Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Review: Thule Stir 20 Hiking Pack

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The Swedish-born company perhaps best known for their automobile racks rolled out a line of hiking packs this year, and they’re pretty dang cool. The “Stir” line can be purchased in 15, 20, and 35 liter capacities. I got my hands on the 20L version and have been romping around with it all summer. Because it replaced my REI Flash 18 (which quite honestly needed to be replaced anyway), I was able to compare/contrast the two packs and my findings are as follows.


The Stir 20 is a versatile little beast. Though I primarily hike with it, I could see using it for anything from mountain biking to trail running. Even an everyday use rucksack for clothing and books and things. The most immediately noticeable aspect of the pack in my opinion is the durability of the material (210-denier elastin coated Robic nylon). It’s thick and maintains its rigidity as a result. Normal wear and tear from mountain ridge runs has barely phased the Stir 20 after a few months of use. Keep reading…

Ski Packs with the Gear Institute

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This past spring I was granted an opportunity to test and review a lineup of ski touring/mountaineering backpacks on behalf of the Gear Institute. The spring ski season here in Colorado provided a perfect venue to give each pack a test run and develop a good sense of what works and what doesn’t in the realm of touring packs. A few days ago the results were published in the form of a head-to-head style review for those looking to purchase a new pack for the upcoming spring season. Read more…

Review: Stio Vescent Softshell Jacket

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I’ve been in the market for a hooded softshell that can bridge the gap between burly inbounds jacket, breathable and functional touring jacket and something to wear around town when the weather gets a little brisk. After years of searching, I think I’ve finally found the right match in the Stio Vescent Softshell jacket. But first, a little background on the jacket and on Stio as a company, as it too, has been a gear company I’ve been waiting for quite some time. In 2007, I stumbled upon a nice looking, versatile “fleece” on the clearance shelf at REI with a Cloudveil logo on the chest. It was referred to at the time as the Cloudveil Gridlock Fleece with Windstopper technology that was used for the better part of 5 years as a do-it-all jacket in all seasons. I also owned a Cloudveil Koven “Hardshell” that had an innovative “Cloudburst stretch” material that gave it the feel and function of a softshell, but also contained the waterproofness of a hard shell with pit-zips. Keep reading…

Review: Pret Carbon X Helmet

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When you tour thin snow on mountain passes in the fall, ski hard at the resorts all winter, and cap off your season with a lineup of ski mountaineering objectives in the spring, it’s a good idea to get some solid protection for your noggin. While a collection of helmets for each season’s activities and temperatures will certainly suffice, a quiver-of-one option that excels in all scenarios may be preferable. Enter the Carbon X from Pret Helmets, an up-and-coming Park City, Utah based company known for making versatile, high quality head protection. New for the 2015/16 season, the Carbon X is Pret’s highest spec’d helmet to date, combining multiple technologies into a single, fully ventilated and impressively lightweight package that will keep your head protected and comfortable from October to June. Read more…