I have always heard people extol the values of a buff but never personally used one. Earlier this year I purchased a Buff CoolNet UV+ and I have used it on almost every hike since then. My Buff has become one of the most versatile pieces of gear that I own and subsequently one of my favorites. For those who don’t know a buff is simply a big tube of fabric that can be worn in a myriad of ways, hence the picture to the right as just a short demo off of Buff USA’s site. I typically wear my Buff around my neck as a neck warmer. Just to clarify a buff can be both a piece of gear and then a brand name version of that piece of gear, kind of like Band-Aid.
The Buff CoolNet UV+ is 95% polyester and 5% elastane so it is stretchy. We actually have two of them and picked this particular version of Buff because the fabric has a UPF rating of 50. One is technically called Tzome Stone but to me it just looks like a geometric pattern of blues and grays and the other is Pelagomic Camo White which is a white and gray camo-ish pattern. The Buff CoolNet UV+ was $24 from REI in Albuquerque.
Like I said before, I typically wear my buff around my neck as neck warmer. Considering how light the fabric is I am actually amazed at how much warmer it can keep me. I stuff it down whatever outer layer I’m wearing so that it traps heat and prevents it from escaping out of the collar. I actually use the Buff as a part of my layering system. As I start to warm up I will take it off but then as I shed layers I will put it back on to lessen the change from one level of my layering system to the next.
Also because it offers UV protection it protects the back of my neck from the harsh New Mexico sun. On particularly cold or dusty hikes I have pulled my Buff CoolNet UV+ up over my face as a sort of face shield. The only issue I have had doing this is that although the Buff is pretty breathable it still sends some of my breath up behind my sunglasses which causes them to fog up.
I have also used the Buff CoolNet UV+ for some more improvised tasks. I have used it as an oven mitt to get hot food off of the fire. Although, I personally wouldn’t recommend it with this particular version of the Buff, as polyester will melt. I have also used it to wipe muddy paws before letting the Trail Doggo back in the car and as a rag for my running nose. Just make sure to throw it in the wash afterwards and you are good to go.
At $24 and at just 34g on my home scale Buff CoolNet UV+ is really just a catch all piece of gear. It has many uses and at such little cost in both money and weight there is really no reason not to have one in your pack. We have found the Buff to be a great piece of gear to provide a little extra sun protection or a little bit of warmth.
For this review we purchased two Buff CoolNet UV+ from our local REI store.
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I have had the Osprey Stratos 24L for right at a year now. In that time I think I have taken it on around 100 miles worth of day hikes. So I think I am at the point where I feel comfortable writing my rather detailed review of the Osprey Stratos 24L.
Overview The Stratos is available in two sizes: 24L and 36L and four colors. I have the 24L liter version which obviously has a volume of 24L and is in black. Osprey claims a weight of 2.7lbs for the Stratos 24L and on my scale it came out to 2.79lbs with the included rain fly. Osprey recommends a load range of 10-25 pounds. I think the heaviest I have ever loaded my Stratos 24L is to right at 8 kilos so right at 18ish pounds. The Osprey Stratos 24L retails for $130 and I’m pretty sure that is what I paid for mine. I would consider this to be more of a “technical” daypack. All around I love this pack and I think it is a great setup for longer day hikes or when you need to carry a little more gear for something more technical or adverse weather conditions.
The Basics The Osprey Stratos 24L is an internal framed pack with a mesh back suspension system. The back mesh flows seamlessly into the mesh hip belt. I like that it is one continuous piece so it doesn’t bunch, catch, or rub. The hip belt has two pockets that are solid for storing snacks or other “useful” stuff, I prefer snacks. I can wedge my iPhone X into the pockets but with a slim Otterbox on my phone it is more a pain than it is worth. The shoulder straps are height adjustable to the back panel via a huge section of Velcro. There is also an adjustable sternum strap that slides up and down the shoulder straps via a track. It has a handy dandy safety whistle built into the buckle!
Moving around to the main storage area. It is accessible via two zippers that run about two thirds of the way around the pack. It is nice to have them go down that far so that I can stuff things like gloves or gaiters down towards the side at the bottom but still get them out without having to unload the entire main compartment. The main compartment does have a bladder pouch along with a hole to route the tube out through. The system is set up with a clip to work with Osprey’s Hydraulics water bladders but it works well enough with others like Camelbak. However, routing the tube out of the pack is a tight fit and honestly a pain in the ass. Also, of note the Osprey Stratos 24L does not include a hydration bladder with it.
Hanging down into the main storage compartment is a mesh zippered pocket that is accessed through a zipper at the top of the pack. It is a great place to store small items that you want to be able to get to relatively easy like car keys. The pouch actually has a bright red lanyard clip for just that purpose. However convenient it is the mesh pocket is also on of my few complaints on the Osprey Stratos 24L. By hanging down into the main compartment it completely covers the hydration bladder pouch. It is inconvenient when the pack is empty and you’re trying to put the water bladder in and route the hydration hose. I can only imagine it would be a complete nightmare with a full mesh pouch obscuring your view as you try to take the bladder out to refill it. Luckily, I use the Osprey Hydraulics LT 2.5L bladder which I have never had to refill on a day hike.
On the back side of the Osprey Stratos 24L there are three more pockets. At the top is a small storage pocket that is good for storing headlamps and such items. It could easily fit sunglasses or extra snacks as well. Running the length of the pack is a big zippered pouch with Velcro at the top. This is my favorite place to stuff my rain jacket as it keeps it accessible but also separate from the rest of the stuff in my pack if it is still a little wet. Lastly, at the bottom is a small pocket for the built in rain fly. It attaches via a little toggle lanyard to the pack but still fits over so you won’t “misplace” it. If you don’t feel like bringing the rain fly along it can easily be removed but it doesn’t really free up any extra room in that pocket as the items from the main compartment will just push further down into the pack.
There are a couple of technical features on the Osprey Stratos 24L that I want to make note of. On the back right side is an ice axe loop that secures via a bungee strap. It held my Black Diamond Raven 65cm ice axe in place while hiking Mount Taylor. On the left side of the Stratos 24L is Osprey’s stow & go trekking pole attachment system. It features a bungee loop covered in plastic at the bottom of the pack where the points of the trekking poles go through. Then the handles go through another bungee loop with a cinch point on the left shoulder strap. The system seems kind of flimsy but actually works rather well. I don’t think I would leave my trekking poles there for an entire hike but while I had my ice axe out for a mile or so of uphill hiking the trekking poles stayed in the stow & go system without issue.
There are mesh water bottle pouches on either side of the Osprey Stratos 24L. Each water bottle pouch has a compression strap but one runs below the mesh while the other runs over it. Honestly, I think it could have been a good way to store more bulky/non-compressible items in the one pouch but the compression straps really don’t work all that well. They are just hard to tighten down. There are also compression straps at either top corner of the Osprey Stratos 24L that work much better and actually seem to make a difference when it comes to compressing your load.
Load Carrying One of the most important aspects of any pack is how does it carry a load and how much can it reasonably be expected to carry. I have filled the Osprey Stratos 24L up to its max size and hit around 18lbs and hiked without issue. I carried right around 16lbs in it for a 16 mile hike up Santa Fe Baldy with 3,570’ of elevation gain. Between the shoulder straps, padded hip belt, mesh back panel, and load lifter straps the Stratos 24L is pretty adjustable mid hike. So, as you tire of carrying the weight on your hips you can adjust it more onto your shoulders and so on to share the load around. Although, it really does carry pretty well and only starts to become uncomfortable after long days of continuous use.
Size wise I think the Osprey Stratos 24L is solid and versatile. It can definitely fit everything you will need for a lengthier winter day hike when you have to have room for extra layers. I have only maxed out the Stratos 24L by making sure it can fit my entire layering system in it if I end up much warmer than expected and need to go all the way down to my baselayer. I think it could carry more weight easily I just really haven’t had a reason to put anymore in it.
The Bad or Annoying My complaints with the Osprey Stratos 24L are pretty limited. Like I mentioned before I am not a fan of how the mesh pouch hangs down into the main compartment covering the water bladder pouch. The routing for the water bladder is also a pain to deal with. I wish the hip belts pockets were just a tiny bit bigger so my iPhone would fit in them but that is really not much of a problem. I also wish the compression straps at the bottom by the mesh water bottle pouches worked a little bit better but honestly most of these complaints fall into the annoying not bad category and I’m really scrapping the bottom of the barrel to come up with even these.
Summary Overall I really like the Osprey Stratos 24L and at $130 I think it presents a pretty solid value. Size wise it is almost perfect for longer day hikes and is still compressible for shorter hikes. On winter trips it will carry quit a load although our recent trip to Mount Taylor in the winter pretty much maxed it out with three different jackets, spare gloves, crampons, gaiters, water, med kit, food, and a survival pouch. I have hiked as little as 4 miles with the Stratos 24L, as many as 16 miles, and completed 8 miles of kicking trail in the snow. Covering those extremes makes this an all around versatile pack at a reasonable price. The Osprey Stratos 24L also seems to be quite durable. I have scrapped it against rocks while scrambling without any issue and plopped it down in lots of dirt and sand with nothing more than a few small stains on the hip belt to show for it.
There are loads of other great packs out there and many that are better than the Osprey Stratos 24L especially in more niche functions. But as a great all around daypack that can be called upon to do more when needed the Osprey Stratos 24L really does knock it out of the park.
For this review I purchased an Osprey Stratos 24L from Backcountry.com
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I have worn Saucony Kinvara running shoes for about five years now and they have been my favorites. So when I recently saw the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail running shoes which are a very similar pair of shoes to the Kinvara just for trail running I decided to give them a try. I am glad I did because I absolutely love the Saucony Peregrine ISO train runners. Now that I am nearing 100 miles I think I can do a detailed review of the Saucony Peregine ISO trail running shoes.
Overall Specs The Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners are a neutral shoe with a mid arch. The heel stack height is 22.5mm with a drop of 4mm to the toe. The basic specs of the Peregrine are almost identical to the Saucony Kinvara that I still wear for paved running. My pair is a size 10 and I think they Saucony Peregrine ISO runs pretty true to size as 10 US is my most common shoe size. I think the toe box is definitely adequate but I don’t have wide feet by any means. I definitely wouldn’t say the Peregrine has the “oversized” foot box that is common on some trail runners. Saucony claims 298g for the Peregrine ISO and my shoes come out to 304g and 298g each without any insoles. I removed my custom ones for the weighing but have no clue where the originals are now.
Sole If there is a single selling point of the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners it is the sole. Saucony has names for their technology in each section of the sole with the EVERUN topsole, PWRFOAM midsole, and the PWRTRAC outsole. I can’t exactly explain how you can feel all of these different technologies while running or hiking but I can tell you the Saucony Peregrine ISO has a great feel. They have a nice flex to the shoe and a little bounce to each step while still providing enough cushioning on uneven terrain. There is not a rock plate on these shoes but I have yet to have an issue with that even while hiking some decent mountains in New Mexico. I have used the Saucony Peregrine ISO for just shy of 100 miles so far which has been a mix of trail running, road running, hiking, and casual wear.
The sole has huge 6mm lugs that provide phenomenal traction. I have literally never slipped or lost traction while wearing the Saucony Peregrine ISO. I would not call them a great all around runner as they definitely feel over built for normal surfaces but the moment you get off the asphalt the Peregrine comes completely into its own and I have really enjoyed running in them. So far, the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners seem to be standing up pretty well. There is a little wear to some of the outside lugs on each shoe but nothing I consider out of the norm for being 20% through their lifespan.
Upper The upper on the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners is exceptionally comfortable. Through 100 miles it has survived several accidental rock scrapes without any damage. The upper is also the weak point for anyone who wants to use the Saucony Peregrine ISO for more of an all around trail hiking shoe. Saucony calls the upper ISOfit dynamic. I would call it almost a sock upper. The tongue on the Saucony Peregrine ISO is attached on the sides so that when you lace them up you end up with a sock like wrap around your foot, it is pretty comfy.
The heel cup is rock solid and I’ve had no movement issues from the heel and therefore 0 blisters while wearing the Peregines even on big days. Around the toe there is a lot of mesh which does allow good air flow and I haven’t had any issues with overly sweaty feet. The mesh does tend to let in a decent amount of sand/dust but that’s a fair trade off. The Saucony Peregrine ISO is not a Gore-Tex shoe although Saucony does still offer a Gore-Tex version of the predecessor Peregrine 8 trail running shoe. Personally I am not a fan of Gore-Tex for running shoes. I always end up with hot sweaty feet wearing Gore-Tex so I might as well have just soaked my feet anyways, plus if they do get wet it takes FOREVER for them to dry. Overall I am actually pretty happy that Saucony chose to forgo the Gore-Tex for the Peregrine ISO.
Where the upper leaves a little to be desired is lateral support. I have worn the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners for several loose scramble climbs and they do great on the way up. But on the descent you feel like your foot might roll off the side of the shoe under load. I would really like to see a bit more of a locked down feel to the upper through the mid and front of the foot. I think for most trail runners this won’t be much of an issue but for someone who is looking for a bit more of an all around trail shoe, like the Salomon XA Pro 3D, they would fall short. To be fair I know these shoes are in completely different categories but I love the overall feel of the Saucony Peregrine ISO that I wish it could be my go to shoe for all hikes.
Insole I simply mention the insole because this is one thing that I change out on every pair of shoes I own and the Saucony Peregrine ISO was no exception. I use SuperFeet semi-custom insoles that get fitted to your feet at running stores. This means I can’t comment at all on the insoles in the Saucony Peregrine ISO because I never used them.
Final Thoughts I really can’t say enough good things about the Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners. I wish I could make them into all around trail shoes but that just isn’t what they are designed for. But for trail running and light, fast hikes they perform perfectly and are extremely comfortable. These shoes are wonderful on every unpaved surface I’ve taken them on. The tread is overkill for paved running but provides a great grip on everything from loose dirt, to snow, to rock. They aren’t horrible on the wallet at $120 and are available online and in stores. The Saucony Peregrine ISO is also available in a women’s model under the same name.
For this review I purchased a pair of Saucony Peregrine ISO trail runners in a men’s size 10 with my own money from my local REI store.
I recently picked up a pair of the Black Diamond Mont Blanc lightweight gloves from REI. I was looking for a comfy pair of light, cell phone functional gloves for chillier hikes. It seemed like the BD Mont Blancs might check all the right boxes so I really wanted to like them but I just can’t.
Fit and Comfort I have small hands so a size small in the Black Diamond Mont Blanc fit well. I had chilly not cold temperatures in mind so I was leaning more towards function and to that end I really like the fit of these gloves. They are form fitting but not tight so that I have good dexterity and I can actually get them on and off. The Mont Blancs are also comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The back of the hands has a wind proof layer while the palm has silicone strips for grip.
Cellphone Usage The index finger and thumb pad of both gloves have sections that will work the screens of smartphones. I have used them on both my iPhone and my Apple Watch and both work just fine. Pinching and zooming on topo maps can be a bit of a challenge but is still doable while basic tasks are easily done with the Black Diamond Mont Blancs. I haven’t had issues with accidentally tapping the wrong icon even on my smaller Apple Watch.
Warmth So far my review has been pretty positive and like I said, I actually really wanted to like the Black Diamond Mont Blanc gloves. Sadly everything falls when it comes to their warmth factor. According to the packaging the intended temperature range for the Mont Blanc’s is 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t even come close to that. My hands feel cold after 30 minutes out in the high 30’s. I have used them on my hikes such as Deception Peak and Santa Fe Baldy but also while taking my dogs for their nightly walk and ended up with some very cold hands. I wouldn’t trust the Black Diamond Mont Blancs below 40 for hiking.
Summary Like I said I am really disappointed with the Black Diamond Mont Blanc gloves. They seemed to have so much potential. I really like the lightweight design and fit. The cellphone fingertips work well and at only $25 they seemed like a steal. But they just don’t accomplish their primary function which is to keep my hands warm. I will probably keep them around for hikes that have a low around 40 or so but with temps expected to warm up. However, I will definitely reach for a different pair for any activity that has consistent temperatures below 40 degrees.
One of my most used items recently has been the new KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape. I have used normal KT Tape over the last several years for whatever issue has ailed me from plantar fasciitis through knee pain. For those who haven’t used KT Tape before it is precut strips of stretchy, adhesive tape that are used to offer support for injuries. The company recently released the KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape targeted as a hot spot treatment to prevent blisters.
KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape is meant to be used prior to the formation of a blister to prevent it in the first place. The idea being to reduce friction. When you feel a hot spot forming you cover the spot with the Blister Tape and it prevents the rubbing and therefore the blister. When I hiked the Mayan Temple a few weeks back I placed KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape on the back of both heels about halfway through the hike after feeling the friction.
I have recently taken to using the tape as a complete preventative that I put on the night before a hike or activity. KT Tape says that the Blister Tape will last around 2 days, even with showering, and that seems to be about right. KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape is easy to use as the strips are precut and have a band aide like paper backing. Just pull of the paper backing and slap the tape wherever you are feeling a little heat. Once I throw it on I haven’t had any issues with it moving or rubbing off like I have had with Moleskin.
KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape comes in a package of 30 small strips for $10. It is available in black or beige (skin colorish) and comes in a plastic carrying case. The case is useful if you want to throw it in a gym bag so that the roll of tape doesn’t get all messed up. I can’t recommend KT Performance+ Blister Prevention Tape enough. It has saved me from blisters on several occasions now, it is super easy to use, and pretty cost effective at 33 cents per strip. I keep a coupe strips in my medical kit and in each of my survival kits just in case.
The Osprey Katari 7L is a hydration backpack designed for quick hikes or mountain biking. Osprey offers a male specific version, the Katari, and a female specific, Kitsuma, and three sizes: 1.5, 3, and 7 liter options. The one I purchased from backcountry.com for $75 is the Katari 7L which includes a 2.5L Osprey Hyrdaulics LT hydration bladder. I purchased the Katari to be a primary daypack for super light hikes or to be the secondary pack for my wife on our more normal outings.
Overview Size wise the Osprey Katari is solid when you want to go pretty light. It’ll hold our pretty beefy medical kit, one of my Hiking Survival Kits, a balled up light rain jacket, and the 2.5L water bladder. If I am planning to hike more than a couple of hours or in weather conditions that require more clothing options or gear I’m going to reach for something a little bigger. Usually for us it plays the role of a secondary pack where I carry an Osprey Daylite 13L pack and my wife carries the Osprey Katari 7L.
Working from the outside in, the Osprey Katari 7L has two mesh pouches, one on either side (the 1.5 and 3 liter versions don’t have mesh pouches). They will hold water small bottles or Clif bars without issue and haven’t stretched out. There really isn’t anything else on the outside of the pack which makes it a sleek setup but removes some flexibility. It would be really nice to have a lash point for trekking poles. The best option I’ve found is to stick trekking poles down the external water bladder, handles first and careful not to puncture the bladder. But it is really a less than ideal solution as they stick out pretty high overhead. There is a detachable hip belt but as it is just a webbing belt with no pockets we don’t use it. The Katari is pretty small and stable so I don’t ever feel the need for the hip-belt.
The main pouch of the Osprey Katari is accessed with a zipper that runs almost the length of the pack with a Velcro closure at the top. This actually works pretty well because it gives you access to the entire pack without having to remove things to get to the bottom. Which is useful because being a small and thin pack you will end up packing things the length of the Katari. Inside the main compartment are two small mesh pockets and two hook points. This gives you a place to store smaller items but we seldom use them. It isn’t an efficient place to put keys or your wallet because they are smack in the middle of the compartment as opposed to the top.
The water bladder compartment is actually an external one that is between the main storage compartment and the foam backing. It is accessed by two clips at the top of the pack. You then slide you water bladder down and clip it in. There is also a small zippered pocket accessed from the water bladder compartment. This is the place to store your keys, wallet, headlamp, etc. It is very easy to access although it needs a little clip for your keys which is a common feature on a lot of other Osprey packs. The water bladder tube exits right out of the top of the compartment. There are routing options for either shoulder strap and the sternum strap clasp has a magnet attachment point for the the included magnet on the water bladder tube. The magnet system is really nice for keeping the drinking tube of your water bladder in place. My issue is the attachment point on the sternum strap clasp. This is different from how Osprey usually does it where the attachment point is a slider that you can move back and forth across the sternum strap. To me this isn’t flexible and doesn’t work for everyone. It works perfectly for my wife but it makes the bite valve poke me in the side so I just don’t end up using the magnet attachment point.
The mesh backing of the Osprey Katari is solid. It does about the best job of breathing that it can, being a foam backing without any structure to keep it off of your back. I haven’t had any problems with the Katari riding uncomfortably or anything. You will definitely get a sweaty back but that is going to happen with any foam backed pack. The positive side is that without any structure the Osprey Katari can be rolled up decently small if you want to stuff it into a larger pack to use as a day pack on bigger trips.
Osprey Hyrdraulics LT 2.5L The included water bladder is the Osprey Hydraulics LT 2.5L bladder. The smaller Katari packs get a 1.5L. I like the Osprey Hydraulics but a lot of it will come down to personal preference. I also have Camelbaks and to me each has positives and negatives. The Osprey Hydraulics has a huge top opening that utilizes a slider closure similar to a CNOC bag which is awesome but for some reason it isn’t as wide as the top of the bag. They actually narrow the bag just a bit before the slider. So you can fit your hand in it for cleaning but it’s tight. Also Osprey put two stabilizing attachments that connect the inside of the bag to the sides which means you can’t fit your hand down to the bottom to dry the bladder out. The bladder hose can be set up to route over your right or left shoulder. But I really wish the hose had a quick release from the bladder similar to my Camelbak. A quick detach is super useful for cleaning and drying. The bite valve comparison is a wash to me and both the Osprey and Camelbak have a solid one with the ability to lock it out. Bite valve is pretty much all personal preference.
Summary Overall I would recommend the Osprey Katari 7L Pack and the size is solid for I wanted it for. But the overall design seems to be more geared at mountain biking than hiking. Feature wise the slick exterior and internal mesh pockets on are great for not snagging the pouch on trees or organizing your bike tools but the lack of trekking pole attachments is annoying. Size wise 7L doesn’t sound like a lot of room and it isn’t but it will do the job for shorter hikes. It does a great job if it is the second pack in a two person group which is how we commonly use it on day hikes. We only start to reach for other packs when you have to carry extra clothes or foresee taking off jackets and needing a place for them. It still performs great by itself if the hike is under four hours or so and on trail.
The build quality is solid and in general I am a big fan of Osprey packs and have like four of them. $75 is pretty reasonable in my book considering it includes the water bladder which usually runs for around $35 by itself.
The Osprey Katari 7L weighed in at 338g on my little kitchen scale and the Osprey Hydraulics LT 2.5L weighed in at 164g.
Review Background Just so that there is no confusion this was not in anyway shape or form a paid review and we don’t do paid reviews. I purchased this particular item with my own money for my own use.
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