I have been using the The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves since November of 2019. Since then they have become my go to gloves for the widest variety of temperatures. I have pairs that are meant for colder or warmer weather but The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves go on almost every hike that needs gloves.
I purchased my pair of The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves from REI on a slight sale for $45. Normal retail is $55 but when I last checked REI was running a great sale on the 2019 version I have for $26. My pair is black but for 2020 they are only available in a heather grey. I went with a men’s size small and they fit true to size given I have small hands. After I got my pair the other half of this site liked them so much that she also got an identical pair and she likes them almost as much.
Overview The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves are a softshell style fleece glove made of polyester with an elastane soft shell with a DWR coating applied. The North Face doesn’t provide temperature ratings for their gloves but instead uses a progressive scale of “Cool to Cold to Very Cold”. The Apex+ Etip gloves are at the warmer end of the “Cold” range. I have found them to be comfortable in temperatures of around 32 degrees F up to the low 40’s. The other half has found them comfortable from the mid 20’s up to about 38-40. I should have prefaced this section to say I tend to have colder hands than most people and these temperature ranges are for while actively hiking. I have seen several online reviews where people complained these gloves are cold. I personally don’t see it but maybe if you are just sitting still in the cold weather and not moving.
Fit wise I find The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves to be comfortable to wear and I’ve had them on for hikes upwards of 4-5 hours. The fingers have a natural position that is comfortable. Some gloves can have too much finger curl or too little which can’t be felt at first but after a long period of wear can tire the hands especially when holding items like trekking poles. These aren’t the thinnest gloves out there but neither are they the thickest. I feel like they fit comfortably in a middle area which is reasonable for the temperature range that they are functional in. With the natural finger position and the thickness The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves are pretty dexterous. I can put on crampons with them on and work carabiners but I would have problems doing any complex rope work.
The palm is covered with silicone gripper dots which provides a solid grip for trekking poles. However, there is no additional grip on the fingers due to the Etip material. I had no issues on minor scrambling sections but took The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves off to climb sections on our scramble up Cabezon Peak because I wanted more grip. The cuff extends nicely down the wrist so that the gloves can be tucked down into a shell but there is not any sort on bungee to tighten up the cuff. One little feature I really like on The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves is the little clip that holds the gloves together. Instead of the more traditional ring and clip they use a little button system. It doesn’t seem like much but I find it easier to use and a nice little touch.
A few online reviews by customers also mentioned that The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves are not very waterproof. I’ve seen no issues even with snowy hikes. That being said I didn’t exactly just play around in the snow with them and at the end of the day they are only softshell gloves. But they definitely handled getting some snow on them or sticking my hands down into the snow for short climbs over obstacles. I can definitely not see them lasting very long in rain or wet conditions though. The North Face does claim the Apex+ Etip gloves are windproof and they definitely seem to be. Trust me, New Mexico can be a very windy place. Weight wise on my scale The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves come out to 102 grams.
Etip The North Face calls the screen compatible feature of the Apex+ Etip gloves; Etip. This is also one of the best features of these gloves. They are 100% compatible with touchscreens and that includes all of the fingers and the thumb. I have had absolutely zero issues using my phone with The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves and this feature was part of why I chose them. I don’t need to work as hard to keep my hands warm if i’m not taking my gloves off every time I need to check the GPS or take a picture. It might not seem like much but it really does make a difference.
My only slight gripe, and I mean slight, with the Etip system is that although the thumb pad area is phone compatible the side is not. So monitors like pinch to zoom don’t really work using the thumb and index finger. It is actually easier to zoom using the index and middle fingers.
Pros: Warm when moving Windproof Etip works really well Good Dexterity Clip that holds gloves together
Cons: Wish side of thumb was Etip too
Summary: For a person who can be pretty finicky about gloves I found a lot to like about The North Face Apex+ Etip gloves. They fit true to size, are comfortable, are compatible with my iPhone, and work in a really nice temperature range for me of 32ish to 45ish. Because of these features they come along on every hike with temperatures below 45 degrees. I know this is a rather short summary but I really haven’t used another pair of gloves that I liked as much for under $50.
I have been using the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket since I got it back in October of 2019. Since then I have used it as my primary insulating jacket, affectionately known as the puffy, all throughout the winter and on a variety of activities. In the middle of winter I also used the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket as my daily jacket. Overall, I have to say I am really happy with this jacket but that does come at a caveat-price.
I purchased my Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket on sale for around $140 from Columbia’s website. I checked last week and Columbia had the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket on sale for $144 online. However, full retail price for the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is $240. My jacket is a size medium in black. The Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is offered in black, azure blue, and slate gray from sizes small to XXL. The Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is pretty true to fit. I am 5’ 11”, 160lbs, with a slim build. The medium has plenty of room for layering underneath but doesn’t have a too baggy fit when worn by itself.
Overview The Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is a down insulated jacket which utilizes an 800 fill water resistant down. The shell of the jacket is Nylon and the lining is Polyester. The inside lining of the jacket utilizes Columbia’s Omni-Heat 3D technology which basically looks like a space blanket. It is soft and very comfortable directly next to skin but does have a rather unique appearance. Given the name this jacket does include a hood which Columbia categorizes as a “scuba hood”. It is pretty roomy and I was able to squeeze a helmet underneath it and get good coverage with just a little pulling up on the shoulders. Without a helmet the hood is actually a little too roomy but not a major issue. It is almost like the hood is in between styles.
Feature wise the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket has two zippered hand pockets, a hem drawcord, and a hood drawcord. The zipper runs the full length of the jacket and has a little zipper garage or covering at the top so that when the jacket is fully zipped up the zipper doesn’t rub against skin. The two hand pockets do create internal stuff pockets that can be used to for gloves to keep them warm. The whole Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is packable into the left pocket to keep the jacket in a more condensed form.
One feature I really like on the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is the cuffs. It might sound like a really small thing but they are just comfy. The cuff is stretchy so you can get small gloves through but keeps the jacket in place even when the sleeves are pushed up the forearms. A small but nicely done feature.
Columbia doesn’t have a claimed weight for the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket on their website. On my scale the jacket weighed 387 grams. That is definitely not what I would consider “heavy” for a fully featured jacket but it is almost 140g heavier than a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisper which to me is kind of the industry standard for a puffy jacket. To be fair, the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is still about 30g lighter than Patagonia’s Down Sweater Hoody.
Warmth I found the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket to be a pretty warm jacket. I actually can’t think of a single time I was cold while wearing it. Typically I use the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket as a summit jacket and it does a phenomenal job even in temperatures down to the 20’s. Now, I had proper layers on for those conditions so I wouldn’t consider the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket to be a miracle worker but it does the job it was designed for.
Packability By using 800 fill down Columbia was able to make the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket pretty packable. I usually just stuff it straight down into my pack so that the jacket can fill up all of those little empty spaces in my pack. I have not had a hike yet that I didn’t bring the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket with me because I couldn’t fit it. When stuffed into the pocket the jacket is about the size of two Nalgene bottles in a squarish shape. I think this is pretty good for a down jacket but at the same time competitor’s jackets will usually pack down somewhat smaller.
Value when on sale
800 fill down
Cuff’s are nice
A little heavy
Not the most compressible
Full retail is a bad value
Summary There is a lot to like about the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket! It is a fully featured 800 fill down puffy jacket with a hood. For the record I definitely prefer jackets with a hood as they are more versatile. Whether or not I can recommend it comes down completely to price. Basically, this is a great jacket and doesn’t leave much to be wanted but it does lack a little of the polish/finish from other brands.
I don’t think the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is as good as a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, flat out. And at full retail the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is $240 versus $325 for the Ghost Whisperer which isn’t insignificant but I don’t think that covers the quality or longevity difference. However, at the $140 price point that the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket can reliably be found at it is way more than half the jacket for less than half the price.
On a sale price, like the current $144, Columbia delivers a hell of a budget puffy jacket that provides the must have features but does sacrifice just a little in weight/packability when compared to the high end of the industry. At full retail the price I would opt for one of those high end industry brands that are comparable in price at $240.
We’ve had the Osprey Daylite 13L pack for almost 9 months and although we are big fans of Osprey neither of us want anything to do with the Daylite 13L.
Our Use We purchased the Osprey Daylite to be a lighter pack for smaller days or to supplement one of our more technical packs that are in the 20-24L range. We have used the Daylite for a bunch of the hikes over the last 9 months. I think the Daylite might be a solid everyday use pack for work, gym, school, etc. but we have not used it in that capacity, but instead as a hiking pack. We got our Osprey Daylite from REI here in Albuquerque for $50 which is the retail price. There are a plethora of color options available now, 8 to be exact, but ours being a 2019 model is no longer available. I would call it a blue and black model. This review is not paid and we have not been compensated in anyway for writing it.
Overview The Osprey Daylite has a capacity of 13 liters. The pack has two main pockets and a separate water bladder pouch. A water bladder is not included with the Osprey Daylite. The water bladder pocket sits right behind the mesh back panel which makes it very easy to take a bladder out to refill while the pack is full. The large main compartment has a stretchy pocket that is pretty similar to most packs water bladder pouch but is there to help keep gear somewhat organized. The smaller of the two main pockets has two small mesh pockets for organizing small items like Clif Bars or a headlamp. There is also has a bight red clip for keys which is one of the features I love, but it is a common Osprey feature and hardly unique to the Daylite.
On the outside there are mesh water bottle pockets on either side and two straps for cinching down the pack when not completely full. The Osprey Daylite 13L has a removable waist belt and a siding sternum strap with a whistle integrated into the buckle. Osprey claims 1 pound exactly for the Daylite and it came out to 1.01 on my scale.
Good zipper pulls
No outside shovel pocket
No trekking pole attachments
Water bottle pockets don’t hold bottles in
Summary I feel like Osprey meant for the Daylite to be an accessory pack to larger packs or an all around school backpack that can be handle short to medium days on the trail. In a lot of ways on paper the Daylite hits everything you would look for in such a pack. It is lightweight, relatively cheap, comfortable, and 13L is a solid size for such use. But this is where long term reviews have a HUGE advantage over shorter periods; the flaws with the Osprey Daylite only show themselves after repeated use.
The Osprey Daylite just doesn’t work well compared to the competition. The water bottle pockets won’t hold a bottle in for anything. Literally even a small bend over and your bottles will probably go flying. We’ve taken to running one of the compression strap through the lid of a Nalgene bottle to try and keep it in place. Size wise I think 13L is a great place for short to medium hikes in decent weather. But the Osprey Daylite lacks a few technical features that are in Osprey’s product arsenal to round out the size. Some great examples would be an external shovel pocket for a rain jacket or even a mesh or bungee strap system. There are no attachment points for trekking poles or tools. I love the stow and go trekking pole system on my Osprey Stratos 24L pack. Even just a few lash points on the bottom or sides of the Daylite would make it more versatile. Although the Daylite is lightweight it is not a particularly compressible pack for stowing it in a larger overnight pack to be utilized for short summit bids.
Overall, the fundamental problem of the Daylite is a functional pack but there are just other packs that fit into a similar space and do it better. For example, the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole 20L Pack (Link to our Review) or the REI Flash 18 or 22L. We can’t really comment on the Osprey Daylite as an all around everyday backpack but when it comes to hiking it leaves quit a bit to be desired. We have basically replaced this pack in our lineup with the 16L Ultimate Direction Adventure 4.0 Hydration Vest on the low side and the Patagonia Black Hole 20L Pack on the higher side.
The below link is a direct link to Osprey’s page for the Daylite so you can check it out if interested. It is not an affiliate link: Osprey Daylite 13L
Affectionately known as a butt pad, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is one product that is all positives with almost no downsides. The Z Seat is simply a section of closed cell foam padding that folds out as a quick seat. It’s is basically the same as Therm-a-Rest Z Lite sleeping pad just in seat form.
Originally, I was just going to cut up an older Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad to make myself a butt pad. But honestly, there is no reason when Therm-a-Rest offers the Z Seat for only $15! So I got one and then a second from my local REI. Both of ours are yellow/silver but there is also a blue/silver combination online.
Overview As mentioned earlier, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is made of closed foam padding. The Z Seat folds up accordion style and has a built in bungee cable to keep the seat folded up. The Z Seat is 0.75 inches thick and unfolds to be 13 x 16 inches. Folded up and fully compressed it is 12 x 2.5 x 2.75 inches. Therm-a-Rest claims the Z Seat weighs 60 grams but on my home scale it actually came out to 57g. It is always nice to see a weight claim that is honest and not inflated.
The whole purpose of the Z Seat is to provide a minimalist seat for the outdoors. The biggest thing I can say about the Z Seat is that there is really not a way to explain how surprisingly comfy a little bit of foam padding can be. It doesn’t seem like it should make much of a difference but a mid-hike snack on the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is much comfier than just sitting on the ground or a rock. It can really help in cold or snowy conditions. I could pull the Z Seat out and just plop down on snowy ground without being cold or getting wet. I have also found other random uses for the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat like changing socks in the snow. I could take my shoes off and step onto the Z Seat so that I didn’t get my socks wet.
Honestly, I don’t get how this product isn’t more popular outside of the backpacking community. I can’t help but think of high school baseball or football bleachers getting way more comfortable on a Z Seat. Basically, any unpadded seat could benefit from a Therm-a-Rest Z Seat and they are so portable.
Bungee for compression
Takes up a little space
Summary Really I can’t say enough good things about Therm-a-Rest Z Seat. It is comfy, keeps my butt warm/dry, and weighs almost nothing. I stick it in one of my external water bottle pouches for almost every hike which also keeps it easily accessible so that every summit break I can quickly grab it and have a quick rest.
The only reason not to take the Z Seat is space. It does take up a little space but being closed foam it can ride on the outside of a pack no matter the condition, closed foam doesn’t absorb water. I bought one and went back for a second after one hike so the other half of this site could have one too. It seems like such a small product but it really makes a difference. And the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is a cheap enough package with some nice features, the Z fold pattern and bungee strap, that getting a Z Seat is a better option than destroying an old sleeping pad.
The link below is to Therm-a-Rest’s page for the Z Seat. It is not an affiliate link: Therm-a-Rest Z Seat
The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is a stuff sack style ultralight backpack. The pack has a single main compartment that closes using a drawcord and a daisy chain hook. Inside the main compartment is a medium sized zippered pocket on the back panel. The entire pack can stuff into the pocket for storage similar to rain jackets that can stuff into one of their pockets. When stuffed into the pocket the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is roughly the size of a Nalgene bottle. On the top of the lid is a small zippered pocket. On the outside there are two mesh bottle pockets. That is really all there is to the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L; simple and no frills.
Given the name it’s no surprise that the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L has a storage capacity of 20L which I have found to be a good place. So far I’ve used this pack mostly on short hikes, sub 6 miles, or on scrambles like Cabezon Peak. 20L might not sound like a lot and the pack looks rather small but it doesn’t manage to swallow up about all the gear you really need for shorter trips. This summer I also plan to use the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L as a summit pack for overnight trips were we have backpacked in and set up a base camp.
Patagonia claims a weight of 310g for the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L. On my scale it actually weighed 291g. You definitely can’t complain when the actual weight comes out below the manufacturers. The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is offered in three colors: Black, Blue, and Red.
Size is perfect for short trips or scrambles
Fits way more gear than you would expect
Exterior water bottle pouches and daisy chain have room to increase load carrying ability
Supper simple pack with all you need and no frills
Stuffs super small
Surprisingly comfortable and stable to wear
Padded back panel is comfortable but be conscious of how you pack gear
The shoulder straps are too close together at where they meet the pack
The pack carries kind of funny and really high up on the back (not bad, just odd feeling)
I wish the daisy chain had an extended strip so that the pack lid could secure “overflow” loads
A little pricey at $80, REI has a similar pack for around $50
Summary There really isn’t a whole lot to say about the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L just like the pack itself. It delivers what you really need without any of the frills. The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L just works and works well for short hikes, scrambles, and as a secondary pack carried on a backpacking trip. The ability to stuff the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L into itself and make it pretty small is to me the key selling point of the pack. I do think adding the additional daisy chain would make carrying a rope at the crag or overflow loads possible. I would also like to see the straps widened at the attachment point to the pack which I think would improve the feel of the pack on the back. It isn’t really a problem but definitely an odd feeling.
At $80 retail I do think the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is a little overpriced but it does the job it was designed to do almost perfectly. If you need a compressible pack there aren’t many better ones out there. I purchased the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L in BRIGHT red for purposes of this review and my personal use. I was not compensated for writing it.
The below link is to Patagonia’s page for the Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L, it is not an affiliate link: Patagonia.com
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.
Support the Site If you would like to support this site please follow the affiliate link below to Amazon. There you can check out a a Buff CoolNet UV+ or one of their many other versions for yourself. Buff CoolNet UV+ on Amazon - $15.90
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.