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

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Outdoors Gear Page 1 of 3

Ultimate Direction’s Fastpack 35: 1.5-Year Review

Fastpacking – carrying as little as possible while moving like a backpacker, but faster – has been a thing even before ultramarathons became so popular. In a running vest/pack like the Fastpack 35 from Ultimate Direction, ultramarathon running meets fastpacking.

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Naglev Unico

Naglev Unico – One and Only Shoes

In a sea of new products at the 2017 edition of the OutDoor Friedrichshafen sports fair, it was the Naglev Unico shoes that somehow stuck out for me.

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Bliz VeloXT from the side

Bliz Velo XT Sunglasses Review – (Non-Plus-)Ultra Lens Science?

The Bliz Velo XT sunglasses turned out to be good for all my sports activities.

Only a bit “un”good for their marketing.

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Mammut Comfort High GTX

High Comfort, So Last Season: Mammut Comfort High GTX Surround Boot Review

When Mammut was looking to provide some people in the German-speaking area with a high Klout score (yep, they had still been using that) with a pair of their shoes to test, back in the spring of 2015, I’m pretty sure they were looking for some immediate support for their PR.

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Icebug Acceleritas5 Side View, Slightly Used ;)

Accelerating in Icebug’s Acceleritas5 RB9X. Running Shoe Review

Shoes are at least as exciting for the runner as they are for the stereotypical shoe-obsessed woman – if they are exciting.

Icebug’s Acceleritas5 are.

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Icebug Mist running shoes

A Summer In the Icebug Mist. Running Shoe Review

Kein Mist! – For a German speaker, the name “Mist” is a bit unfortunate; it doesn’t make us think of light fog, it just translates as “junk.”

Icebug’s Mist are as far from junk as you can get…

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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.

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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 ;)

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!

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