Monday, March 26, 2012

New Home on the Web!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Survival Straps: Adventure with Confidence

"Confidence comes from being prepared." -- John Wooden
It seems that with each passing week we are confronted with a news story about hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or day hikers lost in the backcountry.  While there is no way to tell ahead of time when disaster will strike or how bad it will be, we can still be prepared.  Of course the difficulty with most “survival equipment” is that outside of the traditional pocket knife, not much comes in a convenient “carry around all day” form. Enter Survival Straps.

Made from bullet proof military spec 550 paracord, Survival Straps are designed to be worn as a casual bracelet and then unravelled and deployed when the moment of necessity strikes.  

Why Paracord? First introduced and applied in parachute construction during WWII, paracord was was quickly recognized for its use in other tasks. Today it is used by both military and civilians for countless general purpose tasks  There are five primary benefits of paracord:

  • Strength: In just a 1/8 inch diameter cord, an incredible breaking strength.
  • Durability: It can be used over and over again while remaining flexible and durable.
  • Light Weight: Specifications require that 225 feet of cord only weigh 1 pound or less.
  • Water & Mildew Resistant: Dries quickly, and will never rot or mildew.
  • Inner Strands: The unique ability to remove the inner strands make this cord extremely versatile.
In short, the uses of this versatile multi-filament nylon cord seem nearly unlimited.

The benefit of Survival Straps is this: whether you use their bracelet, belt or key fob, the company puts the benefits of this must have survival tool - quite literally - right at your fingertips.  So whether the moment requires building a shelter, tying a tourniquet or simply fixing your boots out on the trail, tackle your adventure with confidence knowing that you are fully prepared.

The standard Survival Bracelets are made with up to 16 feet of military spec paracor - each one with approximately 1.75 feet per every inch of wrist size. A size 7.5 provides you approximately 14 feet of paracord when unraveled. Plenty to help get you out of a jam.

Room for Improvement...

Crafted from tough marine grade stainless steel, the Stainless Steel Shackle Closure feature on the Survival Straps is striking in appearance.  The downside is that it can be difficult to secure and release if you plan on taking the bracelet off frequently.  Secondly, a
t $24.95 the Survival Straps feel as though they fall on the high side of affordability.  Then again, perhaps the true question is this: What price would you pay to be prepared when the moment calls?

The Bottom Line...
As outdoor enthusiasts we are all keenly aware of the importance of being prepared.  We never know when disaster will strike, but Survival Straps help you face your moment of trial with certainty and may be the difference you need.  Gumption tested... gumption approved.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hi-Tec Women’s Sundance Peak Parka

Style and winter apparel haven’t always gone hand in hand.  For the Mountainista it can be difficult to look hot when your core temp is steadily dropping.

Enter the Women’s Sundance Peak Parka from Hi-Tec. This down jacket shields your body from the elements while providing a flattering cut that’s sleek and stylish. Cozy 550-fill down insulation and ripstop shell provide incredible warmth without weight or bulk for a streamlined fit and flattering silhouette. The outer fabric is a classy cire finish that will resist snowflakes, snowballs and the occasional snowmelt drip from a roofline - and you can seal out cold air by cinching the dual hem drawcord. 

Once again the design crew at Hi-Tec has done a tremendous job with the details.  Like the 
Roaring River Softshell Jacket, the Sundance Peak Parka has our much beloved reverse-coil zippers with a contoured rubberized zipper pull. The reverse-coil zippers provide smooth and catch-free usage while the rubberized zipper pull with tight gridlock pattern ensures you'll be able to operate your jacket even when your digits are on the frigid side.

Unzip the Parka and you’ll discover Hi-Tec has included a ribbed nylon ribbon on the storm flap for extra protection against the elements when mother nature decides to express her jealousy over your winter style. 

Room for Improvement...
Despite all the positive attributes of this stylish winter jacket there were a few qualms our Gumption Gal had with the Sundance Peak Parka:
  • The Sundance Peak Parka does shed more down feathers than we would like.
  • The exterior pockets felt shallow and would benefit from a cozy fleece lining.

The Bottom Line...

Down is just as functional on the city streets as it is in the mountains, and now Hi-Tec ensures mountainistas everywhere have an affordable and stylish option to keep them warm wherever their adventurous spirit leads.

Columbia's Treadlite & Endura Backpacks: Attitude and Innovation

"Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted." — George Kneller

As Columbia will readily admit, there was a time not that long ago when the company had settled into a comfortable niche of merely cramming apparel and gear into big department stores. Thankfully for outdoor enthusiasts that is no longer the case as Columbia is once again on a creative quest re-examining what they once did with fresh eyes. The result is a wave of product and technology launches resulting in gear that will satisfy the unbridled hunger for adventure that rests within each of us.

As mentioned in our
First Look review, Columbia’s new series of backpacks including - the Treadlite 22, and the Endura 50 are ample demonstrations of the Company's new direction: Attitude and Innovation.  After spending eight weeks testing every aspect of these packs, Columbia not only further solidified our initial impressions, they exceeded our expectations.

The personality of every pack begins with the fit and feel of the straps. If the straps aren’t comfortable then little else matters. Towards those ends Columbia has outfitted their new backpacks with their innovative Techlite shoulder harness system. 
Light, breathable, and yet wide enough to disperse pressure Columbia’s design team didn’t just nail this feature, they crushed it.  In fact, we’re willing to bet these prove to be the most comfortable, durable and technologically advanced straps you’ve ever slipped onto your shoulders.

The design wizards at Columbia create Techlite by co-molding 2 pieces of Techlite foam around a lightweight breathable scrim mesh. The scrim mesh runs through the strap serving as a frame which provides strength without adding weight. And since we all believe in keeping our outdoors clean and pure you can feel good knowing that the Techlite manufacturing process reduces waste by 25–30%, keeping material out of the landfill.

Treadlite 22

Following up on the athletic fit of the straps, both the Treadlite and Endura packs feature a narrow profile design providing significant freedom of motion so you can revel in your adventure whether out hiking, biking, or slashing through fresh fallen powder. And because you don’t want to slow down while out breaking trail, Columbia included easy grab zipper pulls on these packs ensuring quick and easy access to all the necessities.

And while you’re in the process of conducting your intensive search for those necessities, know you’ll be aided by Columbia’s “Silverback reflective interior” which helps illuminate the interior of your pack meaning you won’t need to find that flashlight before you find that granola bar.

Whether criss-crossing downtown Aspen or the surrounding countryside, Columbia’s Backdraft Aerating Suspension System keeps the pack elevated from your back while helping circulate air to keep you cool, dry, and comfortable. So when you’ve been out crushing the trail and you break for lunch the only wet spots on your back will be from the nearby waterfall. For those moments your trail mates fall too far behind fear not for the Endura and Treadlite packs feature a built in emergency whistle on the sternum strap.

From top to bottom Columbia has crafted a pack that is as tough as your adventure.  Should you get caught in a drizzle or a blustery blizzard while out conquering the wilderness, the packs also feature Columbia’s Omni-Shield water-repellent treatment to protect your gear.  
Rugged Tarmaq bottom protects your pack for those moments you’ve got to sling it down on some granite to take a picture of that brown bear stalking the opposite treeline.

Room for Improvement...

No one likes to suffer from dry mouth out on the trail.  As such we appreciate the fact that each of these packs is 3L hydration compatible.  That being said, the combination of a topped off hydration reservoir and Columbia’s AirMesh suspension system does result in a leaving less gear capacity in the main body of the pack which may prove to be frustrating to those out for longer adventures. Secondly, while we are thankful for the incredible adjustability of the Treadlite and Endura packs, both a little too strap happy for our liking. While each strap serves a vital purpose in helping to provide a proper fit, our field team still found the straps to be excessively long proving to be a bit cumbersome in tucking up and out of the way while out on the trail.

Bottom Line...

From color scheme and logo integration all the way down to the important details of trekking pole attachments and built in emergency whistlesColumbia has crafted a series of thoughtful packs that will tackle any adventure.  Whether day hiking or a pushing to the summit, Columbia’s Endura and Treadlite’s clean functional design will get you to your destination in comfort.  Available in January 2012, prepare to grab these packs that are as serious as you are about the outdoors.

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Look: L.L. Bean Men's Summit Trekker Snowshoes

Since the Snowshoeing boom in the 1990s, the number of models on the market has mushroomed. Simultaneously, the technology has greatly improved: bindings are easier to operate yet more secure; frames are lighter, stronger, and more streamlined; and cutting-edge materials are being used in everything from the frame to the decking.
Thanks to this rash of innovations and refinements, snowshoes are more user-friendly than ever. Moreover, the consumer has more choices than ever so all you need to do is find the pair that fits your needs and head off into the great white fields of powder when cabin fever sets in.
If you’re searching for a quality pair of do-everything snowshoes, then L.L. Bean is always a great place to start. Since their founding in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, L.L. Bean has been a trusted source for quality apparel, reliable outdoor equipment and expert advice for almost 100 years.  So when this company says that the Summit Trekker Snowshoes are their most advanced snowhoes ever, that’s saying something.
Photographer: Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Made exclusively for L.L.Bean by Tubbs® the Summit Trekkers strike the perfect balance between performance and comfort so you can casually follow the valley trail, or strike out to conquer the summit. And at $199 these Snowshoes let you break trail without breaking your budget. The Summit Trekker showcases some of the following features:

  • Tubbs' gender-specific ReAct binding;
  • Carbon-steel crampons to provide traction on climbs and variable snow condition;
  • Heel lift to help minimize leg fatigue on steep ascent;
  • Full step rotation maximizes crampon penetration, and the tail drops to shed snow, minimizing fatigue and discomfort.
  • Softec decking provides durable lightweight flotation with a smooth soft texture.
Featured in Outside Magazine's 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide and Backpacker Magazine's 2011 Fall/Winter Gear Guide, you can trek in confidence knowing the L.L. Bean's Summit Trekker shoes are stacked with enough features to help put miles of snow behind you. As the snow continues to fall in the Sierra’s the Gumption Snow Patrol Crew will put the L.L. Bean Summit Trekkers through the full vetting process. We'll follow up with our final review to let you know whether or not these snowshoes have the gumption necessary to provide season after season of clear smooth trekking through the high alpine terrain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Altra Instinct: Run with Childlike Bliss Again

Remember what it felt like to run as a child? That feeling of freedom as your short quick strides carried you across the open grassy fields.

Back then we never thought about the length of our stride or how our feet contacted the ground. We just ran... fast and free. Thankfully today’s modern minimalist running movement offers us all the chance to go back to those moments of childlike bliss.

At the crux of the movement is the notion that the foot can do a better job at self-stabilizing and balancing the weight of the body when it can move freely and is allowed more, relatively unencumbered, natural contact with the ground than when it’s in a shoe that is thickly cushioned or overly correcting by design.

Rapidly establishing themselves as an innovative pioneer in the naturalist running movement Altra Footwear has designed line-up of running shoes that mimic the natural shape and heel-to-toe ratio of the foot thereby allowing the body to run more naturally, more efficiently.

Running gait and injury expert from the University of Virginia School of Medicine Jay Dicharry MPT says running in shoes with near level profile is an ideal situation because it allows the body to run in the most natural position possible without having to compensate too much for how the shoe is trying to dictate the movement of the foot.

If that is indeed the case - and we believe that it is - then the Altra Zero Drop platform is the shoe that puts your feet in the 'ideal situation'.

Most running shoes are built on a 2-to-1 heel-to-toe ratio (twice as thick in the heel as the forefoot). Unfortunately we know what happens next and it's not good for runners.  The cushioned heel strikes the ground first instead of the shoe landing on the more biomechanically efficient midfoot or forefoot. Excessive heel-striking marks an open-invitation for potential foot and leg injuries.  

Zero Drop footwear by ALTRA however is built on a 1-to-1 ratio meaning that the heel and forefoot are the same heights off the ground. This encourages a more natural stride allowing the runner to land on the midfoot or forefoot-- the way Mother Nature originally intended.  The Altra Instinct does this while still offering cushioning and protection.

As noted in our First Look review, the term zero-drop may lead some to believe that Altra’s Instinct is little more than another addition to the “minimalist movement”. While some “zero drop” shoes can be categorized as minimalist – certainly not all minimalist shoes are Zero Drop, nor is the men’s specific Instinct designed specifically as a minimalist running shoe.

For our crew member the beauty of the shoe rests in its foot shaped design.  By building a shoe that maps the design of your foot the Altra Instinct allows your feet and toes to lay in a natural and relaxed position.  Due to the gender-specific design the foot maintains its proper anatomical position allowing for maximum shock absorption and a more powerful toe off.
Credit to Altra for this image of the Instinct blazing through the Wasatch Mountains
Asymmetrical Lacing, Heel Claw, and an 'A' shaped midfoot design that snugly wraps the midfoot all add to a superior fit for this Zero Drop platform.  Once you try them on and experience the difference of fit and feel, you’ll wonder why Altra is the only shoe specifically designed to follow the natural contours of your feet.

Altra's FootPod outsole maps the bones and tendons of the human foot allowing for maximum flex and responsiveness. With canted lugs mapping your foot, this unique outsole provides a natural all-purpose traction system which served our tester well from sidewalks to dirt roads and everything in between.

And did we mention that the Gumption Gals thought the Instinct looks great with jeans?

The Results...
Over the course of a lengthy testing period our Gumption Crew member used the Altra Instinct as his primary running and training shoe.  For the purposes of this review you may find it helpful to know that our field tester tops the scales at 6’4” and is a traditional heavy heel striker. Yet from the treadmill to city streets, country roads and 10K’s our crew member tacked on the miles and came away with a new perspective on running. Following is a summation of the positive changes noted from running/ training in the Altra Instinct:
  • Less impact and stress on knees, shins and lower back.
  • Zero shin splints over the course of the testing period.
  • Transformed the stride and gait increasing strength in calves.
  • Increased awareness foot placement and balance so that every change made in step and stride was felt instantly allowing for quick adjustment improving form over the course of longer runs.
Our Altra Instincts beaten up, but never beaten down.
Room for Improvement...
The durability and fit of the Instinct exceeded any expectations that our team had for the shoe entering the review process.  The only minor complaint issued by our tester was that his midfoot was left slightly tender after the 10k competition.  However that is most likely due to the fact that the feet are still in the process of fully adjusting to a new running style.  

Bottom Line...
While the Instinct may not be a cure-all for all runners and their specific issues, we believe that Altra has crafted a shoe that strikes the perfect balance of barefoot styled minimalisim with cushion and comfort.  Evolving from Zero Drop Rookie to first place finishes in a 5K and 10K race, our crew member’s final response may provide the best summation of their time with the Altra Instinct: “Count me as a convert.”   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Point6 Ultra Light Micro: The Velvet Glove Treatment for Runners Feet

A bad pair of socks can wreck a run. They can cover your feet unevenly or fail to protect your skin from the chafing and excess moisture that causes nasty blisters.  With so much time and technology (not to mention cash) invested in your running shoes, shouldn’t you expect more from your running socks?  

Point6 understands that runners don’t want any unnecessary fluff between their foot and footbed.  As such this company has gone to great lengths to create a line-up of performance socks specifically designed to support you in your run mile after mile.  Our team vetted the Point6 men’s Ultra Light Micro Running sock - a minimalist styled sock designed for the runner who desires the least amount of sock in their running shoe.

On Fit and Performance...
Who knew wool could be so comfortable?  In the Ultra Light Micro, Point6 has engineered a precise anatomical fit that is comfortable and itch-free without bulk.  Merino wool regulates temperatures, sends sweat packing and fights funky foot odor.  
The Ultra Light Micro Sock’s nylon and spandex allow the sock to retain its natural shape run after run while mesh knit ventilation zones provides extra comfort and breathability on long runs.

The Ultra Light Micro’s feature Point6’s hand looped toe seam.  Admittedly, our crew usually prefers the no-seam technology found in similar socks.  That being said, we once we slipped on the Ultra Light Micro socks, the hand looped toe seem was not only smooth, but, as denoted by the Point6 website, virtually, undetectable by toes.
It’s important to note that these socks are designed without cushioning which may ward off those who enjoy a little more padding.  Yet for those seeking a performance/minimalist fit you can take comfort knowing the Micro’s won’t disrupt the relationship your foot has with those fancy kicks.

Our crew member did denote some slight sliding in the midfoot region when wearing the socks with their Zero Drop Shoes.  However,  from treadmill to trail there was never a blister or discomfort issue while wearing these socks.

Bottom Line...
The Point6 Ultra Light Micro Running socks are so light weight in most instances you’ll forget you’re even wearing them.  With you mind free from the need to focus on your socks, you can run unencumbered as your feet appreciate the softness and durability of these socks as they carry you from pavement to peak in comfort. 

*As a disclaimer, we understand and recognize that every runner has their own preference.  Some runners like thicker socks for additional cushioning, others prefer thin socks for a "lighter" feel.  This review is based upon our field teams impressions from using the Point6 Ultra Light Micro socks in the field during both training and competitions.  As you read the review we ask that you keep your own preferences in mind.