REI and the Altra website for $76 right now)

Craghoppers National Geographic Response Compresslite Travel Jacket ($95)
The Response Compresslite from Craghoppers is my new favorite travel jacket. Incredibly lightweight, yet warm and comfortable, this jacket stuffs into one of its own pockets for easy packing, yet when needed performs like a much bulkier and heavier puffy. The jacket looks great, isn't overly technical and is priced right. It is the perfect companion for the traveler who is active, but isn't venturing into the more remote areas of the world where something more serious is required. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

Catalyst iPhone Case (Prices vary by model)
Lets face it, our smartphones are a constant companion these days no matter where we go. That means we have to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are well protected, both from accidental drops and the elements. I haven't found a case that does that better, without compromising the look and feel of my iPhone, than the ones made by Catalyst. These cases don't add a lot of needless bulk to your mobile device, and yet they still offer an amazing level of protection. The cases are available for the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7, as well as the "+" models for each of those generations too. Once in place, the phone is waterproof and shrouded in a case of armor that is will keep it safe from just about anything. (Note: Catalyst also offers cases for the iPad and Apple Watch too.)

Power Practical Luminoodle Plus Camp Lighting ($39.99)
Camp lighting has come a long way in the past year or two, to the point that there are now a number of awesome options to choose from. One of my favorites is the Luminoodle Plus from Power Practical, which uses a portable battery pack to power a flexible string of lights that can be strung up just about anywhere. Waterproof and durable, these lights give off up to 180 lumens, but the light is dispersed more than with a headlamp, making it easier to enjoy when sitting in your tent or lounging around the campfire. (Note: The Luminoodle Plus is on sale for $28.50 right now)


Stacked Wireless Charging System for iPhone ($99.99)
Speaking of iPhone cases, here's one that not only keeps your phone well protected, but also offers the ability to charge it without having to plug in cables as well. The Stacked Wireless Charging System has everything you need to keep your iPhone charged both at home and on the road, plus an optional car adapter ($49.99) not only does the same in your vehicle, but is great for mounting the smartphone where it can be reached for navigation too.

Ledlenser SEO 7R Headlamp ($90)
A good headlamp is essential for adventure travelers and outdoor lovers a like. The SEO 7R from Ledlenser can fill both niches nicely. It offers 220 lumens of light, and a burn time of up to 20 hours, and since it comes equipped with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and can also use AAA batteries as well, you never have to worry about running out of juice again. (Also, for the mountain biker in your life, check out Ledlenser's amazing XEO 19R headlamp, which puts off a blinding 2000 lumens of light to illuminate the trail.)

Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket ($65)
Want the same comfort and warmth that you get from your down jacket in a blanket? Rumpl has you covered with their Original Puffy Blanket. Made of high quality fabrics that are weather resistant, and filled with the same insulation found in sleeping bags, this is the best outdoor comforter you could ever ask for. Warm and cosy in the tent, backyard, or cuddling up around the fire at home, it is simply the best. And since the blanket packs down to an incredibly small footprint, you can take it with you when you hit the road too.

Eagle Creek Afar Travel Daypack ($119)
Every traveler needs a good daypack to accompany them on their journey, and Eagle Creek's Afar pack is perfect for just about any kind of excursion. Made from durable fabrics and with integrated anti-theft zippers and lock points, the Afar offers plenty of storage for carrying essential gear for the day. It includes a laptop sleeve large enough to hold a 17" notebook, a passport pocket, a padded, breathable backpanel, and a built-in ego-skeleton that adds increased durability. It is even water and abrasion resistant so it can handle the rigors of the road. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

ExOfficio Isoclime Thermal Hoody ($90)
We all need a good looking and versatile wardrobe at our disposal for when we hit the road, and ExOfficio makes some of the best travel clothes around. Their Isoclime Thermal Hoody features casual good-looks, but it is also warm, comfortable, quick-drying, and has the ability to wick moisture away from the body as well. Additionally, it works well as a layer under a warmer jacket, or completely on its own depending on your needs. And of course, if you're ordering anything from ExOfficio, don't forget to pick up a pair of their legendary underwear. No adventure traveler should ever leave home without at least one or two pairs. (Buy at REI.com) (Note: The Isoclime Thermal Hoody is currently on sale for $44)

Adventure Medical Kits World Travel ($80)
Staying healthy while traveling is never easy, but with the World Travel first aid kit from Adventure Medical Kits, it is a lot easier. Packed with items to keep you healthy while away from home, this kid literally has everything you need, an then some. The World Travel is stocked with enough bandages, gauze, medications, and tools to keep a family of four well stocked for a month on the road, and probably longer. It even comes with a handy guide for treating common injuries as well, and when you start to run low on supplies, AMK has handy refill picks too. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

Solavore Solar Sport Camp Oven ($239)
Want a unique and fun way to cook at your campsite that is also good for the environment? Check out the Solar Sport oven from Solavore. This oven comes with everything you need to create some amazingly tasty meals at your campsite using nothing but the rays of the sun. It does require a bit of planning and forethought on a part of the chef, but the results are amazing, including the ability to bake bread or cookies, make pizza, casseroles, and so much more. Designed more for car campers than backpackers, this oven will nevertheless turn you into a camp gourmet.

There you have it. More picks for the best gifts for the traveler and outdoorsman or woman in your life. Anyone of these items is something I'd like to find under the tree come Christmas Day, and chances are your loved one will too. Happy Holidays!

Reminder: Don't Forget to #OptOutside This Friday

We are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., and as such I'll be shutting down the blog over the next couple of days to enjoy some time with friends and family, as I'm sure many of my readers will be doing too. But, before I step away I wanted to remind everyone that Friday of this week is also "Black Friday," that annual ode to consumerism in which many people flock to shopping malls and department stores in search of the ever elusive big sale. But, just like last year, there is an alternative – you can #OptOutside instead!

Last year, gear retailer REI made headlines when it elected to close all of its stores on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Instead of luring in customers, the company decided to give all of its staff the day off and encouraged them to go outside to pursue the activities they love. They offered the same encouragement to us – their customers – as well.

Needless to say, the promotion was a big success, so REI is doing it again this year. Their stores will be closed – including the website – and the company's employees will once again get the day off. But this year, more than 500 other organizations are joining the #OptOutside campaign, including the national parks and many state parks as well. If you're looking for a place to go to get outdoors, check to see if the parks near you are offering free entrance to celebrate the day.

I'm happy to see that this movement has continued for another year. Hopefully it will become an annual tradition, not just for REI, but other stores as well. Most of all, hopefully it will be a tradition for most of us too. After celebrating Thanksgiving with the family on Thursday, gather them all up for an outdoor adventure on Friday. You won't regret it for sure.

How will you #OptOutside this year?

Gear Closet: Ledlenser NEO Headlamp for Runners

Fall is here and the long days of summer are completely behind us. Now, when I head out for my evening run I am typically greeted only by darkness. That means I need to use extra caution when running on busy roads and take steps to make myself more visible. Reflective clothing helps in that area, but to truly be seen – and see the path I'm running on – I often wear a headlamp as well. But, living in an area where the temperatures are still a bit on the warm side, a full-sized headlamp can be quite warm and burdensome on longer runs. Thankfully there are lightweight options available that have been designed specifically with runners in mind, such as the NEO from Ledlenser, which may have just become my favorite light for after-dark workout.

Weighing in at just 1.9 ounces (54 grams), the NEO is designed to be lightweight and comfortable to wear. When I took it out of the box, I was immediately struck by how thin the headband was, which helps to eliminate some of the heat generated by wearing it during an intense run. That same headband is still strong enough to hold it firmly in place however, as once I put it on the headlamp didn't move at all while I was exercising. That hasn't always been the case with similar lights that I've used in the past, and it can be frustrating to constantly have to adjust the fit while on the move. Thankfully, that isn't the case at all here however.

Despite its diminutive size, the NEO also manages to crank out plenty of light. On its brightest setting it throws off up to 90 lumens, which is fairly impressive considering how small the headlamp is over all. At that setting, the replaceable AAA batteries can last up to 10 hours, which isn't a bad burn-time either. I usually don't need that level of brightness on anything other than trails, so while running on city streets I set the lamp down to its lowest setting, which is a still-useful 20 lumens of light, which can be produces for up to 40 hours. The headlamp also has a flash mode, which I seldom use, and a red light on the battery pack that makes the wearer more visible with traffic approaching from behind as well.


In addition to its various illuminating modes, the NEO also protects its light at an ultra-wide 150º angle. I've seen some other reviews of the product online that criticized this aspect of the headlamp as they felt that it diffused the light too much, with the reviewer instead preferring to have a more narrower, and thus brighter, beam. Personally though, I like being able to see in a broader area when I'm running so that I can notice things approaching from the side. For instance, on a recent evening run on a very dark trail I was able to see a deer running alongside me about 10 meters ahead. If the angle of the light were a bit less, I probably wouldn't have noticed the animal at all, nor been able to adjust my running path to avoid wandering too close.

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty impressed with this headlamp. In fact, about the only thing I would have liked to have seen different would be replacing the standard AAA battery with a rechargeable power cell instead. Most of the other headlamps that I use today are rechargeable, and it is hard to beat that level of convenience. This is especially true if you run nearly every day, which means you'll go through the batteries on the NEO fairly often. Of course, I also understand that adding a rechargeable battery may have caused this headlamp to be bigger, which is a compromise I'm not sure I'd want to make. As it stands, the NEO is the perfect size for frequent runners to take with them on their evening outings.

When I'm selecting a headlamp to wear when I'm running I'm fairly particular about the features that I'm looking for, but the NEO checks all of the boxes. It is small, lightweight, and comfortable to wear. It is also plenty bright, has good battery life, and includes a red rear light for additional safety. Ledlenser has also imbued the light with a measure of water resistance, making it safe to use while running in the rain too. In short, it is pretty much everything that a runner could want out of a headlamp. And, priced at just $25, it is very affordable too. In fact, considering everything that it brings to the table, I find the NEO to be quite a steal at that price.

With the holidays coming around the corner, this would make a great stocking stuffer for the runner in your life. Find out more at Ledlenserusa.com.


REI Invites Us to #OptOutside Again This Fall

Last fall, gear retailer REI made headlines when it announced that it would close all of its brick and mortar stores, as well as online shop, on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday. Instead of chasing the almighty dollar on a day that should be about spending time with your family, the company elected to give all of its employees the day off, and encourage them – as well as the rest of us – to head outside for an adventure. They even used the hashtag #OptOutside to promote the movement, which was adopted by several other outdoor brands like Outdoor Research as well.

Yesterday, REI announced that it will again be closed on Black Friday, and that it is encouraging its employees and customers to skip the crazy shopping madness that is typical for the day, and instead head outside to enjoy some time with nature. That means that on November 25 all 149 REI stores will be closed, and the company's more than 12,000 employees will be free to spend time with friends and family, as well as pursue their favorite outdoor adventures.

In addition to that, over 275 national and local organizations are joining in on the fun this year as well. Those entities will also be encouraging their communities to #OptOutside on Black Friday too, as this movement seems to be picking up even more steam heading into its second year.

REI has also launched an activity finder on the #OptOutside website to help you find organized events, and other things to do, on November 25. That search engine lists local hikes, trail running outings, organized mountain bike rides, climbing excursions, skiing trips, and more. If you're at a loss for things to do where you live, this will surely help.

Obviously REI received a ton of publicity for its decision to close its doors on Black Friday last year. The company more than made up the revenue it would have made on that day with the exposure it received with the #OptOutside campaign. But it would be easy to dismiss this as just a marketing scheme if I hadn't met some of the representatives of the company a few weeks back. It is clear that the gear retailer genuinely cares about helping its staff, members, and customers to get outside and enjoy their time in nature, and while #OptOutside has been a good marketing campaign, the people who run the company definitely believe in the message they are sharing too. You don't find that in too many companies these days, and it is refreshing to say the least.

This attitude also makes it easy to want to support REI too. Which is exactly what I'll be doing on November 25. Hopefully you will too.

Gear Closet: Altra StashJack Lightweight Running Jacket

Fall is here, which means cooler weather and unpredictable conditions that can make it much more challenging to know how to dress for our favorite outdoor activities. On some days you need a jacket, and on others you don't. And then of course there are those times when unexpected rain showers strike, making you wish you had brought a jacket with you even though you didn't think it was needed. That's exactly where the new StashJack from Altra comes in handy. It is a super lightweight option that has been so well designed that you won't ever have to decide whether or not you should bring it on your adventures.

A quick look at the technical specs for the StashJack provides some insights into why it is such a nice piece of kit. For example, it weighs just 3.3 ounces (93.5 grams), provides protection from both wind and rain, and it features a loose, tapered fit that gives your body room to move while taking part in fast-paced activities. It also includes some reflective highlights to help keep the wearer more visible in low conditions, and it is made with trimmed and flat locked seams that make it more comfortable to wear.

But, that is really just the beginning. Because what makes the StashJack so special is its ability to be stuffed into a tiny carrying pouch that comes complete with a built-in adjustable belt. This gives you the ability to wear the jacket around your waist until you truly need it, at which time it can be deployed in a matter of seconds without ever having the need to stop moving at all. The jacket even features an open back that is designed to wrap around your pack so you won't even have to remove it to put the jacket on.


This clever design comes our way from the team at Altra, a company focused on making excellent products for runners and hikers. Already this year I have reviewed both their Superior 2.0 trail running shoes and Lone Peak 3.0 hiking boots. In both cases, I came away very impressed with how comfortable and well made those products are. The StashJack doesn't disappoint in anyway either, only further increasing my confidence in Altra gear.

I've worn the StashJack on several runs this fall when I thought there was a chance of rain. On a couple of those occasions I managed to put in my milage before the bad weather set in, which normally would have annoyed me since I had brought a jacket along for no reason. But in this case, the StashJack attached securely to my waist, and because it is so lightweight, I pretty much forgot that it was even there. The included belt kept the jacket from bouncing around while I moved and it did nothing to impede my natural running movements.

On a couple of other occasions dark clouds did decide to open up and drop some rain on me while I ran. It was at those times that I was very happy to have this jacket along for the ride. I was able to quickly and easily pull it out of its stash pouch and put it on, taking just a few seconds to wrap myself in lightweight protection from the elements. This allowed me to happily continue with my workout without getting soaked to the bone.

It should be pointed out that the StashJack is made to be wind and water resistant, which means in more severe storms it can soak through, and heavy winds will still bring a chill to your body. But considering the fact that it weighs just 3.3 ounces, it performs quite well, even in those more demanding situations.

You don't have to be a runner to appreciate what the StashJack brings to the table. Hikers will certainly find this an appealing product as well. It's combination of convenience and svelte design make it a great choice for travel too, allowing you to wear it where ever you go, and instantly have a light jacket that you can pull on at a moments notice.

Priced at $130, the StashJack is more expensive than many will probably want to pay. But it is surprisingly durable for its size and packs in a high level of performance. If you're a daily runner (like me), you'll find this is a jacket you'll want to own. Having it in your gear closet for other occasions, like going on a day hike or traveling to a foreign city where rain is in the forecast, extends its value beyond just my regular workouts. Yes, it is possible to find a rain jacket at lower price, but you'll be hard pressed to find one that offers such versatility as well. For me, that makes the asking price well worth it.

Get one for yourself at Altra.com. And don't forget to grab one for the runner on your holiday shopping list too.

Men's Journal Gives Us 14 Epic One Day Adventures

Last Friday was a National Day of Adventure, and while I wasn't in the country to celebrate, you can bet I was off on an adventure of my own that day. Hopefully you took advantage of the opportunity and hit your favorite trail, climbed a new route, paddled some open water, or did something equally fun as part of the celebration. But if not, Men's Journal is here to help with a list of 14 epic adventures that you can do in a single day.
Whether you like ride a mountain or road bike, prefer to hike on your own two feet, or are down for some aquatic adventures, this list has something for you. For instance, some of the suggestions that earn a nod from the MJ editors include a hike to the summit of 5267-foot (1605 meter) Mount Katahdin in Maine or trekking through the Vermilion Cliffs of Arizona. Other options range from riding a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail on your mountain bike to cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina. And for those who prefer their adventures to be waterborne, the list suggests running the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia, which is at its peak this time of year with Class III to V rapids.

I won't spoil the entire list, as half the fun is discovering what adventures actually made the cut. Needless to say however, there some great suggestions here with destinations spread out across the entire U.S. Chances are, you live fairly close to several of these places, and could potentially fit one or two of them in on a busy weekend.

Of course, this list is also a good reminder that there are plenty of opportunities for adventure just outside our door at all times. Perhaps its time to head out and explore some of those options and remember why there is no place like home.

Reminder: October 14th is a National Day of Adventure

As I get ready to head out of the country once again tomorrow, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone that next Friday – October 14, 2016 – had been declared a National Day of Adventure by Men's Journal and Victorinox, the company behind the iconic Swiss Army Knife.

While not an official holiday of course, the entire point of the NDOA is to encourage people to get outside, engage in their favorite outdoor activities, or perhaps even try something new. To that end, the two sponsors of the Day of Adventure have helped organize more than 30 events across the U.S. to give us all a starting point for getting our adventures off to a good start.

While I'll actually be in Spain on that day, I'll certainly take some time to hit a trail and do some hiking, or possibly even some snorkeling in the Mediterranean Sea. And since it is a Friday, hopefully some of you will take part in the celebration by heading out to enjoy your own adventures too. Why not skip out of work early, grab your mountain bike and take a ride on your favorite trail? Or, gather up some friends and take a scenic hike somewhere before grabbing some dinner and drinks afterwards. The whole point is to add a little excitement and adventure back into your life, something that hopefully we do on a more regular basis than one day a year, but it is a good place to get started never the less.

So, whether your like to ride, hike, run, paddle, fly, climb, or some other crazy outdoor activity, don't forget to set a little time aside to pursue that passion next Friday. After all, you'll never regret the days that you do the things you love, and you might just discover other passions along the way.

Get out there and enjoy!