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The SLAB Ultra is a maximum feature trail shoe by Salomon that is built to take on any trail and any distance. The SLAB Ultra is built on a stable platform with an 8mm drop, and provides two layers of underfoot protection with Profeel Film and a TPU insert. The SLAB Ultra has a unique decoupled upper that uses four Sensi-fit wings on each shoe for lateral support. I’ve been wear testing the SLAB Ultras for the last few months, and recently walked the 150-mile Camino Portuguese in them. I have put close to 250 miles on this shoe and will share my thoughts in this review.

The Salomon SLAB Ultra is a very different shoe than the similarly named Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra. If you loved the SLAB Sense Ultra, be prepared for a very different fit and on-trail experience with the SLAB Ultra. The SLAB Ultra was designed with input from Salomon athlete Francois D’haene and is the shoe he won during his Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2017 victory and his John Muir Trail ‘fastest known time’ effort.

Buy The SLAB Ultra: Amazon | Backcountry | Zappos

Fit and Feel

Sizing and Weight

I wear a size 12 in the SLAB Ultra, which is the same size I wear for the XA Elevate and Sense Ride. The SLAB Ultra has a similar fit to the XA Elevate, but with a little more length overall and a slightly more tapered toebox.

My size 12 US of the SLAB Ultra comes in at 12.4oz, which is a lot lighter than I thought they would be when I first saw this shoe’s feature set.

Toebox

The toebox is a little narrow on the SLAB Ultra, but this hasn’t been much of an issue for me since the shoe also runs long. Lengthwise, I could have probably gone with an 11.5, but at that size the toebox felt like it could become an issue. While walking the Camino Portuguese, I had consecutive days of big uphill hikes followed by foot pounding cobblestone paths into town. I’m glad I stayed with the size 12, because when my feet began to swell, the size 12 was perfect.

This is also a toebox that gets better with time. Salomon uses a flexible plastic laminate on the upper of this shoe that feels a little stiff at first. After 20-30 miles the upper starts to break in an get more comfortable. Mine started to feel like a soft glove once I passed the 50-mile mark.

Midfoot

The midfoot of the SLAB Ultra fits much like the XA Elevate, slightly tight at first, but really nice once broken in. Much like the rigid Sensifit lateral support found on the XA Elevate, the support wings on the SLAB Ultra take some time to break in. Before walking the Camino Portuguese, I broke in my pair of Ultra’s with a mix of trail running and hiking. I was initially worried that the midfoot fit was too tight, but quickly realized I just had to dial in the lacing. Unlike the quick lacing on many of the other Salomon shoes that I own, the SLAB Ultra allows for more varied tension from top to bottom.

Heel

The heel fit on the SLAB Ultra is a bit off for me. It could be that the shoe really is too long and I need to size down, but I think the heel width is more than my narrow heels prefer. Even when I have the lace tension at full cinch, I get a tad bit of heel slip at toe off. This has improved a little as the thick and firm midsoles have broken in, but not as much as I would like.

The heel area on the uppers of the SLAB Ultra are thin, malleable, and have no counter. This makes for a very comfortable fit, just not the most precise for my foot shape. I haven’t had any blisters or hotspots on my heels though, so I won’t complain about this too much.

Upper

The upper on the SLAB Ultra uses a breathable anti-debris mesh for it’s base, with a laminate overlay on top to provide additional protection. I was surprised how well this upper breathed on hot days reaching triple digits towards the end of my pilgrimage, and on a few hikes here in Southern California. I also had three days of rain on the Camino that soaked the SLAB Ultras straight through. They drained really well when submerged and were dry and ready to go each morning.

Long time Salomon fans will be glad to hear that the SLAB Ultra has a top-loading lace garage for the quicklaces! This may seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference for quick adjustments on the fly. The comfort and performance of the Endo-fit/Quicklace combination is excellent, just as I’ve come to expect from all of my Salomon trail shoes.

So far the durability has been great, without any premature seams, tears, or holes as I approach 250 miles.

The standout feature on the uppers of the SLAB Ultra are the stability wings. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of these wings when the shoe was first announced. Now that I’ve used them, I’m a huge fan of the support they provide, but am still not sure why they need to float above the shoe. It would be preferable if they were welded to the upper of the SLAB Ultra like all other Sensi-fit support systems. There were a few times when rocks or pebbles would get stuck in the gap. Not a huge deal, but probably avoidable.

Midsole

The midsoles on the SLAB Ultra are simply amazing. Salomon uses a firm and stable EVA for the base of this midsole, with 26mm in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot. At the base of the forefoot, Salomon uses a visible PU insert. PU is denser than EVA, making it more stable and more protective. In between the PU insert and EVA top bed, Salomon adds a Pro-feel film insert for additional underfoot protection from rocks and sharp surfaces.

Having used the SLAB Ultra on rocky trails, talus fields, dirt roads, and cobblestone streets, I can say that this is the most dynamic midsole I’ve ever used. The protection underfoot is enough for the roughest trails you’ll come across, and yet the shoe still has the cushioning for comfortable miles on asphalt and hard pack. This really is a Goldilocks midsole.

I’ve been wearing this shoe as a trail runner with no pack, as a hiker with a kid carrier, and on a pilgrimage with a 15lbs backpack. I never once felt that the midsole was too much cushion or too little cushion on any of those outings. Over 10 days, I averaged around 15-miles per day walking from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. Each day my legs and feet felt fresh, healthy, and easily capable of walking 25-30 miles. My daily distance at home tends to max out around there, but I have no doubt that these would perform very well for those that cover ultra distances.

At 250 miles, the midsole still has a ton of life left. I tend to wear midsoles out in the forefoot, but the durable PU insert on the SLAB Ultra seems to be balancing things out. This is easily a 400-500 mile shoe for me, and could go much further for those that weigh less than my 180lbs.

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When Julia and I first decided to walk the Camino Portuguese with a soon to be 2-year old, we knew we would get a lot of questions and skeptics. Even though we’ve taken our son to Iceland, Vietnam, Cambodia, and on countless hiking, camping, and backpacking trips, there was something a little more ambitious about walking 150 miles in 10 days. We just returned from a very successful hike of the Camino Portuguese, and we’re now fielding questions from other adventurous parents looking to follow in our footsteps. In this post, I’m going to cover six key tips that will help parents prepare themselves for a hike to Santiago de Compostela.

1.) Gear Up! – Pack Light And Prepare For The Worst

This first tip needs to be taken care of at home. If you plan on walking the Camino with a toddler, you need to have all of the correct gear for the trail and weather conditions. Depending on the seasons, you can have scorching heat, blinding rain, howling winds…or all three in one week. Make sure you’re ready to walk safely in all conditions. I’ll be publishing a complete gear list for children and adults in the near future, but will also list our key gear items for toddlers below:

Stroller

We went with the BOB Sport Utility stroller for the Camino Portuguese. This stroller has three 16-inch wheels with a fixed front wheel. I find the large fixed front wheel handles rough terrain much better than the smaller rotating front wheels found on other stroller models. Before leaving, I swapped out the OEM tires for new ones with a much more aggressive tread. This stroller handled asphalt, cobblestone, fire road, and rocky trails without issue. You’ll also want to make sure you have a rain/wind cover for your stroller. Finally, bring a stroller repair kit. Mine included a compact tire pump, additional tubes (I brought two), tire levers, a multi tool, and a patch kit.

Kid Carrier

Owen’s primary modes of transportation were riding in his stroller and walking. When he didn’t want to do either of those two, we had the Ergo Baby Original. Towards the end of our Camino, this started becoming his preferred method of transport. This was also our preferred method to carry him on busy roads and rough trails.

Clothing

After squaring away Owen’s transportation, our next focus was on his clothing. Focus on layers here, and don’t pack more than you need. We’re big fans of Reima clothing for Owen, as their focus is on gear for active children. We brought his Reima rain jacket and pants for this trip, which was really nice since we had lots of rain and cold on our first three days. His Reima jacket also has a clip-in down liner which we were able to use on it’s own or under the rain coat when it was really cold.

For shoes, I suggest you skip something with traditional laces and find a shoe with a quicklace or Velcro. We went with the Salomon XA Pro 3D for kids which was the perfect shoe choice. This shoe is super comfortable and allowed Owen to walk up to 3-miles each day on his own without any blisters or discomfort. These shoes also have a quicklace for easy on an off. Finally, they have a breathable mesh upper which works well in hot weather and dries quickly when wet.

For socks, we paired his XA Pro 3Ds with Smartwool merino wool socks. Merino wool is long wearing and anti-microbial, meaning they are comfortable to wear and don’t stink if you can’t wash them.

For Owen’s base layers, our goal was sun protection. For his top, we brought two hooded long sleeve beach shirts to provide maximum sun coverage on bright days. For his bottoms, we brought lightweight cotton pants.

Diapers and Wipes

Owen was still in diapers at the time of our Camino, so we brought a small pack of diapers with us at the start of trip. Many of the towns we stopped in had markets and supermarkets, so grabbing additional diapers and wipes was not an issues.

2.) Test Everything Before Your Arrive

You can’t just buy all of the gear listed above and think you’ll be ready. You need to test everything you’re going to walk with a few times over. We do a lot of hiking and backpacking anyway, so this was pretty easy for us. We usually don’t hike with a stroller though, so we had to make sure we put a ton of miles on ours before arriving.

It isn’t just enough to test your gear though, you’ll need to test yourself and your toddler, too! Before I walked the 500-mile Camino Frances in 22 days back in 2012, I did a few hundred miles of hiking and trail running to prepare. Our training for the Camino Portuguese wasn’t as intense, but we still hit the trail at least twice a week leading up to our departure. In these training days you’ll get a feel for how long your toddler likes to walk, and when they would prefer to sit in the stroller, nap, and request snacks. You’ll also get to see how your stroller and gear handles varying terrain conditions. My advice is to go way overboard with your training. With this approach, your Camino will seem easy and far more enjoyable in comparison.

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I just returned home from a successful hike of the Camino Portuguese with my wife and 2-year old son. Beginning in Porto, we hiked nearly 150-miles until we reached our final destination, the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It was an incredible experience highlighted by great food, countryside exploration, new friends, and breathtaking vistas.

Having solo hiked the 500-mile Camino Frances in 2012, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the Portuguese Route this time around. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit anxious embarking on such an adventure with a toddler. He loved every minute of his Camino though, and made this trip one we’ll remember forever. In 2012, I hiked the 500 mile French route in 22 days. This trip on the Portuguese required a much slower pace, and because of that, I enjoyed it quite a bit more. I have a ton of photos, videos, and stories to share in the weeks ahead, but for now, here are my 15 favorite photo moments from the Camino Portuguese!

1. Experiencing The Pre-Camino Excitement In Porto

Starting the Camino Portuguese from a large city like Porto was a stark departure from my starting point on the Camino Frances, the village of St. Jean Pied du Port. Porto made for a great base to adjust to a new time zone and enjoy the sites of a beautiful Portuguese city. We also enjoyed great local foods like francesinha!

2. Leaving From the Porto Cathedral

After spending two nights in Porto to relax and adjust to a new time zone, we officially began the Camino Portuguese from the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto). The cathedral sits up on a hill overlooking the city, which provided some breathtaking views. We were surprised how abundant the markings were in Porto. We never once had to guess or search for where to go, as every turn was directed by the yellow arrows towards Santiago (and blue for Fatima). 

3. Counting Our Blessings Despite The Rain

Our first three days of walking on the Camino Portuguese were less than perfect in the weather department. It rained everyday. I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as bad weather though, just bad gear. If you come prepared with the right gear, any outdoor outing can be a lot of fun. We had all of our rain gear dialed in and ready to go, allowing us to take in the natural splendor despite the dark and drizzling skies.

4. Crossing The Bridge Into Barcelos

The first day on the Camino Portuguese is a mentally tough one, as the trail leading out of Porto sticks to sidewalks, cobblestones, and narrow roads with lots of car traffic. Day 2 is quite a bit nicer and adds more natural pathways. The highlight of the second day is the final stretch leading into Barcelos. The Way crosses over a bridge and pilgrims leave Barcelinos behind towards the town of Barcelos and the nearby medieval ruins.

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Camino Vlog 000: Returning to Camino de Santiago via the Portuguese Route - YouTube

In 2012, I hiked the 500-mile Frances Route of Camino de Santiago. That adventure was easily the most transformative travel experience for me as an individual. Starting in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, and hiking all the way to the Western Coast of Spain made for a summer of friendships, introspection, perseverance, and triumph. When I look back at that pilgrimage, I can still vividly remember the early mornings spent walking before sunrise, double shot espressos, bocadillo lunches, ‘Pilgrim Menu dinners, and shouts of “Buen Camino!”.

I documented that 500-mile journey and put together a video called “The Journey of the Mind“. That video is now approaching 250,000 views on YouTube, and is probably the most popular piece of content I’ve ever created. In a lot of ways, that video inspired me to launch Trail to Peak in 2014. Seeing how a simple video could inspire so many people to get outside and want to walk a pilgrimage made me want to share and inspire even more.

This summer, I will be returning to the Camino. This time on the Portuguese route starting in Porto. This Camino will be a shorter 150-mile journey, and I will be joined by my wife and almost 2-year old son! We’re excited to walk The Way and begin making our journey towards Santiago de Compostela. Spain and Portugal will be my son’s 4th and 5th countries having visited Iceland, Vietnam, and Cambodia last year. This is definitely our most ambitious trip to date. We hope to inspire more families to enjoy The Way together.

Getting in front of the camera is not easy for me and not something that comes naturally. I’ve gotten very comfortable behind the camera, but am starting realize how much more effective communication can be in today’s world of media when I can speak directly to each viewer. In the weeks and months ahead, I want to make more vlog style videos on my gear selections, planning logistics, daily trip reports, and more. Let me know what you think and what you’d like to see next.

Buen Camino and happy trails!

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Salewa’s Ultra Train 2 is a trail shoe specifically designed for speed hiking, fastpacking, and high alpine mountain training. The low-profile upper has a precise fit with a durable and protective outer shell. This upper is the biggest update over the first version of the Ultra Train. The protective 8mm drop midsole and aggressive Michelin compound outsole are carryovers from the original Ultra Train, which will be welcome news to those that enjoyed the original. I’ve been wear testing the Salewa’s Ultra Train 2 since they were released a few months ago, and will share my experience in this review.

Buy The Ultra Train 2: Amazon | Backcountry | Zappos

Fit and Feel

Sizing and Weight
I wear a size 12 in the Salewa Ultra Train 2 which is my standard trail shoe size. A size 12 comes in at 12.9oz, which is pretty light considering the amount of features and overlays used on this shoe’s uppers.

Toebox
The toebox on the Ultra Train 2 has a wide anatomical shape, but is very low volume. When I first tried this shoe on, I could feel the fabric of the upper against the tops of my toes. The shoes have broken in nicely since then, and the upper fabrics in the toebox have a little more give. Despite the low volume in the toebox, the overall comfort while hiking is excellent and hasn’t caused any toe or skin issues.

Midfoot
The Ultra Train 2 has a narrow fit throughout the midfoot and is a shoe to avoid if you have wide feet. My feet are slightly wider than a standard D width, leaving them a little too snug when laced up in this shoe. The narrow profile does provide very good lateral stability and has kept my feet from moving around on some very steep and off-camber trails.

Heel
The heel on the Ultra Train has a deep seated heel cup that grips my foot like hand. There is absolutely no slipping at toe off or lateral movement in this shoe. The heel cup is high and stiff, which you can feel on your achilles at full toe extension. As these shoes have broken in, the heel has softened a bit, but the slight pressure on my achilles is still noticeable and not something I enjoy. The heel stiffness comes from a heel counter that wraps around the back of the shoe. As a test, I tried to compress the heel upper with my hand and was only able to get a little compression on the very top bit of inner fabric. I like a rigid heel counter for lateral stability, but this design is just way too stiff for my liking.

Upper

The Salewa Ultra Train has a breathable mesh upper with protective overlays in high wear areas. On the toebox, medial midfoot, and lateral midfoot, Salewa uses synthetic overlays to protect the feet from rocks and other sharp trail obstacles. The heel an “anti-rock” heel cup for even more protection. This is one of the most highly protected lightweight trail shoes I’ve ever tried. I took them through a few talus fields while intentionally dragging my feet just to see how they would handle, and was amazed at the protection. Unlike some other highly padded trail shoes, these ones provide protection while maintaining breathability and the ability to drain while wet. A very nice combination.

Salewa uses a quick tie lacing system similar to Salomon’s, but I’ve found that it doesn’t work as well. The laces tie up great at the beginning of each hike, but loosen a little as the miles add up. The laces attach to the 3F fit system, that you can see in the photo above. The 3F system ties the lacing into a support webbing that wraps around the heel and midfoot. On top of the laces, the Ultra Train 2 has a tongue that is no gusseted, but the shoe does have a debris shield stitched above the tongue. Everything on the upper has performed flawlessly for me so far. The comfort, stability, protection, and performance has been top notch. I just wish the heel was a little more malleable.

Midsole

The Salewa has a low profile 8mm drop midsole with 24mm in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot. The injected EVA is stable and provides ample cushioning over dirt, rocks, sand and hard pack. There doesn’t appear to be a forefoot rock plate in this shoe, which is noticeable on rockier trails.

In the midfoot of the midsole, Salewa uses a TPU chassis to provide lateral stability and torsional rigidity. I really love the feel of the Ultra Train 2 on technical terrain, and this TPU insert is a bit reason why. My ideal shoe has a flexible forefoot, but a stiff and more rigid midfoot and heel. The Ultra Train 2 nails it on both points.

My only knock on the midsole is that the entire platform is narrow, much like the fit of the upper. The base of the shoe is quite a bit more narrow than the outline of my foot, which makes me prone to ankle rolling in this shoe. The TPU insert does a good job of counteracting that roll, but not all the time.This isn’t something I noticed with a light day pack on, but it is very noticeable with a backpack or kid carrier.  If you have a narrow foot, this shoe is going to be an amazing performer. If you have wide feet like me, it will leave you wishing you were standing on a wider platform.

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It’s been a few months since we returned home from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. I finally got around to putting together a few clips from our travels around Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, My Son, Saigon, and the Mekong Delta. Make sure to check out all of my Vietnam posts if you’re looking for travel advice, things to do, or if you just want to see some inspiring pictures.

When we first arrived in Vietnam via Hanoi, we knew we were in for a fun family adventure. We had read about the rivers of motorbikes flowing through the city streets that don’t adhere to traffic rules, but nothing prepares you for taking that first step out into madness. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but eventually we realized how well organized the chaos was. We also quickly realized that the Vietnamese love children. While traveling in the US, people can treat children as if they are a nuisance. Not so in Vietnam. Owen was treated like a little prince everywhere we went.

From Hanoi, we made our way to the magical Halong Bay. The weather wasn’t the best in Halong Bay, but we still really enjoyed our time there. From Halong Bay we travelled to a quant little village of lanterns called Hoi An, and from there, made our way to Saigon and the Mekong Delta.

This video is a short 3-minute cut of a few of the highlights. I hope you enjoy it. Also, make sure to head over to YouTube and subscribe, as I will be producing many more travel videos in 2018-2019.

Exploring Vietnam: Hanoi, Hoi An, and Saigon - YouTube
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Channel Islands National Park is made up of five islands just off of the California Coast. These islands provide an abundance of recreational opportunities like hiking, camping, kayaking, snorkeling, and more. The islands are highly protected and the National Park Service does a great job of limiting human impact on the land. Due to this protection, you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to enjoy this National Park. In this guide, I’ll provide all of the information you need to go camping and hiking on Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in Channel Islands National Park.

Getting To Santa Cruz Island

If you want to visit Santa Cruz Island you will need to book a boat transfer through Island Packers. The port station for Island Packers is located within Ventura Harbor at 1691 Spinnaker Dr #105B, Ventura, CA 93001.  There is a large parking area just outside of Island Packers, but it tends to fill up later in the day. To to optimize your travel, I suggest taking their earliest available boat ride to the island.

The information provided in this guide is for boat landing at Scorpion Anchorage. You can also take a boat to the more remote Del Norte (Prisoner’s Habor) area, but that landing has no water and only a few campsites.

Make sure to plan your trip well ahead of your planned departure dates, as weekend boats can fill up quickly. The boat ride to Santa Cruz Island takes around 60-minutes each way. You can plan a day trip, or book an overnight camping trip. I will provide camping information later in this post.

Pricing

Adults cost $59 for a day trip or $79 for overnight
Seniors (55+) cost $54 for a day trip or $74 for overnight
Children (3-12) cost $41 for a day trip or $57 for overnight
Infants (0-3) ride for free

When you arrive at the Channel Islands office you will check in at least an hour before your departure to receive your ticket. From there, you can store your bags below deck. Make sure to have your water and gas canisters out of your bags. You will have to store these in a separate area on deck.

If you’re prone to sea sickness, make sure to have your Dramamine ready to go. This boat ride can get choppy. You’ll also want to call Island Packers at (805) 642-1393 prior to your boat ride to ensure your trip has not been cancelled due to rough seas.

The boat ride to Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island is gorgeous and often passes by whales and pods of dolphins. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready.

Once you arrive at Scorpion Anchorage, you will pick up your bags on deck and climb a ladder to meet a National Park ranger. The ranger will first speak to the day trippers and then address the campers and backpackers.

After speaking with the ranger, you will take the walkway past Scorpion Bay and inland towards the Santa Cruz Island Visitor Center. If you’re just planning a day trip, you can skip down to the hiking section of this post. For those looking to camp, continue reading from here.

Camping on Santa Cruz Island

You can choose to visit the island for a day trip, but an overnight camping trip is much nicer in my opinion. To really enjoy the trails and scenery of Santa Cruz Island, a minimum of 24-hours is required. Much like the boat ride, you’ll want to book your campsites for Scorpion Campsite very early early. The Scorpion Canyon campsite has 25 individual sites that allow up to 6 people to camp. There are also 6 group sites that allow up to 15 people. Each site has a picnic table and bear box. Sites share access to pit toilets and water spigots. The campsites are shaded and fairly close together.

Check-in for the campsites is 11:00 AM. If you arrive before this time, check your campsite to see if it is free. If it is not, you can place your bags in a bear box and come back at a later time.

Santa Cruz Island was inhabited by Native Americans for 10,000 and recently inhabited by European settlers for 150 years. The flora and fauna of Santa Cruz is amazing. There are over 600 plant species on the island, 140 birds, and 11 land mammals. The most famous is the island fox! I heard numerous stories of these crafty little foxes before I first traveled to Santa Cruz. I figured I might see one or two…I ended up seeing more like 30-40! These foxes are everywhere and have no hesitations about taking whatever you don’t have secured away.

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The Klymit Insulated Double V is an ultra-comfortable two person sleeping pad that packs 4-season insulation. This two person sleeping pad utilizes a dual V-chamber design to minimize air movement and keep each side independently stable. Despite the size, insulation, and functionality of the Double V, it manages to come in at a respectable 3.6lbs. I’ve been testing the Klymit Insulated Double V for the past few months and will share my experience in this review.

*The majority of my opinions for this review will come from the perspective of using the Double V with one adult and one infant/toddler. Julia and I have used the pad together for testing, but only for a few minutes at a time.

So, Why Do We Use A Two Person Pad?

Julia and I used to go camping and backpacking with two single person ultralight sleeping pads. After having a son, we bought him his own and quickly realized it wasn’t a very good option. To keep him from falling in between the pads (a dangerous suffocation risk), we would have to bind the pads together. Even when the pads were ideally bound together, cold from the ground would rise up from the crack and chill him in the night. After a few attempts to make our triple sleeping pad system work, we gave in and started looking for a two person pad that he could share with one of us. After seeing the Klymit Insulated Double V at Outdoor Retailer in January, we hoped it would be the solution to our problem.

Double V Design

Size and Dimensions

When fully inflated, the Klymit Double V measures 74in x 47in x 3in. The 47 inches of width feels like a king size bed when you consider our lightweight backpacking pads are only 20 inches wide a piece! Julia and I are both just under 6-feet tall, so the 74 inches of length is just enough to spread out without having to curl up our legs. For two adults, you would definitely want to be intimate and comfortable with each other because you’ll be shoulder to shoulder all night. With one adult and one child, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out and get comfortable.

Weight and Packable Size

When packed in its stuff sack, the Double V measures 8in x 12in. This makes the pad a little large for backcountry backpacking, but perfect for shorter outings and car camping. The Double V weights in at 3.6lbs, which is 2lbs heavier than the dual Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite pads we were previously using. Although we gain a little size and weight with the Double V, its added warmth, larger sleeping area, and stable platform make it an easy pick over our previous sleeping setup.

Inflation and Deflation

Anyone that uses inflatable sleeping pads knows what a hassle the blow-up process can be. After a long day on the trail, pulling 30-40 hard breathes into a sleeping pad at altitude always leaves me feeling dizzy. Klymit has a nice solution to this by allowing you to use the stuff sack as an inflation device. All you have to do is seal the bag with air in it, attach it to the inflate port on the Double V, and transfer the air by hand compressions. This makes for a very easy setup with around 10-15 pumps for a fully inflated pad.

The Double V uses two separate flat valve openings to inflate and deflate. This is a much better system than the single straw like valves on my Thermarest NeoAir Trekker and XLite. For one, the flat valves don’t get in the way while sleeping. The second benefit is that you don’t have to seal the valve with your hand or fingers while inflating to keep air inside.

Chamber Design

The Double V is made of a durable and tough 75D Polyester that has proven to be toddler and dog proof so far. Klymit has designed the the Double V with “V” shaped chambers on each side and guard rail side baffles around the perimeter of the pad.

The top of the Double V sleeping pad uses an anti-microbial laminate that wipes down easy. This is really nice for toddlers that still spit up, burp, and drop food in bed…so, pretty much all toddlers. Most importantly, this top layer is nearly silent for restless sleepers. Many of our light weight sleeping pads making a crinkling noise with the slightest movement. Parents with sleeping kids don’t need me to tell them how nice a silent pad can be.

Sleeping And Comfort

The “V” shaped chambers and guard rail side baffles on the Double V do an incredible job at maintaining a level and consistent amount of air pressure throughout the pad. When we first received the Double V, I was worried that my weight would sink one side while my son rested on a slanted pad. I was happy to discover that my worries were unfounded. When I lay down on one side with my 180lbs frame, my son is still on a level platform with his 35lbs frame. The balance is even better when my wife is sleeping on the same pad as our son.

We use a few different tents while camping and backpacking as a family, with our favorites being the Tarptent Cloudburst 3 and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3. When using a second pad to pair with the Double V, I find a straight profile pad like the NeoAir Trekker works best. A contoured pad like the XLite leaves too much space in the gaps.

Couples using the Double V sleeping pad in a two person backpacking tent will find that they have quite a bit more border space without two separate floating pads. You can see how much space is available in the two person tent pictured below.

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Some people get excited about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but my favorite shopping season is the week leading up to Memorial Day. The week before Memorial Day sees outdoor gear companies offer massive discounts on some of the best name-brand gear that they stock. If you’re looking to add some new gear to your summer kit, now is the time! I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite deals from top retailers REI and Backcountry. Happy shopping!

REI

Members at REI can use code ‘ANNIV18‘ for 20% off of any full price item in store or online, and 20% off of any outlet item. There are also a ton of great deals to be found on other items. Here are my favorites:

REI Outlet

The REI outlet carries many discontinued and out of season products. You’ll get 20% an already discounted item by using code ‘ANNIV18‘.

Backcountry

After REI, Backcountry is my favorite place to get outdoor gear. This year, they’ve gone all out with the deals!

Like REI, you can take 20% any full-priced item.

You can also grab a 30% discount on any full priced Arc’teryx item.

Disclosure: The product links provided in this post are affiliate links. Purchases made using these affiliate links go to support the content created here at Trail to Peak at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

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The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is the most affordable Sony lens available for full frame e-mount cameras. The Sony FE 50mm isn’t going to win any awards for build quality with its plastic construction, but I was pretty impressed with its performance and the images I was able to get during my months of testing. Make no mistake, this lens doesn’t come close to the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 that many will compare it to. The Sony Zeiss 55mm costs upwards of $750 more though. As much as I love the Zeiss 55mm, I think a case can be made that the Sony FE 50mm might be the better value pick for a lot of photographers. Find out why in this review.

Lens Construction, Handling, And Build Quality:

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is constructed almost entirely of plastic and feels very light in the hand. Many photographers and reviewers like to knock light and plastic lenses for feeling cheap and toy-like, but I think they serve a purpose for long hikes and backroad travel. These kinds of lenses are also great for shooters on a tight budget. The durability, weather sealing, and overall quality of heavier lenses is unquestionable, but there are times when a light camera setup trumps maximum image quality. The major sacrifices you have to be willing to make with the Sony FE 50 is with autofocus, weather resistance, and long term durability. The falloff in image quality is not as great as many would have you believe.

The Sony 50mm FE comes in at 6.5oz, which is 3.4oz lighter than the Sony Zeiss 55mm. The Sony 50mm FE is a short and stout lens at 2.70 x 2.34″. The lens hood is also pretty compact, making this a great lens when you want to go unnoticed.

The plastic focus ring on the 50mm FE scrolls infinitely, and does the job when called upon for manual focus shots. The scroll wheel itself feels like it floats a little, but the movements are more-or-less precise.

There isn’t a lot of glass used on the 50mm FE, which is what makes this lens and other ‘nifty fifty’ lenses so affordable to produce. Sony uses 6 lens elements in 5 groups, and a single aspherical element in the rear of those 6. The max aperture on this lens is f/1.8, and Sony uses 7 rounded diaphragm blades. The 7 rounded blades create pretty decent bokeh for a lens at this price point which you’ll see in the image gallery below.

On the back side of the 50mm FE you’ll find one of the only sections made of metal, the bayonet. There is no weather or dust sealing on this bayonet, which is to be expected on a $250 lens.

Specs and Stats:

Dimensions: 2.70 x 2.34″
Weight: 6.56 oz (186 g)
Filter Thread: 49mm
Focal Length: 50mm
Aperture: f/1.8 -f/22
View Angle: 47°
Minimum Focus Distance: 17.76″ (45 cm)
Elements/Groups: 6/5
Diaphram Blades: 7 rounded blades

Find the Sony 50mm F/1.8 Online: Amazon | B&H Photo Video Image Quality And Performance:

As a landscape photographer, 50mm is not a focal length I shoot with often. I prefer to shoot ultra wide at 15-25mm or very close at 150mm-300mm. 50mm is ‘no man’s land’ for landscapes, but the perfect focal length for portraits and general use walkaround shots. My use (or lack there of) at this focal range is another reason the 50mm FE is a tempting pick over the Sony Zeiss 55mm. It’s hard to justify a $750 price premium for a lens I only use on occasion. Below you will find a gallery of sample shots organized by category.

Portraits and Bokeh:

The Sony 50mm FE has proven to be a versatile walkaround portrait lens. I’ve been able to get some really sharp shots of my son and of a few strangers. The focal length works well for close-up head shots or for full body environmental portraits. Shooting at or near the max aperture of f/1.8, I’m able to get some nice subject separation with impressive sharpness at the center of the frame.

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