Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, there are two items I will never have too many of; baselayers and fleece jackets. A good baselayer top is the foundation of an effective layering system ready to meet changeable weather conditions from coastal rains to snowy peaks. Because we take our baselayers so many places, we demand a lot from them. We expect them to be warm but not too hot, durable and yet lightweight, and cozy but not overly bulky.
Over the last five months I got to adventure with the new Arc’teryx Phase AR baselayer, and it is now my top-pick for a synthetic shirt.
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.