Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Long-Term Review

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody

For an easy insulating layer, it’s hard to beat the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. 

Patagonia’s Nano Puff Hoody has become my Old Standby, but that’s not the way things started out.

When I resolved to “get back out there” after nearly two decades away from the outdoors,  I knew it was time to retire my mid-1990s REI three-in-one Gore-Tex-shelled down coat.  My trusty blue coat had carried me through winters in the U.S. mountain west, in China and Russia, and on the U.S. East Coast.  But twenty years on, I found that the waterproof shell would leak in heavy rain and the zip-in down liner was showing its age.  And that ’90s styling. . . . Continue reading “Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Long-Term Review”

Patagonia R1 Hoody Long-Term Review

Patagonia R1 Hoody

Preparing for a trip, the routine of weighing—figuratively and literally—every item of clothing and gear to balance weight with safely and, ideally, comfort is an accepted fact of life. How cold will it be? How hot? Will there be rain? Bugs? Will we need to climb snow or rock? With all the considerations to be had, it is great to have a few pieces that one knows will come along, no matter what. No thinking required. For me, the Patagonia R1 Hoody is one of these.

Continue reading “Patagonia R1 Hoody Long-Term Review”

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boot Long-Term Review

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX

“Are these warmer than the Nepals?”  “Do they front-point as well?”  Lighter?  Heavier?  More or less supportive?  As durable?  What about the price?

From climbing blogs to message boards, it doesn’t take long to find someone making a comparison to the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX boot.  And it should come as no surprise that La Sportiva’s Nepal Evo is one of the most popular mountaineering boots of all time; a combination of rugged, supportive 3.2mm Perwanger leather, classic lacing system, lugged Vibram sole with rigid midsole, all lined with insulated Gore-Tex to keep a mountaineer warm and dry (elusive conditions, to be sure) add up to a serious boot that may not be the best at any one thing, but proves consistently strong across the board.

Continue reading “La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boot Long-Term Review”

enLightened Equipment Revelation Quilt Review

enLightened Equipment down quilt

For years as a Boy Scout I struggled to keep cool enough in my sleeping bag to sleep well. More often than not, I ended up with the heavy synthetic-fill mummy bag unzipped as far as it would go—to my knee—and my leg closest the zipper outside on the tent floor. It wasn’t until years later—and after many discussions with my wife concerning optimal nighttime thermostat settings—that I realized I was by nature a very warm sleeper.  Of course, everything is relative; camping out in Southern California is a completely different game from anyplace that gets truly cold. Nonetheless, my foray into sleeping quilts has proved a remedy to nearly all my outdoor-sleeping idiosyncrasies.

What is a sleeping quilt?  Essentially, a sleeping bag with a large part of the bottom removed.

Continue reading “enLightened Equipment Revelation Quilt Review”

Darn Tough Boot Sock Review

Darn Tough Socks

The lowly sock.  It’s battered, stretched, soaked, wrung, rolled, crushed and worn through.  It is one of the least expensive pieces of our wardrobe, but has perhaps the most significant, sustained contact with the body, whether on the trail, the mountain or the slope.  A good sock is remembered only when donning and removing, while a bad sock is at best an annoyance and at worst can jeopardize a trip or even one’s health.

Continue reading “Darn Tough Boot Sock Review”

Patagonia Nano Air Hoody Review

Patagonia Nano Air Hoody

Patagonia’s Nano Air Hoody is my Goldilocks mid-layer: not too warm, not too cold.  Just right.  

Japow
Yes.

One of the first lessons to hit home as I started learning to ski was the importance of staying warm on the lift ride up the hill.  Several times this winter, we’ve been lucky enough to have near-storm conditions at the resorts here in Japan, Japow dumping all over the piste.  Each time, though, the snow rode in on strong, cold winds felt especially clearly suspended in the chair, making warmth a priority. But on the way down, the muscles are working and the blood is flowing again; the trick is finding a way to avoid the chill on the way up while also not arriving at the bottom of the run swimming in sweat. The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody strikes this balance and has proven itself one of my most versatile mid-layers.

Continue reading “Patagonia Nano Air Hoody Review”

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody Review

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

Let’s get this out of the way.  I’m a sweater.  For as long as I can remember, whenever I start physical activity, my body flips a switch and out comes the sweat.  Doesn’t matter if I’m fat or thin.  So when I read about jackets with “waterproof/breathable” membranes, I always have to chuckle a bit, because I know that I’m the kind of guy who would sweat jogging bare-chested (sorry for that mental image) on a cool day, and if I have a waterproof jacket on and I start some vigorous movement, I’m quickly going to become a sauna.  So I have pretty realistic expectations for how today’s hardshells perform, and I’ve been able to use a number of them with different membranes, designs and technology.

The first thing I noticed wearing Westcomb’s Shift LT Hoody was that I could feel air from outside the jacket cooling my body.  This was different from what I’d experienced with other waterproof jackets, and was reminiscent enough of wearing a softshell that I wondered whether the Shift was truly waterproof.

Continue reading “Westcomb Shift LT Hoody Review”

Petzl Sirocco Climbing Helmet Review

Petzl Sirocco

With the Sirocco, Petzl has taken the trend of lightweight gear almost to absurdity.  After eliminating as much as possible, what is left is brilliant.

I began climbing in earnest in my thirties.  Yes, I had spent time in an ROTC program in the Mountain West, where we abseiled from towers (using a figure-eight backed up with a fireman’s belay!) and practiced moving across class III terrain.  But it wasn’t until years later that I bought my first shoes, chalk bag and harness.  One of the decidedly few advantages to beginning a sport like climbing in middle age was that I never thought twice about wearing a helmet for sport or trad routes.  Long past the need to “look cool” (now a woefully unattainable goal in any case–just ask my kids), and conscious enough of my own mortality to want as safe a climb as possible, a helmet proved–forgive me–a no brainer.

Petzl Sirocco
Petz’s ultralight Sirocco climbing helmet.  Note the minimalist headlamp clip.

I didn’t play contact sports in school, and I grew up long enough ago that nobody wore helmets when riding their bicycle, so between ROTC and a few other brushes I’ve had with the military, my idea of a good helmet was something heavy and, well, heavy.  Think one of the old Joe Brown helmets.  But as I began researching helmets, and as I handled them in the local outdoor equipment store, I realized that my days of heavy headgear were behind me.  And with the Sirocco, French climbing gear manufacturer Petzl has taken the trend of lightweight gear almost to absurdity.  After eliminating as much as possible, what is left is brilliant.

Continue reading “Petzl Sirocco Climbing Helmet Review”

La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 GTX Hiking Shoe Review

When your job moves you around the world every few years, you get pretty good at organizing a house-full of stuff to be packed, shipped and unpacked at its destination.  In the fifteen or so years my wife and I have been living this life, we’ve had a remarkably strong track record of getting the things we want and need to our new home.  There is luck involved, too; one hears tales of cargo ships sinking, condemning all of a family’s possessions to The Deep.  To make a long story short, we’re pretty good at this.

Then, imagine my displeasure when, after searching the last few not-fully-unpacked boxes we brought with us to Japan, I discovered that my trusty old pair of Asolo backpacking boots were nowhere to be found.  Now, they’re not lost and gone forever; I used them a few times during our last stint back in the States, so they doubtless sit safely packed into one of our boxes in long-term storage.

A well-used pair of the La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 GTX.  The prominent toe cap detracts from the shoe's usability in more formal occasions, but adds protection on the trail.
A well-used pair of the La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 GTX. The prominent toe cap detracts from the shoe’s usability in more formal occasions, but adds protection on the trail.

So, when I decided to get back into hiking again after a hiatus, I spent some time online researching boots.  But a number of sites, especially those preaching the lightweight and ultralightweight backpacking gospel, said boots were passé, that they didn’t really give support to one’s ankles anyway, and that shoes were the In Thing.  I was skeptical, but as I read more, I found that even more mainstream sites were encouraging hikers to consider a low-cut shoe for hiking and light backpacking.  Part of the rationale stems from a study by the U.S. Army that finds that among the soldiers studied, “Weight alone appeared to account for 48-70% of the added energy cost of wearing boots.”  And that science is backed up by a considerable amount of anecdotal reporting from hikers who have made the switch.  So I thought I would give it a try.

Continue reading “La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 GTX Hiking Shoe Review”