Gearing Up

Our goal with Gearing Up is to introduce you to the brands that will help get you outside and active.  Below we will highlight several outdoor companies, sharing their history, their stories, and humanitarian projects in which their products and businesses help fuel.  We hope you enjoy and learn something new…

Keen Marshall Mid WPGearing Up
You may know Keen from their toe protecting sandals but since the creation of the Newport in 2003, Keen has come a long way! They still own the “my toes are invincible, ain’t nothing stubbing these bad boys” market but they have evolved far beyond those days with new offerings on the casual and hiking boot front. Keen boasts about designing for your HybridLife and making products that work for you throughout the day as well as minimize their impact on the places you play. They partner with conservation groups and those inspiring responsible outdoor participation all over the world.

When I had the chance to try out the Marshall Mid WP, I was intrigued yet skeptical. I’ve always been one to choose a light trail runner over a clunky boot for even the toughest of treks. But it’s much easier to tromp through a shallow stream crossing or a snowy trail with a pair of boots on than some lightweight ventilated trail runners, so I gave them a try.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Marshall’s the first time I put them on, they are very light and flexible. Not too far removed from my beloved trail runners but with the added protection of Keen.Dry (Keen’s proprietary waterproof breathable membrane) and their nylon shank as well as the added height of a mid-hiker, allowed me to feel more protected. They performed well on the snowy/muddy hike up to Tinker Cliffs, no seepage, no wet socks…happy feet! My feet also did not feel fatigued after the 7+ mile hike. I will most likely add a pair of SuperFeet based on my high arches (and the general awesomeness of SuperFeet, but that’s for another review). Overall I give them a thumbs up, but I would consider sizing up a half size. I found mine to be a hair short, especially with a nice winter-weight sock.

Gerber Cortex High Output Tactical Flashlight319v0F8+UZL._SY450_
I recently had the opportunity to use (play with) the Gerber Cortex High Output Tactical Flashlight. First off, I’d like to say, Holy Awesomeness! I’ve never had a flashlight like this before and I feel as if I could literally slay vampires with the high output light that is omitted from this thing.

Like most I had not fully researched the product before pulling it out of the packaging, loading up the batteries and then going off on my nightly walk with my pup. When I returned I quickly looked up the specs and this is what I found;
a)      There are two types of power sources (multi- battery options) you can use with this flashlight; 1) two standard AA batteries, and or 2) three CR123 Batteries. Great option if you are in a pinch and cant find one or the other.

b)      If you go with the AA batteries you will get 390 lumens on the High setting and then 28 on the low setting (what you would get with a traditional two Cell D Maglite).

c)       If you go with the CR123 batteries (which is where I started) you will get 675 lumens on the high setting (vampire slaying/light saber mode) and 30 on the low.

Honestly, I had to ask Google what the heck a lumen was… Google’s response; the measurement of continuous light… laymen, 675 lumens is roughly equivalent to a 45 watt incandescent light blub.

Designed as a tactical light, keys functions designed to; overwhelm an aggressor or identifying a threat.  In my situation however equally as useful shedding a ray of sunshine around me as I walk my dog at night.  The downside to using it as said “light saber” is that the battery life does not last long.   In the highest setting this thing will only give you about an hour and half of life however in the lower setting you get about 40 hrs.

Overall, for its size and power this has been a great light to carry around on those walks. I love the fact I have multiple options with batteries and then lumens. If I need to shed some serious light on a situation I am ready, but for those everyday situations am very happy with the regular setting. I will say because I have showed off the “light saber” mode so much I currently  need some new batteries.  I am trying to promise myself I wont burn out the next round as fast but its hard to say, light saber mode is pretty awesome.

Highroller USA Big Wheels
Remember the 1969 Marx Big Wheel plastic tikes? Spending the day cruising around, working on power slides and the 360 spin!?!?! Thanks to Matt Armbruster and about 118 backers, the Big Wheel trike returned in 2012. The style is extremely similar, and is designed for that same kid that was riding them 30+ years ago…which means they are for the “big kids” still out there.SZ4_7335-Large1

Here are the Specs:

  • 26 inch rubber front tire for supreme traction
  • Freewheel Hub for high speed coasting
  • Stout steel frame & fork holds over 300lbs
  • Alloy V-Brake and levelers for solid stops
  • Plush custom seat for your cruising pleasure
  • Plastic rear wheels on Ball Bearing Hubs for thunderous powerslides
  • Bell and tassels standard

If the part about speed coasting and thunderous powerslides didn’t pull you in, surely the bullet point about bell and tassels at least made you smile….

So why are you telling me about this you ask? Well Underdog Bikes located on Piedmont Street is partnering up with Roanoke Parks and Rec to provide you the opportunity to take one of these guys out for spin. If riding solo is not your thing you will be happy to hear, we have four in stock…Check it out, take them for spin or two and then get some HITS Ice Cream. Sounds like a perfect day to me…You are Welcome Roanoke!!!

NRS Baron 4 & 6 Stand Up Paddle Boards
Last summer, while searching for something new to do, I came across standup paddle boarding. I added it to my list of activities to try, but never got around to accomplishing it. With Roanoke Parks and Recreation offering programs from learning to SUP all the way to SUP yoga (currently adding this to my list), I was able to check SUP off my list of activities to do!baron

Northwest River Supplies, or NRS, began in, now retired college professor, Bill Parks’ garage in 1972. His goal was simple: “to provide his fellow paddlers with good gear at good prices, and to put some of the theories he’d developed as a business teacher into practice.” Reaching paddlers in the U.S. and around the entire world, NRS has become a major force in the outdoor industry with products such as kayaks, SUP boards, and rafting equipment. Despite the fact that the company is housed in an old warehouse annex with only “four prison-style windows,” Parks has established a business that provides good times, great vibes, and awesome products.

The NRS Baron 4 & 6 SUP boards provide a convenient way to get out on the water. Because they are inflatable boards, they’re easy to transport. Even a Smart Car could carry a few! The PVC drop-stitch material makes these SUP boards tough and able to withstand higher air-pressures than that of conventional inflatables. Both come equipped with an 88” L by 27” W grippy foam pad deck surface, 3 stainless steel D-rings for gear and leash attachment, and plenty of room for a small cooler and even a pet.

To Demo check out  local Backcountry Ski and Sports located in Salem, VA or sign up for one of our Parks and Recreation Programs!!!  These NRS Baron standup paddle boards are sure to offer great experiences and memories for just about anyone.

NEMO Helio Pressure Shower51rx628AA3L._SL1500_
Picture this: You’re out playing a little Kan-Jam by the shore until the sun goes down. You head back to your tent to find your feet completely covered in sand and salt. Sadly, the whole stick-your-feet-in-the-water-with-sandals trick is not going keep the sand out of your sleeping bag… Enter, the Helio Pressure Shower by NEMO.

Originally starting out as a mountaineering and adventure racing company, NEMO has also developed an innovative line of backpacking and day use equipment to support a larger market. The company has also released G.R.N (Green Rethinking by NEMO) products such as the first, nearly 100% recycled tent, to promote a more sustainable and green way of life outdoors.

If you’re also like me and you’re a sucker for a company with a mind for those in need, then this is another reason to add NEMO to the list. In 2010 they began donating $2 from every prodeal sale to 5 major non-profit organizations. They support organizations such as, Wounded Warrior, the Humane Society, and Conservation Alliance through donations, product giveaways, and volunteer efforts. Also after the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, NEMO donated over $30,000 worth of tents and other items for disaster relief.

Unlike other gravity showers on the market, the Nemo Pressure Shower can be used pretty much anywhere, anytime without having to be hung up in a tree or having your buddy hold it while you take a bath (sorry buddy, you are now obsolete). Conveniently packing away in a 5.5”X8.5” pouch, this 11 liter (3 gallon) shower has become another valuable component to cleaning up after a variety of activities such as; car camping dishes, sandy SUP excursions, muddy mountain bike rides, and the always important…brushing of the teeth.

Staying true to NEMO’s philosophy, the Helio Pressure Shower definitely allows you to “Adventure Anywhere.”

Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO) Hammocks

Summer BBQ’s have started! With summer gatherings close at hand (picnics, festivals, music, screens on the green, camping, etc.) I find myself looking for some classy accoutrements to bring along with me. I have my sunglasses, cooler, beverages to go in the cooler and…my hammock.

What a perfect set up, I can use the hammock to lounge, nap, sit, swing for “AC” and it packs away conveniently in my backpack. I have always thought of a hammock as a luxury item, something I would just pull out for a Sunday afternoon, or put out at the neighborhood BBQ for ambience. Recently on one of my treks I came across a backpacking encampment where 20+ hammocks were hanging in the trees. This backpacking crew meets up once a month hits the trail, finds a place to set up said, Ewok village and camps out in their hammocks, simple concept…awesome idea.

Those guys all had the brands they recommended that will stand the test of time. The ones I’ve become a great fan of are from Eagle’s Nest 994274_10152933838055366_1764224875_nOutfitters (ENO). ENO provides some great light weight, reliable hammocks with several accessories to make the experience more enjoyable. Last year I was able to witness firsthand what these hammocks could endure during our three day, Go Outside Festival. ENO had come out, set up several hammock pods and then sat back and watched as thousands of kids came through the festival. I was surprised as the ENO rep literally sat back and watched as these kids put a hurting on these things, including what I call the “barrel roll test”. He pretty much said, if their hammocks can survive an event such as this, they could survive pretty much anything. No better marketing tool out there…

I put their double wide hammock on my Christmas list; now that the weather has turned for the better I’ve quickly become a big fan. They are a great encouragement to getting outside and enjoying the day. Not only for those lazy Sundays, but also minimizing the weight for a weekend trek and or to entertain the kids for a few while you sit back and enjoy the open air.

Mad Rock Demon Climbing Shoes

demon shoe mad rockWith climbing programs returning to the calendar for Roanoke Parks and Recreation,  it seemed only fitting to highlight the most important part of the climbing experience—shoes. Good shoes can get someone excited about climbing and make it part of his or her lifestyle for many years. Bad shoes can make it the worst day of their lives. When it comes to climbing shoes, there are so many choices on the market and so many specific needs of a foot that one may not know where to begin…

Lace up or Velcro? That is a very visible difference that most shoppers can make when presented with a wall of shoes at their local retailers. Why the difference? Well, lace ups traditionally are shoes that will be worn for a long time—think multi-pitch climbing. You want a shoe that is going to get on your foot and not come off.   Lace ups also usually have a design for the foot to sit more flat in the shoe.  Velcro helps when you want an aggressive shoe,  the shoe should fit very (very) snug, and stick to the hold or rock and not move.  When you are done with the climb, you want them off, and fast. That is where the Velcro comes in.

Luckily, there is a company on the market that is throwing everyone’s initial impressions for a loop—Mad Rock Climbing. They have continued to be on the forefront of innovation and comfort since 2002 and have recently produced the Demon, a Velcro, bouldering style, aggressive shoe that is comfortable enough to wear for an extended amount of time. The initial appearance is aggressive—downward toe, three straps of Velcro, bright orange color, but once you get it on your foot, it hugs in all the right places. On the rock and on holds, the rubber is super sticky and the shoe does not move. The three strap system is great for tightening specific spots of the shoe, while keeping others loose for circulation and comfort. The mid-sole is made of a polycarbonate plate which keeps the shoe light (240g), but very stiff for toeing those hard to grab footholds that are just within reach.

The most important part about climbing shoe purchases is make sure you try before you buy. Stop at a local retailer and ask the staff there to measure your foot and try on several pairs before making that final decision.   Staff at outdoor stores are trained on shoe fitting, shoe features, and many times offer demos at our local River Rock Climbing Gym.  Outdoor Trails, Walkabout Outfitters as well as Back Country Ski and Sports all sell climbing equipment and can offer great advice on purchases.

If you are interested in trying climbing we have several  rock climbing trips designed for beginners to intermediate climbers.  We look forward to seeing you out there!

Zippo, 4-in-1 Woodsman
Like many outdoor enthusiast finding and buying gear ends up becoming more of your hobby than the actual hobby you are shopping for.  Often times you get stuck on a piece of equipment you want (“need”) and then spend most of your time trying to find out which brand is the best.  For example, sleeping bags, it may be possible that I have spent more time researching sleeping bags than I have actually slept in my mine, small exaggeration, but you understand where I am coming from…zippo 4in1

To get to the point, and the reason why I bring this up is because the 4-in-1 Woodsman was a piece of gear that I found and instantly knew, I “needed” it.  Hands down, NO research required.  Catering to my inner child still running around the woods, humming the Last of the Mohicans theme song, this Hatchet combination is one of the best 4-in-1 tools I have ever played with.

I’ve had combination gear/tools in the past and ultimately found them to be the “As Seen on TV” gimmicks that never get used or break rather quickly.  This certainly is not the case with Zippo’s 4-in-1 Woodsman.  Any YouTube video out there featuring this product will show you all the uses better than I can describe.  Essentially you have; a hatchet, a bow saw, a hammer and tent stake remover in a convenient and packable package, packable being one of my favorite features. Click Here for Video.

As the supervisor for our Trails Division, I saw this as a handy tool to throw in a pack, and hit the trails via foot or bike.  During the trail inspection if we found any down trees or limbs hanging low we could make those changes quickly and effectively.  I would not say this is a perfect tool for an all-day Trail Work Crew, but is great for those quick fixes and then great to have in your camping bin for those overnight car camping trips.  The only thing I think they are missing is adding the Zippo Fire component to this tool.  If they figure out a way to get a flame thrower on this hatchet, I think I’ll be set for life…

Goal Zero, Switch 8 Portable Recharger

switch-pdp-1000x667Goal Zero, to my prior knowledge I knew them as another company out there selling portable; solar panels, battery packs, generators, lights etc.

Initially I think, oh great, another portable recharger.  I believe Groupon has about 20 of these things being sold on their website as we speak.  How do you choose one over the other, especially when some cost more than others?  After a quick review on Goal Zero’s webpage, skimming through their history, their humanitarian efforts, and then their products, I can say for sure, they easily stand out above the rest…

Since their inception they have lived by their mission statement “… to empower people because we believe in human potential. The potential to go farther and do more than you ever thought possible; the potential to provide a sustainable future for you and your family; the potential to make a difference in the lives of people everywhere.”

Easy to say, hard to do, in which case this is their response:

June 2009: A New Beginning
Goal Zero launches as a business. Our mission: to empower people by putting reliable power in the hands of every human being, based on a mantra of Zero Apathy, Zero Boundaries, and Zero Regrets.

February 2010: Haiti 7.0 Earthquake
Humanitarian partners in Haiti offer Goal Zero batteries and lights after the earthquake. Given the choice of a bag of rice or the Goal Zero gear, people chose power and light.

March 2011: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
Goal Zero donated hundreds of lighting kits and solar panels to families in Japan who were without power as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

November 2012:  Hurricane Sandy
With the launch of the “Buy One, Give One” campaign, GZ Nation sent 9 Goal Zero employees and almost $600,000 worth of portable power, solar panels and lights to those living in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

July 2013:  Share the Sun Launches
Share the Sun, Goal Zero’s humanitarian program launches in online sales, giving GZ Nation the power to change lives by donating sun shares to projects of their choice.

November 2013:  Typhoon Haiyan Relief
GZ Nation comes through again, donating $300,000 in power, lights and Barebones structures for victims of Typhoon Haiyan with Charity Vision and Team Rubicon.

In less than 6 years Goal Zero has not only revolutionized portable powered devices, they have also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in products to their cause.  I was a bit flabbergasted to be honest.  I tried to think about what I have accomplished in the past 6 years.  After some not so serious contemplation, I recognized I came up a little short of GZ Nation.

After spending some time shopping around, I came to the decision I wanted to try out the Switch 8 portable recharger.  I had a few long flights in my near future and I wanted to be sure I had the power to make calls when I landed, and then most importantly, watch the movies loaded on my ipod.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed with my mini charger; I was able to watch my ipod battery power diminish and replenish two full charges before I needed to plug myself back in.  I could not be more satisfied with the Switch 8 and look forward stocking up on more Goal Zero products for our Multisport Trip to Maine in August.

Earth Easy, Life Straw
Ever run out of water on the trail? There is nothing worse than pumping measly ounces of water lifestrawthrough a purifying pump while you’re dehydrated. One simple solution to this issue is the LifeStraw, a personal water filter that allows users to consume water straight from the source, be it a stream or puddle. The LifeStraw can even be inserted into any wide mouthed water container. Developed by Vestergaard Frandsen Group, a corporation dedicated to helping those in third world countries through innovation while creating a healthier, more sustainable planet, The LifeStraw is The Ultimate addition to your med-kit or back-up water supply.

Weighing in at only 2 ounces and about the size of a large whiteboard pen, the LifeStraw is extremely lightweight for the powerful filtration punch that it packs. It uses no chemicals; batteries or moving parts, only advanced hallow fiber technology that filters bacteria (99.99999%), protozoa (99.9%) such as E. coli and Giardia, and particles down to 0.2 microns in size (EPA filtration standard is 1 micron). Containing zero chemicals allows the LifeStraw to have an indefinite shelf life, but is said to be effective for filtering up to 264 gallons of water. So leave your nasty iodine tablets behind and quit drinking that hot water you just boiled.

The LifeStraw and its technology are revolutionary ways to filter water on the go. But this is not the sole reason for the creation of the LifeStraw. Even in our rapidly modernizing world, around 17 percent of people do not have access to clean drinking water, causing many to travel far distances form home, only to collect water that can contain harmful bacteria, that can lead to a variety of waterborne illnesses. When you purchase a LafeStraw, which retails for $20, Vestergaard will assure that one school child in Africa will receive clean water for an entire school year. These efforts have been in practice since 2005 and continue to help those in need.

Adidas Outdoor, Terrex FAST R Trail Running Shoe

adidas outdoor shoeAdidas…Outdoor!?!?  Not until recently would I have considered Adidas as a brand I’d show off in the “outdoor recreation spotlight”.  When shopping for gear I normally find myself drawn to; North Face, Mountain Hardware, Outdoor Research, Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, etc.  After all doesn’t adidas stand for, All Day I Dream About Soccer?

I was wrong, on both accounts.

First off, the adidas Group was named after the founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler, who started his shoe company around 1924 in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria.  Using a bicycle to power his equipment Adi and his brother Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler produced a number of shoes and spikes that were later used by U.S. Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens in 1936.  Four gold medals later, the first sponsored African American catapulted Dassler shoes to the top of the industry.  Before World War II the Dassler brothers were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes per year.  After the War, the brothers parted ways, Rudi starting his own company called Ruda, from Rudolf Dassler, later know as Puma, and Adi officially starting his company, Adidas from Adi Dassler.

Roughly 30 years later, Adidas developed a light trekking shoe for climbing legend Reinhold Messner’s Mount Everest Expedition.  This was the start of Adidas Outdoor.  Since then Adidas continues to develop products inspired by Messner, as well as other outdoor athletes  from around the world.

With that  said, the adidas outdoor Terrex FAST R may have just become one of my new favorite trail running shoes.  Immediately when I tried the shoe on I felt like I had just put on a snug sock, with some serious tread.  As described on their site, the Terrex FAST R is designed to move fast on the mountain, and comes equipped with:

  • Outdoor-specific FORMOTION® unit for enhanced motion control and downhill comfort,
  • High-abrasion mesh and synthetic upper materials for breathability and durability,
  • ADIPRENE®+ in the forefoot maintains propulsion and efficiency,
  • OrthoLite® odor-resistant moisture-wicking sockliner,
  • TRAXION™ outsole provides the best grip and agility during fast activities,
  • Continental™ rubber for optimal grip in wet conditions.

This shoe is very comfortable and lives up to the tradition of a quality product coming from Adidas.  This shoe would be a great shoe for trail running at Carvins Cove or Mill Mountain and or a taking a hike on one of our or Thursday Hikes.  I am very impressed with this line and am looking forward to owning more Adidas Outdoor footwear and clothing (down jackets and technical layers)  in the future.