at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Tools (Page 3 of 11)

Nike Lunarepic

Nike LunarEpic Running Shoes Review

When I went to the Rome Marathon (and then to Kirchdorf for their part-trail, hilly “Über-Drüber” marathon) this spring, it was the first time in years that I had running shoes made for road running rather than trails.

Things had come to the point where I used Salomon Speedcross for training (running in Beijing) as well as road marathons (in Linz as well as in Beijing) rather more than on trails (e.g. on my attempt around the Grossglockner).

The feeling of being close to the ground, responsive and protected, as an even more specialized trail running shoe such as the Icebug Zeal provides, has become very comfortable to me.

I did (and do) like it – but as this year’s 24 Hours Burgenland proved only too well, it was time to get off the ground and cushioned for road running again.

Going Big (Shoe Sole-Wise)

Just as I had decided on that, Nike came and released the LunarEpic.

The Nike LunarEpic has a price point which is painful, at €180 in the EU ($175 in the USA), but it seemed just crazy enough a difference to regular road-running shoes (and specialized enough like my trail-running favorites) in its construction to make me interested…

Nike Lunarepic

One quick online purchase directly at their website and a few days wait after, a pair of LunarEpic arrived and has been in use for much of my running since.

So much of it has been on paved roads and hard-packed dirt roads that could just as well be paved-over, anyways.

Six months, two marathons, and some general training later, it is time for a verdict.

The cushioning the LunarEpic provide still feels very unfamiliar, after all the low-drop and low-stack trail running shoes I have been using, but the results have been interesting:

The feeling is a mixture of comfort and of running on a squishy surface that doesn’t quite react as normal.

At the same time, some of my training runs have been faster while being at the usual exertion, and even in the Rome Marathon, where some issues seriously hampered my running, the problems that road marathons usually caused on less-cushioned (trail running) shoes didn’t occur.

The Epic(?) Cushioning

Moving to overall performance of the shoe, as it feels, is constructed, and has been holding up, the Nike LunarEpic is a fascinating beast:

The sole is pretty thick and a “plush ride” as it says on the insoles themselves.

Nike Lunarepic

It is constructed of Nike’s Lunarlon, with  “sipes” laser-cut into the soles and advertised as compressing just as much as the pressure exerted by their wearer’s footfall warrants.

Quite a few reviewers have described this to work like a piston compressing to cushion the motion against the ground and then rebound and put a bounce into one’s step.

Nike Lunarepic

This, I cannot subscribe to.

Maybe one could feel that there were something of that if running with a decisive heel strike, but with a soft midfoot strike, I’d still say that such soles feel slightly mushy.

The results I’ve been having, however, make me want to continue my road-running in these shoes and reserve the low-and-fast trail running shoes for the trails, where a different running style and strategy is required.

All the more so as there isn’t just a sole to that shoe, even as it can sometimes feel like it, given its comfortable fit and low weight…

One necessary caveat to these “sipes”, as everyone has been pointing out: As soon as you run on split gravel rather than totally clean roads, the shoe soles will collect small rocks.

Where I run, this happens a lot, but it doesn’t seem to affect the shoes’ performance in any way. (It is necessary to clean those stones out, though… which makes me feel like I’m back to taking care of horses’ hooves.)

The Flyknit “Sock”

The upper is what sets the Nike LunarEpic really and noticeably apart from pretty much all other running shoes (so far):

nike-lunarepic-forefoot

Constructed in Flyknit, it wraps around the foot, including the ankle, like a sock.

It feels just one step removed from gluing the shoe soles to the soles of one’s feet – except that this feels rather more comfortable than glue would, I’m sure ;)

Personally, I wouldn’t want to wear shoes without socks, so I finally found a good use case for the no-show low socks I hadn’t had so much use for so far, but such low socks and the shoes themselves wrapping around the foot feels very good, light and yet supported.

In Conclusion

Eventually, I remain undecided. The shoes have held up pretty well, in spite of the small stones their soles keep collecting.

The upper is really comfortable, the whole shoes are pretty light.

I just remain undecided as to whether such a thick sole helps or hurts me.

My recommendation: Just try it out for yourself; shaking things up a bit sure isn’t the worst you can do.

Suunto Spartan Ultra: Initial Review

The release of the Suunto Spartan Ultra having gone as it has been, lots of people have found lots of reasons to complain.

They aren’t entirely wrong, for the Spartan Ultra promises a lot, but right now delivers a 700 to 850 Euro/dollar watch that is definitely a new hardware platform (color touch screen and all), but doesn’t even have an alarm function.

There is also potential, however – and I want to give Suunto the benefit of the doubt.

Looking back and complaining, after all, is cheap.

Looking at what is there now is better, and where it offers reason to complain, we’ll also have reason to look at what has been introduced, shortly. What is here already doesn’t look half as bad as the usual online discussions may make you think.Suunto Spartan Ultra

Then, September will already bring an update that improves the Spartan’s functionality a lot, and going by the features Suunto mentions in its update note and customer/user survey on how the Spartan gets stronger, this platform may well have even more potential than we realize now.

So, as I said, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Or rather, the benefit of decades-long experience in which they have never failed to bring things forward quite a bit. On that note…

Full Disclosure

I have some-one-and-a-half decades of experience with Suunto, know people (from) there I’d consider friends, and have regularly been supported with watches for review/testing and/or supported them in watch development as a beta tester.

This also applies here with the Spartan Ultra: I have received it from Suunto, to work on it as a beta-tester.

Thus, I have seen a few of their devices in early stages and beyond, and this makes it look like the release of the Spartan was a bit rushed compared to Suunto’s usual approach, but it will be in a much better state soon.

 

In my review(s), I will tell things as they are, anyways, if a bit more focused on how things work (hence, the Ambit3 Manual series).

After all, my work here is about living with the reality of the world, not in this popular fairy-tale land where every device works and makes a person much better without effort.

Like I said, I may give them the benefit of the doubt, but I also have enough good experience with them to do so – and only too many people online are only too fond of providing more than enough kvetching and moaning (or just type up PR material), anyways. No need to contribute to that.

That said, here goes:

Suunto Spartan Ultra Unboxing

So, if you decide to get a Suunto Spartan Ultra already, this is what you get:

The type of box Suunto introduced with the release of the Ambit family, with the Suunto Spartan Ultra, its (new) charging cable, a Movesense HR belt (if you got an HR version), and the “essential” info material, i.e. Quick Guide and warranty.

And a Suunto sticker; let’s  not forget that ;)

Movesense

The Movesense HR belt is the same it has been ever since Suunto updated their HR belts and went BTLE-only (rather than ANT+). So, if you have such an HR belt from an Ambit3, you don’t have to get an HR version Spartan – though you should remember that the belt part needs regular replacement; it degrades with use and then stops giving reliable results.

[Thank you to Goran – see comments – for reminding me that the switch to the new, BTLE-only, Movesense HR belts only came with the Ambit3!]

Charging Cable

The charging cable is entirely new.

It is still a USB cable for charging as well as the connection with a PC or Mac, now using the program/utility “Suuntolink,” a version of which has only been used with the Suunto Kailash before, rather than the “Moveslink” used with Ambits and other Suunto watches.

However, it no longer is a “datasnake”-style cable “biting” onto the side of the watch, but rather attaches to the watch via a magnet. Thus, there are no more moving parts which might fail (but you should take care not to get the magnet anywhere it shouldn’t be).

Suunto Spartan Ultra with USB cable attached

Suunto Spartan Ultra with USB cable attached

Warranty

Quick guide and warranty aren’t the most interesting things, as usual, but it should be noted that Suunto recently changed/expanded their warranty to that international one

The most interesting thing, of course, is the watch…

Suunto Spartan Ultra Start-Up

The Spartan Ultra itself comes ‘asleep’, like all recent Suunto watches. Here, the quick guide may come in handy, to know to hold the top button for a few seconds in order to awaken the watch.

After the first booting, the watch goes straight into the setup, asking about some basic data it needs to function properly, which you can also see in the unboxing video above…

… and more than likely, you’ll want to connect it to your computer to charge, update, and sync it.

Spartan Ultra and Suuntolink

It’s no longer “Moveslink” which is used to sync the Spartan watches, it is “Suuntolink”. So, download that, install it on your PC or Mac, hook up the watch and see what it does.

For example, it updates the firmware:

Suuntolink also, of course, sync the GPS data to make reception quicker and better, syncs the settings between watch and Movescount, syncs moves data, downloads routes, and so on.

(There are still some connectivity issues, but they are being worked on.)

A First Close-Up

Just to give you some impressions of how the watch’s touchscreen works and what customization options (and modes) there currently are, especially of the watch face, let’s browse a bit:

First Runs

My first run, I still had the Spartan Ultra at the very first firmware with which it was ever made available outside of Suunto.

That wasn’t even the worst problem, it was – Surprise, surprise! – that some things about its use have changed quite a bit: You do not get the Ambits’ “GPS Searching” with the progress bar anymore, the Spartans just show their readiness for use with the GPS (and HR, and Start? – it was all still a question) symbols turning from mere outline to being filled when they are (somewhat) ready.

Not knowing about that, I started the recording when the watch was not yet ready, and it started recording the GPS track only after quite some time.

Considering that, the total distance measurement was not bad – and this very first run was in Hong Kong, where even the Ambit3 Peak had tremendous problems with the GPS reception, as you can see on the track for the move

HK Run Ambit3 Peak Track

So, you don’t get to see much of the Spartan Ultra in the following video, but I want to include it here, anyways. It was still fun, gives some impressions of Hong Kong – and I’m about more than just sports watches, after all! ;)

Fun as it was, it is still highly recommended to first connect, charge, and sync the watch to ready it. And to update the firmware, if there is an update. Not to just go out…

So, now, since I couldn’t record quite so much of how all that looks like for the video above, what should you do for starting a run (or other exercise / “move”), having done all the syncing and updating? How does it look?

Recording a Run

First off, don’t forget to pair your HR belt to the watch!

Unsurprisingly, to start recording an exercise, you go to “Exercise”, pick the sports mode you want to use/do, set options if you want to do that (those are still limited to setting a target, which is still limited to a duration only, and/or to activating a route – more on routes/navigation below).

Just know that the Spartan Ultra no longer shows dedicated startup screens for the HR belt and the GPS, it just shows a location icon and a heart icon, which turn from outlined to full when GPS and HR belt, respectively, have been found.

Ready like that, the “Start” button on the display also turns from an outlined to a filled icon.

Hit Start and you’re ready to go…

You can, of course, scroll through different displays (currently, as pre-set by Suunto, but the customizability of sports modes is already in the list of updates that will come soon) to get different data.

You can pause the recording (to resume or to stop it), and it’s no longer likely that one forgets to unpause, as that is now a dedicated screen showing either total time elapsed or time of day (switch via tap or middle button), with big “resume” and “stop” icons at the bottom and top, respectively.

To avoid accidental button presses, these icons don’t serve as touch buttons; the actual buttons have to be pushed to resume or stop.

At the end of a recording, a summary is still/again displayed, with one screen for the various items of data and another for laps (or actually, one for autolaps and one for manual laps, if both were used).

Logbook and Training Overview

Judging by the ads for the Spartan Ultra, there is still quite a bit more to come on the watch and on Movescount when it comes to training (progress) overviews.

Definitely, one can already go into the logbook to see data of recent training sessions or swipe down from the time display to get to the overviews of (first step counter, then) recent training times or distances and then recovery time.

More than likely, there will be more – if it’s not all just coming to Movescount (the website).

Navigation

I just so happened to have to hike to Arche Noah in Lower Austria again, one of my places for a little ‘adventuring’ – so I took the Spartan Ultra, pre-loaded with the necessary route, as navigation tool:

Night hike GPS tracks (from Ambit3 Peak, worn on right wrist and set to “trekking” mode with “best” GPS, and Suunto Spartan Ultra, worn on left wrist, and apparently, going by the options/setup for the “hiking” mode, set to “good” GPS only) can be viewed and compared here:

(The route I had set up to follow, just using the “follow roads walking” option, is also shown, in blue.)

Still some issues to work on, but overall, the navigation worked at least as well as it does on the Ambits (except for waypoints not really being used yet) and the data/tracks recorded are quite alright here, too.

Syncing

Suuntolink was already mentioned, but this spot seems good to also mention the sync between the Spartan Ultra and Movescount via Suuntolink…

It “optimizes GPS” (i.e., downloads the GPS satellite SGEE data which helps get a faster and better fix), syncs settings, syncs moves, and (though you don’t see that unless there is a new one) checks for firmware updates.

The way this looks now is really nice, but of course it’s more important that it works… and there are some connectivity issues which Suunto has acknowledged and is working to get them fixed.

Thoughts Right Now

People didn’t much like that video (especially with it coming first), but I think there are some things you need to hear and consider: From what can be seen so far, the Spartan is a very promising platform, but it does not yet fulfill too many of those promises.

As I said in my introductory words, going by my experience with Suunto, they will more than likely deliver – but that will take time.

At the current time and state, if you are happy with your Ambit, I would recommend sticking with it. If you need a serious and reliable (in terms of both function and accuracy) training and outdoors device, it will still serve you better than the Spartan Ultra in its current state.

If you want to be an early adopter and see how far Suunto gets in how (comparatively) little time, you could do worse than to get a Spartan Ultra already, though.

Some hiccups still occur, even some things that already work still need improving (which wasn’t how Suunto has usually released its watches, though not everything was quite as good as it is now with the Traverse when it first came out, either) – but it will get there and beyond.

The watch already looks good, is starting to perform well, and shows enough potential.

Like I did with the Ambits, I’ll return with a new post when there is another jump in the firmware version, i.e. a serious software update – and then we’ll also take a deeper look at the data provided by the Spartan, at Movescount’s new features, at the way the Movescount app works together with the Spartan, and all that.

Later this year, I’ll even head to Suunto HQ for talks and interviews…

Questions?

Ask and you shall get answers – and also ask if you have (serious ;) ) questions for potential interview partners of mine at Suunto later this year…

Availability

If you’re interested in a purchase – and in supporting my work here (i.e., yes, those are affiliate links) – the Suunto Spartan Ultra is available here, for example:

Or, you can get it on Amazon (also with affiliate links):


Sherpa social media-ized

Outdoors Bloggers, #OutDoorFN 2016

The attention economy, of blogs and (other) social media, of fast fashion and tech, thrives ever more on speed.

The Sped-Up World

Suunto having announced their new Spartan (Ultra and Sport) collection, thus, has everyone wanting to know everything about it already.

This, even though the devices are only coming on the market in August, will need weeks of testing to really get to an informed opinion, given all their focus on training progress over time – and then the Spartan Ultra is due to get major features, including for the same training progress display(s), only in September.

The OutDoor Friedrichshafen only just took place again, and it is one big celebration of novelty that drives attention that drives the market, with the spring/summer 2017 season already in company and trade sights.

Bloggers and (other) social media influencers, of course, are both driven by and driving these trends yet further.

The Not-So-Fed-Up World

Or so, forcing us all into ever-faster news cycles, it all felt while I was caught up in my own ardent desire to put the new Suunto Spartan Ultra through its paces, if only I could get it before I leave for China.

That is only one side of modern geeky and consumer life, however.

Taking a step back to remember that all those new things are there not just to drive sales, but also to help make life a bit more interesting and the outdoors more enjoyable, however, there were great talks to be had.
All the more so as the Friedrichshafen Fair had come around to seeing value in bloggers and worked with the (German) Outdoor Bloggers Network this year, actively bringing them – us – into the fold.

Sherpa social media-ized

Sherpa social media-ized

(Funnily, I still have the problem that my being based in Austria makes most companies’ PR people say that I’ll have to work with the Austrian PR teams – but since I blog and vlog in English, I tend to be of no interest to the PR people who are there to serve the Austrian, German-speaking, market…)

With talks not just with other bloggers but also with sales and PR people of outdoors companies, not just about the new things but also about their experiences and interests, it all got even more enjoyable. Even the new things…

My highlights:

Suunto

Suunto wasn’t really present at the fair, but there were some company representatives to be found, so I managed to wrangle a Spartan Ultra (still only a sales sample) from one of them and finally get it on my wrist.

Suunto Spartan Ultra display Suunto Kailash vs Spartan Ultra Suunto Kailash vs Spartan Ultra side

To me, compared with the Kailash, the fit is great and the display indeed looks promising. Let’s see how it holds up in actual use, whenever I can get to looking at that…

Arc’teryx

Arc’teryx continues to be near-impossible to work with for a small (and not only outdoors) blogger like me, but also to produce innovative and interesting gear, with an attention to detail and function that is very alluring.

Next up in that, an expansion of their footwear into mountain trail running with the Norvan VT shoe, and the return of a Bora backpack with a new “Rotoglide” hipbelt system that promises great things:

Those will be available in men’s and women’s and in standard or Gore-Tex, by the way.

Oh: Their updated everyday/commuter collection is not to be underestimated. Stretch jeans with stylish looks, but also reflector patches that can be folded out or tucked away and a cut and material made for bike commutes, a women’s blazer that closes without a zipper, yet enough to protect against wind and water, and opens to look like a modern take on a standard blazer. – Looks like some of the ideas and approaches of the Veilance line are starting to influence the everyday wear…

Arcteryx commuter clothing

Arcteryx commuter clothing. Yeah, not the official name of the line ;)

Salomon

Salomon will of course expand and update its collection of shoes yet further, e.g. adding an XA Enduro trail running shoe that is like a summer version of the XA Alpine (to be) introduced for winter. It, too, will feature an integrated gaiter, just in a lower and lighter form made for the summer.

For two 360 degree looks at the Salomon booth, check out the two photos on Facebook here and here

Montane

For trail runners, Montane’s VIA series running packs will add a 15 liter model; they still continue with their major models (which I find commendable) but are set to bring out another version of their Minimus jacket in stretch Pertex Shield. Fully waterproof, yet stretchy; I would like to see how well that works and fits…

Outdoor Research

With OR, the major news came in the form of a new jacket with electrospun yarn that is said to be more breathable, yet still waterproof, and with waterproof mid-volume backpacks. Not the worst idea, if rather specialized.

Here, too, I am most happy to see that it’s not all just about new things.

OR Helium II Jackets

OR Helium II Jackets

The Helium II jackets were still being celebrated (rightly so, I’d say), and attention was put on the Active Ice products some of which I have been using since last year and should finally review.

OR Active Ice

OR Active Ice

Strange only, especially in this context, that the Europe team of OR didn’t seem to know anything about a Polartec Delta shirt that is due to come out, which was mentioned in a press release about this new “cooling platform” from Polartec…
Then again, I asked about that material at the Polartec booth, and they knew about it but also didn’t have it with them.

Fjällräven

Not exactly what I typically focus on, given the “anti-travel” writing I sometimes publish, but what interested me most about Fjällräven’s news is that they will be bringing their Fjällräven Classic events to the USA and Hong Kong next.
Hong Kong is exhausting, but just about the most amazing place for hiking and trail running experiences that I know. (And in fact, the last few days of the upcoming trip to China will be spent in Hong Kong.)

Black Yak

After the introduction of Black Yak’s first European winter collection, now Europe also got a look at their first summer offering – and of course, they will continue in style and with what looks to be insanely good quality.

Black Yak booth

Black Yak booth

Black Yak clothing detail

Black Yak clothing detail

I’ll admit, I am also fascinated simply because this is one of the first forays of an Asian company onto the ‘Western’ market, which is very interesting in terms of marketing and access. That said, the looks and details are quite convincing, and I hope to put some of their products through their paces starting later this year.

The North Face

Even TNF is going maximal when it comes to running shoes, and I’m still not convinced by that. Still, more choices here aren’t a bad thing.
Main game in town: We got a sneak preview of the upcoming The North Face Summit Series collection. Nothing we would have been permitted to show, but let’s just say: They really want to relaunch the Summit Series as the top-end, as it was originally intended. And lots of concern are going into not letting this collection be watered down into too many items worn more by hip-hop stars than alpinists this time around.

And lots more…

I could easily go on like this for a while yet, but I’m on the jump to the airport for 3 weeks in China. So, let me just wish you a nice summer, leave you with the few more impressions from the OutDoor Friedrichshafen 2016 above, and promise there’s more to come ;)

Sendling Jacket Using Leather Lock Strap

O1O6 Sendling Jacket: European Style and Substance

In the midst of the technical performance menswear revolution, niche as it is, quality counts and is often seen as coming down to production country, but it all seems American. Canadian, at best.

With O1O6 (born as onoo), however, we find a menswear startup that is European, rooted in its Southern German-Alpine background, stylish and modern, and close to timeless in look.

How so?

So:

In the Sendling in Zürich (on the Üetliberg)

In the Sendling (and Veilance Spec Pants) in Zürich (on the Üetliberg)

Watch my review here, or read on below it to delve into the details…

For one, their standout first-collection piece, the Sendling jacket, is made from loden, a wool fabric that would fit the current interest in natural fibers with great performance very well, if only it weren’t used in traditional costumes so much.

Green or grey loden, deer antler buttons, that’s the men’s costume to accompany women wearing a dirndl. Good for the Oktoberfest, but not exactly a modern style to wear to anything but such a festival. Or maybe a hunt.

Not so with the Sendling.

It’s still grey loden, but a very comfortable one, and one treated with a teflon coating adding further to its natural ability to shed rain and snow. Inside, a layer of insulation has been added for cold temps.

Sendling Jacket Inside (Waist)

Sendling Jacket Inside (Waist)

Style

The cut is thoroughly modern in all the best ways:

  • form-fitting but not tight
  • with cooling and stretching cutouts behind the shoulder blades for ventilation and movement
  • stretch cuffs inside the asymmetric outside cuffs protecting the backs of your hands and keeping out wind
  • pockets and main closure (except for three buttons there for style) all closed by waterproof zippers that are thoroughly modern a touch again, but functional as well.
Sendling Jacket Chest Pocket

Sendling Jacket Chest Pocket (and Collar Detail)

Most of those – and more! – details are all made for the intended use of the jacket, as a piece that you can wear on your bike while riding into work or to the next coffee shop or traditional Kaffeehaus, then get right down to business or your individual pursuits and still look dressed like a creative professional.

In their advertising material (see their website), it’s all very much the hipster look and style, but no beard is required to rock that jacket. No fixie bike, either.

And in Substance?

The bit of insulation added to the inside keeps pretty warm while not getting stuffy as long as the temperatures are low enough (summer jacket this ain’t).

Sendling Jacket Inside, while worn

Sendling Jacket Inside, while worn

I have worn my Sendling from February to May, from Munich to Zurich to Rome, and it’s held up come rain or shine.
In Zurich, in downpours, I just added a woolen cap and was fine; only Rome got a bit warm for it.

(One downside: It should not be washed, only dry cleaned. I went ahead and hand-washed the inside at the armpits, where washing became highly advisable, with mild wool detergent, anyways, then hung it up to dry outside. Worked out very well. Otherwise, for all but if you get it too sweaty, loden just needs to be hung out in fog – or in your steamy post-shower bathroom.)

Even then, the leather strap inside, meant to keep the jacket from flapping around in the wind when you’re on your bike, comes in handy for having the jacket open, but not totally, in warm-enough temperatures that you don’t want to have it zipped and/or buttoned up.

Sendling Jacket Using Leather Lock Strap

Sendling Jacket using leather lock strap (and you can also see the headphone garage above the chest pocket)

So, in total, as you can also see in the video review, you can wear this jacket completely open, open-but-unflappable using the leather strap (which can also be removed if so desired… or maybe if you need a tool for a spanking), closing the buttons, zipping it up halfways for the suit jacket-collar look, or zipping it up all the way and putting up the collar for real cold-weather use.

I do hope O1O6 will remain and go on – who else makes performance-oriented menswear that is designed in Germany and sewn in Italy, of European materials? – and they sure sounded like they already had ideas for further improvements and maybe new things.

Their initial collection already includes a bomber jacket, the Westend, and the Lehel short coat…

Let’s see what’s next; it’s sure to be style with substance, “intelligent urban clothing” to keep and feel at home in.

Sendling Jacket Inside Construction

Sendling Jacket Inside Construction: Materials mix inside, O1O6 tag, leather hanger with limited edition number all visible

At €599 for the Sendling, it’s not cheap – until you look at what a nice suit jacket from a well-known brand would cost, all without necessarily making you look as good while protecting you that well.

Suunto Kailash Review: Adventure Timeline-d [Updated]

Suunto has, for a while already, been right in that area of the sports and outdoors technology market where actual usefulness and luxurious aspiration collide.

Outdoors Aspiration

Use a device like a t6, Quest or Ambit (to reach back into Suunto history a bit) well, and your training will glean better results – but of course, by wearing a Vector or Core or any of the aforementioned models, you also show that you’re an outdoors person, not one for a Rolex. (Although, those have quite some outdoors/explorer pedigree as well…)

With the Kailash, which I had previewed somewhat suspiciously as soon as I had received it from Suunto for reviewing, this sense and symbolizing of adventurousness has become the raison d’être of the watch.

Kailash 7R button

Here, with the introduction also of the 7R concept and the beginning of the “World Collection” (to which the earlier-released Suunto Essential line was added when its models with ceramic bezels came out), Suunto is truly in that lifestyle market where expensive devices with premium materials and with features of, perhaps questionable, usefulness in daily life reside.

I still haven’t gone quite as far and traveled quite as much as I think the Suunto Kailash should be taken, but the watch itself provides feedback on that which has turned me around on it.

Watch Adventure

It is and remains something that looks very much like a tool/toy for a business traveler who wants to feel adventurous by virtue of all the places he’s visited.

If it weren’t for the high price (or maybe even more because of it, if you want to show your success?), this would make it the perfect device for the digital nomads who make constant travel and work on the road their aim, self-advertisement, and lifestyle.

Having had a Kailash for a few months now, however, I find how it looks and what it does more and more interesting.

Suunto Kailash in Florence

So, enough of people and attitudes I find rather strange, and on to what the Kailash does and I have been finding fun and useful:

The 7R Adventure Log

The main feature of the Suunto Kailash, supported by its GPS, is its ability to provide a record of its user’s ‘adventures’.

Suunto Kailash 7R Log: Countries Visiited

Chief among them are travel statistics:

  • number of countries visited and
  • number of cities visited, as well as
  • travel days,
  • total distance traveled,
  • distance farthest from home, and
  • average daily steps.

These are all stored on the watch and visible on displays reached by pushing the 7R button.

The data also get synced to the 7R iOS app where they reside along the “adventure timeline”, a timeline- and map-based view of where you’ve been and when (see below).

What is counted as visited is related to step counts (which are also counted to calculate your “average daily steps” taken during a year): You have to have taken at least 1000 steps in a place for it to be counted as visited.

It must have been quite a discussion how to implement this; 1000 steps is still not many, but who knows if a business traveler taking taxis would necessarily always walk much more? Yet, any fewer would not make sense or any country you fly over or every airport stopover would then be counted for sure.

(And travel days? Like distance traveled, only trips leading farther than 75 km away from the home location are counted. While any distances longer than that count for the total of distance traveled, it must have been a full 24-hour day for it to count as a travel day as well.)

GPS Uses

Of course, something must tell the Kailash where you are or it could never know where you have been.

That something is, not very surprisingly, a GPS chip.

The way that the Suunto Kailash uses its GPS is a rather special one, though. Consequently, thinking of the Kailash as a GPS watch is not the way to go…

Your Urban Location

The lifestyle (rather than outdoors) connection of the Kailash is easily visible right on the first 7R screen.

Here, just as soon as you’ve pushed the (sapphire-glass) 7R button, the Suunto Kailash shows either how far away from the next city in its database you are (or were when it last had a GPS fix) or how long you’ve been in such a city.

So, on tour, there’s at least a bit of a pointer to where you are and pass(ed) by, as we already saw in the photo above, where it shows the stop-over of the train at Firenze S.M. railway station, i.e. Florence, and as you can see in my video taken while I went to Rome for the Rome Marathon:

Again, that data is also being transferred to and shown in the 7R iOS app, where one can scroll through the timeline to get an impression of the when and where of one’s travels.

A GPS fix is taken, or at least attempted, every 10 minutes; of course, the usual caveats surrounding GPS location fixes apply.

For example, they work best when the device is in an open location with a clear view of the sky.

Not exactly the conditions to be expected during each and every fix a Kailash tries, so fewer locations will actually end up being recorded… Some types of train and airplane also appear to be built in such a way that GPS signals are blocked.

This Way is Home

The GPS on the Kailash is, or can be, used as a pointer towards home, or a home away from home, as well.

Home is an important matter, not just as something to make oneself familiar in (need I remind you of the tagline of the site you’re reading? ;) ), but also for the use of the Suunto Kailash.

Travel days are logged in this device only when it can be assumed that they really were travel, and just as 1000 steps are required in a place to count it as having been visited, so a distance greater than 75 km from home must be surpassed, for at least a full 24 hours, for a day to count as a travel day.

(The total distance traveled, meanwhile, only requires getting out of one’s comfort, uhm home, zone of a 75 km radius.)

On the second main screen, the place a user has marked as home (using the watch or the app) is really being pointed to; this screen displays the distance from ‘home’ and the direction it lies.

Suunto Kailash Pointing Home

The way the Kailash is originally set up, this screen points to the actual (Mount) Kailash. Nice touch that.

However, the display here can also, and quickly, be set up to point to a home away from home: Set foot outside your hotel in a new city, go to that screen, push the 7R button, and the GPS goes looking for its location.

Once the GPS fix has been acquired, this location can be stored as a POI (the one POI, in fact, which the Kailash can store in addition to the location defined as home).

When a place has been set like this, the second screen has two views, one towards home and one that helps get back to the POI:

Route tracking this isn’t, but if you’ve ever been in a new city and wondered which way your hotel was again, you should know how this could come in handy.

(This second display can also show the compass, which is rendered as just a compass “needle”, if the Kailash is set up to show that.)

Flashlight Mode

Talking of finding one’s way: Should you find yourself in a hotel room in a blackout, or perhaps one that is nicely darkened and doesn’t easily let you find the light switch, you only have to hold the lower button longer for the Kailash to switch from ordinary backlight to the extra-bright ‘flashlight’ mode.

Suunto Kailash in Flashlight Mode

This function is shared between the Kailash and the Traverse, with that button switching the views of a display when pushed once, activating the backlight when held for around 2 seconds, and turning on the flashlight mode when held even longer.

GPS Power Use

Since an update at the end of 2015, a power mode has also been added to the GPS functions.

Activating this by long-pressing the 7R button sets the Kailash to record a GPS location every second for the first 15 minutes and then every minute (for a maximum of 8 hours or until stopped if battery level falls below 10%, if no GPS signal was received for 30 minutes, or when the user pushes the 7R button again).

It’s still not quite the route record one gets from an Ambit, but it could be used to e.g. make a record of a marathon’s route that is relatively exact, to “replay” in the 7R app.

7R App Screen, in Vatican City

One does get a bit of a travel record anyways… Here, from my visit to the Vatican City while in Rome

(I thought about using the Kailash like that for recording the Rome Marathon, but then still went the more sensible route of using my Ambit3 for that instead.)

The 7R iOS App

All the location data recorded by the Kailash also ends up in the app that accompanies it (on iOS only), which is organized all around the idea of an adventure timeline, continuing the look-feel of the watch (more on which in a sec).

The app mainly shows a map and the timeline at the bottom, automatically starting at the current time and location (though sometimes, when a new sync is ongoing, it seems to go into the future instead of stating that when and where you are now, “Your adventure starts here. What lies ahead”).

7R App What lies ahead

Or maybe, the 7R app just questions “What lies ahead”

You can scroll back from there and see where you’ve been, with the map automatically zooming out/in if you’ve traveled farther during that time or stayed in one place for longer.

For longer durations, you can swipe up on the left side of the app to get to the “days” rather than “hours” display, where you can again scroll left/right through the timeline and see where you’ve been over longer times.

Swipe up again and you get into the summary view, which lists how many countries and cities you’ve been to, how many kilometers (or miles) you’ve traveled on how many travel days, and how far from home has been your farthest distance from it.

7R App Summary View

This latter is basically the same information also given in the 7R logbook on the watch, except that a map is added in the background (which seems to show only the most recent places you’ve been or the ones where you’ve been the longest, unfortunately, not all of them, and is also rather difficult to tap to zoom in – trying to pinch to zoom in/out often ends up just changing the display to the “days” one).

Watch it all in action here:

Your average daily steps are on the watch only, not in the app.

Also, there seems to be no way of seeing exactly which countries/cities you have been to. The map doesn’t show all of them in the summary view, and no list is available.

So, I guess you’re still back to (virtually or actually) putting pins in a map (or sharing the zoomed-in views of the “days” or “hours” display – unless you only care about the numbers, which is what seems to be the case for many a world-traveling adventurer, anyways…

Form and Function

Adventure, the way it is interpreted in the Suunto Kailash, is a rather urban pursuit ranging through space and along time, with the Suunto Kailash as the record keeper.

The notion of a timeline forms the red thread through all that, not just in the app but even on the watch:

Like the hands of a clock on an ordinary watch, so the “timeline” in the midst of the Kailash’s display moves forward with time.

When a notification is received, the time when it was received is marked on that timeline and this marker moves left as its time moves to the past.

Set an alarm, and it is set on the timeline, from where that scrolls back to the current time. As the alarm time approaches, the alarm marker becomes visible again until it becomes the present time and goes off, then moves into the past.

Go into a different time zone, and the watch automatically adjusts for the time zone you are in, then also scrolls from home time to local time (or reverse), as required.

Suunto Kailash Time Zone Update

Set up and look at a “world time”, i.e. the time in another city, and the same scrolling between your current time and that time applies.

Final Thoughts

The Adventure Timeline™ behaviors are all playful things for the watch to do, but also consistent with its concept and somehow delightful a touch.

Add in the functionalities you get, of ‘adventure’ data and a little helpful GPS use, combined with the premium materials and looks, and you have a fascinating lifestyle product for the person who is into traveling – and not in a position where they have to skimp money…

One thing I have found it necessary to be aware of is the battery life.

In ordinary use, the Kailash runs relatively long on a single charge; I’ve typically got something like 5 days out of one charge – but when it needs to be recharged, you better have the cable and a USB plug/charger ready, or you might end up with a watch that only shows a blank screen as the last 10% of charge drop rather quickly.

The cable, coming with its own roll-up box, is nicely enough made (if a bit chunky in look); all of it fitting together into the Kailash transport tin is even nicer – and if you don’t want to bring any of these things, you can actually use an Ambit charging cable all the same.

While on that point: The watch band starts looking slightly worn rather quickly, but it’s far from problematic; the titanium bezel seems nearly indestructible even when it comes to its coloring. I’ve regularly, carelessly, struck the watch bezel against a wall and there’s only the slightest of discoloration/color loss at the very edge of the bezel.

Suunto Kailash Bezel

The Kailash is still not a sports watch for training or even just an outdoors watch to take on hikes (and get the usual sports-watch statistics); don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because it uses GPS.

It is, however, a good-looking piece for a digital watch.

If you travel enough, preferably in a business suit and internationally, and yet don’t want the normal watch everyone has, but rather a timepiece with special looks and special use, there you are…

Update [August 2016]

Not only have I had a Kailash for a while longer now, I have finally been traveling by air to, and around, China with it. So, there is quite a bit more in the statistics.

Thanks to a new firmware update, released August 2016, there is also something new to point to, feature-wise: Since that update, the Suunto Kailash can not only display the number of cities and countries its wearer has visited, but it can also show the lists of those cities and countries:

Now, I find it even more interesting a travel tool/toy – for the well-heeled, still, given its price and feature set. The newly released Suunto Spartan Ultra has a comparative price, though…

Availability

The Suunto Kailash is available only directly from Suunto or in select stores.

Arc’teryx Acrux² FL Approach Shoe 1-Year Review

Easily a year after Arc’teryx entered the footwear market with the release of the Acrux approach shoes and Bora hiking boots, I finally feel comfortable giving a real review of the Acrux² FL approach shoe – and they have already changed their line-up quite a bit:

The Bora and Bora2 Mid GTX hiking boots are now also available in more-classical leather versions (in men’s and women’s);
the way-more-extreme Acrux AR mountaineering boot has been added (here available, online only, from REI via affiliate link as well, if you want to support me);
the Acrux line still features the Acrux FL and Acrux² FL (with non-removable or removable liners, respectively) and has been expanded with a more light-weight Acrux SL (“Super Light”) version;
and an Arakys approach/belay shoe has also been added.

I have  had my Acrux² FL with removable Gore-Tex liners for something over a year now, since their release; though to be exact, they are not the same shoes I showed in my preview:

The impression of a strange fit was due to them having been a bit too large; when I sized down slightly, things worked out better.

In fact, they worked out very well…

Arcteryx Acrux2 FL on trail 3

There are quite a few comments that the shoes run small, and they are certainly not wide in the toe box, but one also needs to know that the “Adaptive Fit” (especially in the version with removable liners) seems made to wrap around the foot rather tightly.

Where other shoes should offer a finger’s width in front of the toes, here the fit works best when the liner booty is almost snug with the foot, including the toes – think of it as something more like a sock, and if you have any chance at all, play around with them for a while to see where the sweet spot of sizing lies for you.

(When it comes to the shoes with a non-removable liner, I’d be more careful to get them a bit larger, but still only somewhere in between the size of elegant shoes and the “go up one number” often recommended for running shoes.)

So, I exchanged the Acrux shoes I got at first for a better-fitting size, and that version I’ve now had for a year, if not longer:

For a shoe that looks so plasticky, the Acrux had two surprises in stow:

One, less good but alright, was that the shoes felt like some breaking-in was required. They felt usable from the beginning but became rather more comfortable over time.

On the first longer hike with them, carrying my 40l backpack, for example, the edge of the one shoe’s liner rubbed my Achilles tendon open a bit. Later, this never happened again.

Secondly, they got scratched against rocks quite a bit, but there are very few if any traces of wear on the upper. I wore the Acrux² FL not just for hikes in the mountains but also as everyday wear, the sole got reduced a bit, but they still look pretty much as they did from the beginning, overall.

The Vibram MegaGrip sole is interesting, by the way.

It works very well on the terrain it is meant for, i.e. rocks, and it has been relatively abrasion resistant.

Arcteryx Acrux2 FL on trail 4

Wear does show, though, and the grip on the polished stone floors of our subway stations is like the grip of standard Salomon soles on ice: hardly any. (There’s a reason I love Icebug shoes for special conditions, but that’s a different story.)

The liner did develop a stink, and when it comes to that, I’m happy I have the version where I can replace the liners. And I should finally do so; even two washings in the machine and treatments with a shoe spray didn’t change much when it comes to the smell they developed.

(Maybe one should just put them in the washing machine a bit sooner, together with other Gore-Tex or similar sports stuff…)

The liners are not cheap, but still a lot less than a new pair of (such) shoes. So, +1 for long-term use.

Light downside: I thought about getting the non-Gore-Tex liners for the summer, but those are still only available (if at all) in red while the Gore-Tex liner is in blue and the piece of fabric that Arcteryx had to add underneath the lacing of the GTX Acrux² FL (to keep stones out) is the same blue.

So, unless I wanted to go for black shoes with a red-and-blue inner (visible under the laces and around the ankle), I guess I’ll need to stick with the Gore-Tex liner or get another pair of shoes.

[Edit: I just re-checked and found that actually, the liners are now (almost) all offered only in the newer “moraine” grey color. A bit of a mix-and-match of colors again, but making for a better combination than blue-and-red in black would have been.]

Of course, as so often, one pays for “The Bird” and the attention to detail that goes into their products. The Acrux² FL were and remain pretty expensive at around 270 dollars/250 Euro – but they’ve held up well and in more conditions than they were made for.

Arcteryx Acrux2 FL on trail 2

The newer SL shoes don’t have removable liners and are less tough – but also lighter – and are much more in line with standard prices for shoes, coming in at 150 Euro (USD 170 at REI, at the time of writing). In Europe, anyways, where all such gear is pretty expensive, that’s somewhat okay.

After a year with the Acrux² FL, I’m tempted to try those for my everyday wear, as well… and they’d even come in colors that would get noticeable but not too clownish. (The latest Acrux² FL is available in the “Big Surf” black-blue I have or with a “Genepi” neon yellow upper…)

If you’re in the US, you can get most models – except the Acrux² FL I reviewed here, as it happens – from REI and support me with the (affiliate-link) purchase:

Same (including the Acrux2 FL) with Backcountry.com:

Thank you and see you on the trails!

Suunto Ambit(3 – and Traverse) Manual +3: Deleting Logbook

A question that keeps coming up about the recent Suunto devices (Ambit line and Traverse) is how you can delete the logbook.

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Suunto Ambit3 Manual +2: Waypoint/POI Navigation

This may have been a very special case of a question, but it made me notice that I hadn’t shown the waypoint part of the navigation (with a Suunto Ambit) explicitly, especially as it uses either the compass or the GPS.

This is a feature/display that has disappeared from the Suunto Traverse, because it had confused many users, as well as from the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical, where the altitude profile tracking replaces it.

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Suunto Ambit(3 – and Traverse) Manual +1: Temperature and Altitude

Found myself getting questions about Suunto Ambit(3) and Traverse functions I never thought to answer, then answered on video (on my Youtube channel) – and figured I should also mention here.

Number 1: Why are the temperature and altitude readings getting wrong?

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