Around this time every year I share my own personally curated gifts for the outdoorsy people on your shopping list. These are items and brands that I personally endorse and they should all be a welcome gift for anyone who spends time in the mountains on your holiday shopping list! This year I’m only listing a half dozen ideas. I hope they help you find something for someone on your list!
Darn Tough Socks
I’ve been a Darn Tough sock fan for over a decade! Made in Vermont these are some of the best outdoor socks you’ll have in your drawer! With fun holiday patterns, quality craftmanship, and a Lifetime Guarantee you can’t go wrong with Darn Tough! This winter I got one pair for each of us! Check out the Holiday Collection HERE!
Friendly Foot Powder
Returning to my list every year is Friendly Foot Powder. Feet that spend a lot of time in rock climbing shoes, hiking and mountaineering boots, and ski boots, need some help keeping things from becoming odoriferous. This is an excellent stocking stuffer to keep your Darn Tough socks smelling good mile after mile!
Roll Recovery R8+ Deep Tissue Massage Roller
Post epic hike, climb, or ski self-care is important for recovery so you can get back out on the next adventure as soon as possible. After a knee injury last season my uninjured leg ended up having really tight quads, hamstrings, and calves as it over compensated for the injured leg. The R8+ Deep Tissue Massage Roller made it easy to stimulate blood flow and loosen tight muscles which I fully believe sped up my recovery. I now use this a couple days a week and think anyone who puts down a lot of miles in the mountains would love to find this under the tree!
MyMedic First Aid Kits
A first aid kit is part of any outdoor persons gear list and our family has been using MyMedic kits every adventure and trip we go on. We have one in each of our cars, one I carry in my backpack while climbing, skiing, and hiking, and a large one we have at home. There are many models to choose from and some are currently up to 50% off with the Black Friday Sale!
Northeast Mountaineering Gift Certificates
There is something pretty unique about gifting someone an adventure and there’s no easier way than a gift certificate to Northeast Mountaineering! Available in multiple denomonations these can be used on any of the adventures Northeast Mountaineering offers from guided hikes, rock climbing and ice climbing instruction, waterfall rappelling, guided backcountry ski trips, and even avalanche courses!
Garmin InReach Mini
A gift that allows your adventurous friends and family stay in touch even when outside of cell phone reception. As an educator I will always promote preparedness and turning around in poor weather but there is no question Personal Locator Beacons like the Garmin inReach Mini 2 save lives!
The winter guiding season is here and it’s about to get super busy around my house! I may add a few more items here as I find the time. Have a gift idea for those who play in the mountains? Leave it in the comments and have a great, safe, Holiday Season!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Affiliate links above support this blog. Thank you!
Salewa has released the Salewa Wildfire 2 Approach Shoes. I reviewed the original Salewa Wildfire Edge back in 2019 and liked them so much I reached out right away for a media sample when I saw this newer version was out. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to try them I’m ready to share my thoughts. Let’s start with who these are best suited for.
Like its predecessor the Salewa Wildfire 2 is a high end supportive approach shoe. It has the lateral torsional rigidity to keep your feet comfortable over many miles of rough uneven terrain yet enough medial flex to feel sensitive enough on technical scrambles. These qualities make these a great choice for a technical approach shoe for climbers, and durable choice for White Mountain hikers and 4k chasers, as well as long distant trail hikers. All of these groups, and possibly the latter the most, will appreciate the breathability of the recycled mesh upper.
Interestingly I had to go up a full size in these compared to when I reviewed the Wildfire Edge back in 2019 (US Men’s Size 8). To get a proper fit in these I needed to go into a US Men’s Size 9 (EU 42). Once I did that though they fit amazing, and like before I felt no need to adjust the adjustable footbeds that come with these shoes. The midsole and insole provide plenty of cushion and having feet that “run hot” I was a huge fan of the breathable mesh uppers.
I’ve developed quite a bit of faith in the POMOCO sole over the last few years. While I had some concerns with the soles in my 2019 review either the formula has changed a bit or my technique has improved (maybe both)? These soles are some of the grippiest soles I have ever tested. It is hard to quantitively compare the true friction performance of the different sole compounds I can state that these feel almost as grippy as Stealth C4, but definitely more durable and long lasting. Laced snugly I felt plenty secure in 4th and easy fifth class terrain (up to 5.6). I also appreciated the soft internal gaiter which helped keep debris out while out on more than one bushwhacking adventure.
The Salewa Wildfire 2 Approach Shoes have a solid standing in my personal “Top Three Approach Shoes” category. If you are currently in the market for some approach shoes see if your local outdoor shop carries these. If they don’t you might try a pair from one of these online retailers, most who accept free returns/exchanges if you don’t get the size just right.
Men’s and Women’s models available, along with a Goretex model for those who prefer waterproof models.
Have you been curious about what it is like to camp in a rooftop tent? I have been interested in this style of camping for a few years now as I notice more and more rooftop tents on the highways and at our local campgrounds. The investment in a rooftop tent is not insignificant though so I have held off on committing to purchasing one. Through a bit of serendipity I met Summer Brown while traveling on Cape Cod this past July and when I asked her about the rooftop tent on her vehicle I learned she is the owner of a new company in southern New Hampshire that rents rooftop tents, Rooftop Adventure Company.
At the end of September I drove down to her location in Merrimack, NH and was fitted with the iKamper 2.0 Rooftop Tent and headed back north for a four day three night camping trip. In this post I’d like to share our experience in relation to the service provided by Rooftop Adventure Company and our thoughts on the iKamper Skycamper 2.0 Rooftop Tent.
iKamper Mini, $95/day. The perfect choice for 2 people who are constantly changing location as this one is a breeze to set up and breakdown to head to the next spot!
iKamper Skycamp 2.0, $105/day. The biggest tent in the fleet and the one we used! I’ll go into more details on this model below.
In addition to renting these rooftop tents Rooftop Adventure Company also rents an “Adventure Trailer”. If you have a towing package on your vehicle THIS is the way to go! The trailer is an additional $30/day and can be paired with either the Smittybilt Overlander, the Thule Autana 3, or the iKamper Mini. There are two great advantages to using the trailer. First, you have a ton of cargo space for transporting bikes, paddle sport equipment, camping gear, etc. Second you can set up the tent and camp and still drive your vehicle to town or the trailhead. This option really made me wish we had a vehicle with a towing package!
Once you have decided on the model and have some dates in mind you just fill out a short contact form and Summer is quick to get back to you to lock in the reservation. We did have some back and forth correspondence trying to determine which of my vehicles had a more suitable roof rack for the different models of tents available. Right now the only requirements listed for each model are:
“Vehicle raised side rails and Thule or Yakima crossbars (rental crossbars available upon request)”
Adding the weight of each model to the website might help customers narrow down their selection, though it isn’t too hard to look up the weight of any of these online. I would suggest to potential customers to check your vehicle’s user manual for the roof weight limit in addition to the weight limit of your factory or after-market roof rock.
Rooftop Adventure Company is located in Merrimack, NH, at Summer’s residence. To make installing this tent on the roof of your car Summer has an electric lift that does almost all the work. You simply back your vehicle up next to her garage and her lift does on the heavy lifting. After just a few minutes the tent is secured to your vehicle and it’s time for a quick clinic on how to set up and break down your tent. Once I felt comfortable with the operation (the iKamper Skycamp 2.0 is really super simple to set up and break down, literally both actions take less than 3 minutes) it was time to sign some paperwork. Typical liability waivers and what anyone would expect when renting equipment. A fully refundable deposit is made and you’re ready to head out on your trip!
Setting up the iKamper Skycamp 2.0
After arriving at our campsite, a great riverside site at Saco Family Camping, I got to work getting our campsite ready for the rest of the family (kids were still in school and wife was still at work). One consideration when roof top camping off of pavement is to try to park level. Once I had our vehicle on a flat spot with the front of the tent facing the campfire and river I opened it up was impressed with how fast the whole process went. I took the extra minute or two to extend the optional side awnings. With the tent fully deployed in less than 5 minutes I setup our new camp grill (not doing a full review on it right now but I will say we LOVED cooking on our new Royal Gourmet Griddle!) After that I had some free time so decided to go for a quick eBike ride on some adjoining trails!
Sleeping in the iKamper Skycamp 2.0
One of the first things that impressed me when I climbed up into the tent was how stable and sturdy the floor felt. Summer has added carpet to the floor of this model and that combined with the king sized mattress made for an excellent sleeping surface. We did not pack or use any of our other sleeping pads. The four of us had plenty of room and we found it best to sleep with our feet towards the door and our heads towards the cool quilted world map that is basically the inside of the hardshell cover. Despite nighttime temperatures forecasted in the lower 40s we opted to keep the two screened windows open to help with moisture control. Since we were car camping with brought a couple big puffy blankets in addition to my prized Western Mountaineering TerraLite Sleeping Bag. I bought this sleeping bag for a Cascades climbing trip I went on a few years ago and I love how it opens up into a huge blanket that almost the whole family can get under!
In the morning I checked in with everyone to see how well they slept and in was unanimous. Best night of sleep in a tent any of us had ever had! We had no noticeable moisture buildup despite there being four people in the tent on a cold clear night.
Packing Up The Tent/Returning the Tent
On the last day of our “stay-cation” style camping trip we emptied everything out of the tent and closed it up in less than 5 minutes. Since we were staying local we had a second car to use for our day adventures but I realized this tent was so quick and easy to set up and break down it wouldn’t have been much of a hassel to do so each day. The only downside would be removing and storing your blankets and pillows each day but that’s a very small drawback. The next day I drove back to Merrimack where Summer was ready to remove the tent, give it a quick look over to make sure there was no damage, and send me on my way.
I captured a lot of this process with video and have shared it to my YouTube. If you’d like to see the details on setup and breakdown check it out here!
<video edits still in progress>
Renting a rooftop tent was an incredible experience for our family! The kids LOVED it. My wife has told me she might not sleep in a regular tent again (I think she’s being a bit dramatic). Rooftop Adventure Company is the first of its kind that I know of. Summer started the business in 2019 and I can’t wait to watch it grow! Her customer service is top-notch through out the process. She was available for any questions from the beginning to the end of our trip. She is located in an excellent spot to serve the greater New England area and points south. Owning a rooftop tent can be tricky for many of us. We don’t have a garage or place we would be able to store it when not using it. Given the quality of the tents and service she provides I feel her rental rates are very reasonable. We would definitely use this rental service again and if you’ve been thinking about trying a rooftop tent you don’t need to look much further than the Rooftop Adventure Company. I’ll finish this review with the journal entry my wife wrote the day I returned the tent.
Occasionally cams will need some maintenance to continue to operate smoothly. If you find the trigger and springs in your cams getting “sticky” use a mild soap like Nikwax Tech Wash followed by a lubricant like Metolius Cam Lube to restore them to like new operation!
Metolius recently added to their line of passive climbing protection with the simple and accurately named “Metolius Big Nuts“. This set is a light and affordable way to add larger protection to your trad rack.
When I started trad climbing I used to carry a few hexes to round out my rack before I could afford doubling and tripling up on some of the larger sized cams (Black Diamond C4 #1 and larger). At some point I retired carrying hexes though I’d still consider carrying a couple on longer alpine routes. The new Metolius Big Nuts are a great way to increase your protection options if you climb a lot of wider cracks without adding a lot of weight or cost to your rack. Let’s look at some specifications.
These can be purchased separately or in a set of four. Let’s compare these sizes and weights to representative Black Diamond C4 cams.
These all also taper on the larger “endwise” plane effectively increasing their placement size up to the next equivalent cam. For example the #4 Big Nut (the red one) is 2.1 inches in size making it suitable for a crack that would normally accept a Black Diamond #2 (the yellow size not pictured).
The full set of Big Nuts weighs just under 12 ounces and basically covers the same size cracks that a set of Black Diamond C4’s from size .3 to size 2 would cover. A extra set of those size cams would weigh a little over a pound, for a weight savings of about 6 ounces. The real savings is in cost through. The set of four is on sale right now for $71.21. Price varies on a set of the equivalent sized cams but is roughly about $350.
The Metolius Big Nuts are tapered and curved which helps them fit a variety of placements. The concave and convex sides of the nuts are more pronounced than the sides of a more classic nut like the Black Diamond Stoppers. One online review suggests this creates security in placements while possibly making them harder to clean. In my use of them I did not notice any difficulty cleaning but opinions will vary based on the type of rock you are climbing on and the quality of your individual placements.
The Metolius Big Nuts are an excellent way to increase your large crack protection options without breaking the bank on another set of cams. I’m finding these useful on my local trad crags and would definitely take them on my next alpine adventure further away. If you are looking at beefing up your trad rack this year consider a set of these!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Metolius provided this item at no cost for review. Affiliate links above support the content created here.
Usually I review outdoor gear and provide technical tips for climbing and backcountry skiing here but today I’m reviewing something a little different… a video editing service. I first heard of Spivo through a sponsored Instagram ad soon after returning from a 7 day backcountry ski trip to Iceland. The timing was great as I had a lot of video and still footage from the trip so I reached out to see if I could get a sample of there service to share with you. The response was positive and I was soon logging into the service to upload my videos and photos to see what they could do with.
It’s pretty simple actually. You start by requesting a video edit quote for yourself, someone else (great gift idea), or a business. Next question is what kind of video you would like with choices being; Travel or Adventure Video, Action Sport or Motorsport Video, Vlog Video, or Event, Honeymoon or Wedding Video. Then you select how long you want the finished edit to be with options ranging from less than a minute to a full half-hour, with “3 to 6 minutes” being labeled as “most popular”. Pricing will then be displayed with discounts and promotions available if you purchase more than one editing project. Here’s a couple examples of current pricing with a few different selections:
Cinematic Adventure Video Edit 1-3 minutes long in 1080p HD Quality: $219
Cinematic Adventure Video Edit 1-3 minutes long in 4K/360 Videos: $319
Cinematic Wedding Video Edit 6-9 minutes long in 1080p HD Quality: $349
Once you select your options and checkout you will receive an email with a link to upload your files. My sample order was for a 3-6 minute edit and allowed up to 20Gb of uploading. I was interested in going through the entire process only on my iPhone and it was quite simple to select the videos and photos I have in My Photos and start uploading them. I selected about 5Gb (everything I took in Iceland) and started uploading. At some point I must have disconnected from WiFi and it appeared everything wasn’t uploaded. I couldn’t easily see which videos or pics from my phone didn’t get uploaded so I reselected my geo-tagged Iceland photos and did a second upload assuming the editors would recognize any duplicate images/files.
Once everything was uploaded I wasn’t exactly sure if I needed to do anything else. A quick message to the company was responded to promptly directing me to log back into my video edit order page (easy) and answer just a few more questions before their editors would start working on the project. There were just a few questions about any direction I wanted to give, key moments, creative thoughts, and a chance to select a music theme from possible hundreds of unlicensed options. I really wanted to let the company do what it felt was appropriate creatively so I basically just answered “editor’s choice” to each of the customizable options. Once that was completed I received an email stating they would get to start on my edit and I would receive the video within 7 days!
Six days later I received the email that Felix had finished editing the video and it was ready to view and download! You can watch the video before downloading and share it via a link. This is helpful if you watch it and decide it needs any revisions (free revisions until you are happy with the video or full refund offered).
Downloading the video on my iPhone was pretty simple but it took me a minute to figure out where it was located. I found it “Files” on my iPhone, and could then click on “Save Video” to have it findable in the more convenient “Photos” app on the phone. I could then easily upload it to YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
The original edit ended up being 4 minutes and 48 seconds long. I immediately liked the soundtrack that Felix selected as it fit the Icelandic landscape quite well. The cuts were smooth and polished and in great time with the music. My overall impression was it was a quality edit of the probably hour or more of videos and photos I had uploaded if but just a tad long. Here it is with out any revisions being requested if you’d like to see.
Being an Instagramer I reached back out to the company to see if 60 second edits were an option and was told a 60 second highlight edit can be requested for an additional $50. A few days later I received another email with my shortened highlight edit. I really liked the cadence and length of this edit for today’s busy digital consumer clocking in at 1:07. Here it is:
So the big question, is the service worth it? With prices ranging from low 200s to high 300s for most projects the answer is it depends. Ever since my first iPhone and discovering the iMovie app I’ve enjoyed learning to edit my own home family movies and adventure projects. I rate my editing skills as solidly mediocre. If you are not great at editing this service makes a lot of sense after a cool vacation or adventure somewhere. There’s also the time it takes to edit these projects… My own amateur edit of the same trip ended up being about two minutes in length but took me 5-6 hours of editing to get it down to something I wanted to share. You can see my edit of this trip here if you’d like to compare. A lot of people might not have the free time, or the motivation, to sort through all the video and images you captured on your latest adventure to create something memorable and entertaining. I think it’s also clear my edit is pretty amateur and the Spivo edits have a professional level of polish! I can definitely see why this service has a market and is probably doing quite well!
I also think the idea of using this to create a wedding video is a very novel idea and likely a few thousand dollars cheaper than hiring a professional videographer for your wedding. Just think about it, if you have everyone who is at your wedding taking videos and pictures and they can all just upload to a central place like Spivo where they then edit and produce your wedding video in 7 days for less than $500? I’ll be suggesting this to my brother who is getting married this June in fact!
See you in the mountains.
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample of this service was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support the content created here at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
I think most people who follow me know I have a thing for “sun-hoodies”. They are literally my favorite type of active outdoor clothing and I’ve had the opportunity to review quite a few different brands. When I saw the KÜHL’s AIRKÜHL™ Men’s Hoody I immediately placed an order. For those who are not aware of what a “sun-hoody” is it’s basically the best thing to happen to outdoor clothing since the use of synthetics! It is by far the BEST protection from both sun/UV and the incoming mosquito/black fly season! Every outdoors-person should own at least one (I won’t disclose how many I currently have in my gear closet).
Let’s start with…
Incredibly soft with superior moisture management and breathability, KÜHL’s AIRKÜHL™ Men’s Hoody displays excellent abrasion and snag resistance for increased durability. Maximum sun protection (UPF 50+) paired with odor resistant properties keep you fresh and confident throughout the day.
Five-panel hood constructed to lay flat without bulk when not in use
Featuring the original thumb loop
DIFFERENT BY CONSTRUCTION
Open-air construction for advanced breathability
Odor-resistant infused fabric keeps you fresh longer so you can wash less and wear more
UPF 50+ sun protection
Sun-hoodie season is from the end of April to the late September so I spend a lot of days wearing one of these! I can tell from the weight of the fabric KÜHL has found a great balance in lightweight comfort and durability. I’ve worn mine for about 20 days so far this season without washing so I can attest to the “odor-resistant” technology. My wife would let me know right? The weave is somehow a bit tighter than other models which reduces snagging but is still super soft and breathable. Using the size chart I went for a size large and it fits great, just slightly snug in the forearms.
If you have already joined the sun-hoodie movement then you already know how great these are! KÜHL has joined a few other top-of-the-line companies in producing a seriously excellent sun-hoodie and this one is available and in-stock in 4 different colors (I’m really partial to the two lighter colors, Sea Breeze and Cloud Gray). A slightly different model is offered in womens, the KÜHL ENGINEERED™ HOODY. A great addition to any outdoor wardrobe made by an ethical company! A couple more KUHL reviews will be coming soon!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: The author purchased this item with his own money. Affiliate links help support this blog! Thank you.
I rarely shop for non-technical casual pants but when a marketing email from KÜHL® came across my desk for the KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants I decided to pull the trigger on purchasing a new pair of casual work pants. After a couple of months of wear not only am I really happy with the purchase I’m also motivated to write a short review for these comfy rugged canvas pants!
The fit of these pants is excellent in part because KÜHL® offers them in multiple inseam lengths and waist combinations and actually has most options in stock!
The KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants are a “Full” style which is wide through the knee and leg opening. I went for a 34 Waist, 30 Inseam for my build and they hit the spot like no pair of cargo pants or jeans I’ve ever worn!
The KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants are based on the “Full” style which definitely makes them feel like a casual work pant vs. a more technical hiking/climbing pant that I usually review. The material is 98% cotton, 2% Spandex, and while a rugged “canvas” type pant they feel soft and breathable for daily casual wear.
These have become my favorite pair of every day wear pants. Manufacturer listed features are:
Two side pockets; one zip for security
Gusseted crotch for freedom of movement
French fly interior button closure
Double ply front
My favorite feature of these pants, other than how well they fit, is the side zippered pocket which fits my Flowfold Minimalist Wallet and passport easily… these were the only pair of non-technical pants I wore to travel internationally last month and the size and added security of that side zippered pocket was perfect. Both that zippered pocket along with a non-zipper side pocket on the right side is suitable for EDC items.
I’m not accustomed to reviewing pants not designed for ice climbing or backcountry skiing but I like these pants so much I felt they deserve some attention! If you are in need of a rugged but comfy pair of casual work pants you can’t go wrong with the KÜHL® THE LAW™ Pants! I also have some other great KÜHL® items, including an amazing sun hoody, I’ll be reviewing shortly!
See you in the mountains!
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: I purchased these pants with my own money. Affiliate links above support the content created here. Thank you.
I’ve had a few months to demo and review the Italian made AKU Hayatsuki Mountaineering Boots and I’m ready to share my opinion on them! Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first. I first heard of this company through a social media ad and I purchased a pair of the AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes because I have a thing for approach shoes! The shoes performed so well I published this review and later reached out to see if I could get a media sample of the AKU Hayatsuki Mountaineering Boots to review. AKU supplied me with a pair to check out but this has in no way effected my opinion of the boots. Read on to see how they were tested and how they performed!
How they were tested:
Test period: December – March
Use: Winter hiking, mountaineering, and waterfall ice climbing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Approx. 20 days of use, 100+ miles, over 40,000 feet of elevation gain/loss.
Bottom Line (TL;DR version)
These are a solid choice for the winter hiker/climber who spends equal time between general winter mountaineering (snow climbing) and more technical waterfall ice climbing that won’t break the bank!
I went with a UK 8, EUR 42, USA M 8.5 and the fit was perfect for my medium width foot with a regular arch and a slight Morton’s toe. The lacing system has a great pulley system at the lower top of the foot, 6 “mini” pulley’s to be exact then a self-locking ratchet mechanism. This system makes securing the foot in the boot super quick and efficient. The result is zero toe-bashing while kicking up waterfall ice while wearing crampons or while descending of any steep hiking trail. I never felt a need to “snug up” my laces for the descent with these boots feeling comfortable and secure all day long!
For general winter hiking and mountaineering these performed quite well! AKU doesn’t list how much Primaloft insulation is in the liner but there is enough to keep my feet toasty down to 10 degrees below Fahrenheit with wind chills around -20 to -30 above tree-line. My feet stayed warm throughout each trip (wearing my Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks)! For general winter hiking and mountaineering I paired them with my Petzl Vasak 12-Point Mountaineering Crampons and they worked great together!
For ice climbing I was quite impressed with their performance, especially at the price point! The lasting board, which gives the sole its stiffness, is made out of “6-4 MM Nylon & Die Cut EVA for Rock Protection & Stability”. More important to me is the welt is fully compatible with my technical ice climbing crampons with a solid front and back lip on the welt. My Petzl Dart Crampons fit perfectly on the welt and felt secure on many pitches of Grade 3 waterfall ice.
The AKU Hayatsuki Mountaineering Boots are a great winter “all-a-rounder” that will basically perform well in pretty much any snowy situation below 8000 feet. This makes them an excellent choice for winter hikers working on their “Winter 48” 4000 footer list, and for winter hikers who are considering breaking into the waterfall ice climbing sport. They are technical enough to handle waterfall ice and mixed climbing at almost half the price of most technical ice climbing specific boots. The fact that they are made in Italy is apparent in their craftsmanship and I have no doubt these boots can survive a decade of winter exploration. If you’re in the market for a great pair of winter hiking boots you should give these a try!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support this blog. Thank you.
In preparation for the Spring hiking, camping, road-tripping season VSSL is offering 20% off it’s two available First Aid models, the regular and the mini! The sale ends on Monday, March 28th so if you need a solid first aid kit for your pack, car, or kayak you should take a look here! I originally reviewed in detail the VSSL Survival Model all the way back in 2015! If you’re interested in that review you can check it out here!