A waterproof and windproof hardshell is the heart of my outdoor adventure kit. It is a piece of gear that goes on every single trip from a short day hike on my favorite local mountain to week-long backpacks in remote areas. Over the last year I searched for a new favorite hardshell, and I think I finally found it in the Arc’teryx Alpha SL.
At the end of September I took the jacket on a slew of day hikes and a multi-day backpacking trip. Fall hiking in Washington guarantees a mixed bag of weather, and we got a little bit of everything from rain to cold wind and sunshine. I was happy through it all in the Alpha SL.
The first thing I noticed about the jacket is how LIGHT it is. The women’s jacket (size M) clocked in at a pleasant 9.3 oz. This shaves significant ounces off the other jackets I usually carry, and I barely noticed the jacket while wearing it. The GORE-TEX® PacLite® fabric is not only light, but is less crinkly and compresses into a stuff sack that came with the jacket. Lightweight and packable, it was a no brainer to take it with me everyday.
Our Seattle store just received the new Suunto Spartan Ultra watches! Over the last week we sent one out in the field to gather some top-level beta on this new multisport GPS watch from Suunto. Keep your eyes out over the next few months for more in-depth reviews of specific features.
Over the last week I got to take Suunto’s Spartan Ultra HR on a few field tests. Here are my initial impressions. Keep your eyes out for subsequent follow-up reviews after I have gotten it on some backpacking trips, tracked data longer, and explored the upcoming software updates.
Out of the box
The Spartan looks and feels great. I got my hands on the All-black HR with the steel bezel, and it looks clean, sharp, and streamlined. In the box is a very simplified instruction manual, a connector cable, a HR monitor, and a sticker (I am a sucker for stickers).
Putting the watch on was a pleasant surprise. The first thing I noticed was how light it felt. As a woman with quite small wrists, I have tried on most GPS watches on the market and disliked the feel of all of them. All of them looked huge on me and would not wrap properly around my wrist; at best they would flop around when I ran, and worst would press on my lower arm bone quite uncomfortably. While the Spartan does look big on me, it is actually comfortable for a long day of hiking. A big part of the comfort for me is the slightly curved back face of the watch and the siliconized straps that hold the watch in place without having to be tightened uncomfortably.
While the watch is likely too big to be my all-day every-day wearer, I can easily see it meeting this need for someone with larger wrists or someone who is used to a larger device.
This summer we released a kid's version of our popular Flicker sleeping bag. Ben Popper invested in one for his son, and recounts why he chose the bag and what it was like on their first trip. Words and images by Ben Popper.
The Flicker changed my night's sleep in the backcountry for the better. Feathered friends says it is filled with goose down. I’d argue it is full of magic unicorn hair and clouds. My Flicker started coming on our family backpacking trips this spring and almost immediately our five year old took a shining to it. I sleep with it as a blanket and a month ago in the Goat Rocks Wilderness after waking up, he crawled underneath it with me to reiterate how "soft and warm" it is. His words not mine, I swear. His bag is good enough, but even compressed it was larger than his torso and takes up nearly half of my 65l pack. He’d made it through the summer without any of the dreaded backcountry overnight “accidents” so I pitched the idea of the new kids Flicker to my partner and then him. Purple like mom’s or blue like dad’s? Purple. We looked at the options available and surprisingly there are not many kids down bags available. It was decided we get out enough with him that it would be worth it. Being local to Seattle, I gave the store a call.
Two members of the Feathered Friends staff recently welcomed new additions to their families, so we are sharing a blog post written by the Washington Trails youth Programs Director Krista Dooley about hiking with a new baby (originally published on WTA's awesome Signpost Blog). Kris shares what it was like to recuperate from birth, and how hiking has changed for her and her husband now that they're sharing the trail with a third little hiker.
While I was pregnant my husband and I dreamed of being an outdoorsy family. We talked about the outdoor adventures we wanted to share with our new baby, and how we would do monthly family outdoor adventures. We'd start with hikes, then go camping, fishing and more adventurous outings.
We each have our preferred activities. I like to hike, backpack, camp, run, and bike, while my husband enjoys rock climbing and mountaineering. We share a love of fly fishing. I’ve seen many families on trail and always imagined the day I would hike with my own child and how amazing those shared outdoor experiences would shape her view of the world.
Looking for some ideas on ways to enjoy the first few weeks of fall? Our friends at the Washington Trails Association created this great article with ideas on what to do with your kids in our Washington. This blog post was originally published on WTA's Signpost blog, which is a fantastic resource for hikers and families looking to plan their next trip.
Every Kid in a Park is a national initiative started last spring that connects fourth graders and their families with the trails, wildlife, resources, and history on federal public lands for free in 2016.
Many fourth graders have already received their passes, and there is still plenty of time left for your next big outing. Your pass is good in all six of Washington's National Forests, as well as the National Parks. Not all trailheads on National Forests require a pass, but if you're not sure, it's always good to have it displayed just in case.
All of these places have fantastic family adventure options. Take a look at our suggestions below, or search our hiking guide to make your own adventure.