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Long-term review: Suunto 9 Baro || Legit flagship watch, needs firmware fix

By Andrew Skurka / November 29, 2018 / 38 Comments

For five months I’ve been using the Suunto 9 Baro GPS Sport Watch on a near daily basis, mostly while trail and road running, and occasionally backpacking. With few exceptions, it has supplanted my trusted Suunto Ambit3 Peak (long-term review). It’s the nicest Suunto watch that I’ve used yet, but has one significant blemish that…

Long-term review: Garmin inReach Explorer+ || Sat comm + GPS unit 2-in-1

By Samuel Chaneles / November 28, 2018 / 3 Comments

For different trips, I often wear and carry different gear. But some items are so vital that they end up on every trip — and my Garmin inReach Explorer+ is one of them. Since its release in early-2017, I have used my inReach Explorer+ on many trips around the globe, including on the southern Appalachian Trail,…

How to choose: Jetboil backpacking stoves || Zip v. Flash v. -Mo v. Joule

By Andrew Skurka / November 16, 2018 / 20 Comments

Yesterday I attended a Jetboil press event in Boulder. It was an opportunity to examine the product line and to speak with Jetboil reps in a less time-crunched setting than Outdoor Retailer. Stove system overview To simplify decision-making for its dealers and customers, Jetboil seems to have worked hard to keep its product line tight. It…

Brand intro: Norrøna || Premium & technical, ubiquitous in Norway

By Andrew Skurka / November 14, 2018 / 5 Comments

Outdoor Retailer is an opportunity to learn about brands I’ve never heard and brands about which I know little. So when I was invited into the Norrøna booth, I said yes. Norrøna is a 90 year-old Norwegian company that is still owned and managed by the original family. The intended application, materials and construction quality, and…

Preview: Salomon X Alpine Pro || For scrambly runs, maybe high routes

By Andrew Skurka / November 12, 2018 / 3 Comments

When running and racing on trails, I normally wear Salomon Sense or Salomon Ultra shoes. But for hiking and backpacking, I currently have to look elsewhere. For two years my go-to has been the La Sportiva Bushido (my review; and my preview of the Bushido II), which is perfectly suited for high routes: they’re securely fitting, durable,…

Preview: Altra Tusher || Hiking boot with zero drop & foot shape

By Andrew Skurka / November 11, 2018 / 19 Comments

My coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2018 starts with Altra, which has developed a cult-like following among hikers and runners for its zero drop shoes, wide lasts, and gender-specific fits. Altra revealed three new shoes at the show: the Tusher, Grafton, and Wahweap. They will be available in July 2019. Availability is uncertain at this…

Review: SPOT X Satellite Messenger || I’ll keep my inReach, thanks

By Andrew Skurka / October 23, 2018 / 24 Comments

Exactly one week after Garmin announced the inReach Mini in May, SPOT released its first new device in five years and its first device with two-way satellite messaging. The SPOT X retails for $250, weighs 6.7 oz, and features a 2.7-inch dot matrix illuminated screen and physical QWERTY keyboard. It looks like an orange Blackberry with an over-sized antenna.…

Review: Ultimate Direction FK Trekking Poles || Dreamy performance but inherent limitations

By Andrew Skurka / October 22, 2018 / 14 Comments

For two weeks last summer I used the Ultimate Direction FK Trekking Poles while guiding trips on the Pfiffner Traverse in Rocky Mountain National Park. The FK Poles were new for spring 2018 and are part of an adventure-oriented collection that also includes the FK Tarp, FK Bivy, and FK Gaiters. FK is short for “fastest known,” as…

Review: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Pad || Very light & comfy, not very warm

By Andrew Skurka / October 20, 2018 / 33 Comments

Until last spring, Big Agnes had no sleeping pads in its line that interested me. The pads looked comfortable, but they were considerably heavier than my time-tested Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite ($170, 12 oz). But with the AXL sleeping pad, Big Agnes caught my attention — its weight and thickness looked promising. The AXL comes in two…

Review: The Packa, hybrid jacket/poncho || A for innovation

By Andrew Skurka / October 18, 2018 / 12 Comments

When I wrote the Core 13 Clothing series, I was frustrated with the existing rain gear options. Manufacturers were (and still are, three years later) unquestioning of waterproof/breathable fabrics, which fall short of their hyperbolic claims; and there was little innovation in format, with everyone stuck on traditional jackets and pants. Subsequently I was contacted by Edward Hinnant (“Cedar…