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Review: Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf

Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf

 


 

In honour of some of the coldest temperatures recorded so far during 2015 over in this part of Canada (as low as -40° Celsius or -40° Fahrenheit after the windchill), I thought I would review an essential piece of gear that always comes with me when I venture outdoors during the Winter – the Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf.

Pros:

  • Warm
  • Durable
  • Windproof
  • Soft
  • Light
  • Washable
  • Made in the USA!

Cons:

  • Can retain smells
  • Can fog glasses

 

Seirus Neo Fleece 3Quarter

Don’t worry Ned Stark, I’ve braced myself for winter.

 

Review:

The Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf is definitely warm. You don’t have to worry there. The mask portion is made of Neofleece® – the durable neoprene outer material cuts the wind, while the soft fleece on the inside is comfortable against your face. The neck area is made of mid-weight fleece. You’ll want to make sure to tuck this section into your coat. The Velcro® closure system on the back makes it incredibly easy to fasten and take off again. Once its in place on your head, it stays put.

The Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf is lightweight; this makes it infinitely more efficient than a bulky knit scarf due to its minimal fabric use. When you don’t need it, you can just roll it up and stick it in your pocket.

There are small holes in the mask to allow for the hot air to escape when you’re breathing hard through your mouth. If you’re wearing glasses, breathing hard can occasionally fog them up. Sometimes, minimal condensation can form on the inside of the mask while breathing through the mouth as well. There is an opening on the underside of the nose allowing for easy breathing. A potential downside to these holes is that when the wind is extremely strong, it can sometimes find its way through into the mask. This occurs very rarely.

Since the Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf is made of synthetic materials, it can retain smells. My advice? Just don’t eat any garlic or sardines before you put the mask on and you’ll be fine. That being said, the mask is washable. If there happens to be any smells retained after use, they’ll only remain until the mask is washed.

Lastly, this great piece of winter gear is made in the USA.

 

Seirus Neo Fleece Back

All snug and in place; Velcro is great!

 

Final Thoughts:

When it comes to the cold winter temperatures, it’s very important to cover up any exposed skin; frostbite is definitely not a fun time. Throw on the Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf and you’re covered. Bad puns aside, this face mask is excellent value for the money. I wear this pretty much every day during the winter. I’ve even bought a second one to have as a backup. Your friends will be jealous they don’t have one.

5 out of 5

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.

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Review: GV Mountain Trail Snowshoes

GV Mountain Trail Snowshoes

 


 

Up until this year, I have never gone out and tried snowshoeing. It’s probably really weird to hear an outdoorsy Canadian admit to that. I guess my hesitation can be linked to snowshoeing looking a lot more complicated and awkward than it actually is. It turns out that you’re no longer strapping a pair of wonky tennis rackets onto your feet and walking bow legged down the trail. With the numerous technological advancements that have been made in the snowshoe industry, it’s now dead simple to get into a pair of snowshoes. The GV Mountain Trail snowshoes will allow you to get up and going in no time.

GV Mountain Trail Snowshoes Ratchet Buckle

Ratchet time! Just a few cranks to lock in a snug fit.

Pros:
  • Ratchet buckles (Rambus Buckle System)
  • Weight (4.94 lbs combined for the 9″x29″ size)
  • Narrow footprint design
  • Sturdy frame
  • Crampons
  • Made in Canada!

Cons:

  • No toe bucket
  • Coating on the frame
GV Mountain Trail Snowshoes Bottom

The belly of the beast. Crampons will give you the grip you need on slippery hills.

Review:

The GV Mountain Trail snowshoes are a good mid-level snowshoe. They’re not entry level, but they’re also not in the expensive, super-decked-out-high-end category. One of the biggest selling features for me here is the ratchet buckle system. They’re so easy to tighten and loosen that you can even work the buckles while wearing thick winter gloves. All you have to do is stick your foot into the binding, tighten both straps using the ratchet buckles (so that they’re snug) and tighten the heel strap. Done. No more than 30 seconds. The only minor annoyance when putting these snowshoes on, is that there is no toe bucket to use as a guide. The toe bucket sits at the front of the binding and is a quick indicator that your foot is positioned properly in the binding. Without the toe bucket, you have to position your foot by sight and feel. However, this isn’t hard to figure out and comes with a little practice. The ball of your foot should be sitting at the pivot joint near the front of the binding. Want to loosen the straps? Just grip the wings on the side of the ratchet lever and pull. Voilà! The strap has released your foot from its sturdy clutches.

The narrow design of the snowshoes is great. It means you’re actually able to walk normally while they’re on your feet. The frame is made of strong, lightweight aluminum. I have noticed that after a few treks out in various different terrain types, the coating or paint on the frame has gotten a little scratched in places. To be fair, rocks and fallen tree stumps are very hard surfaces, even more so in the frigid winter temperatures. The frames are not dented in any way though. The decks of the snowshoes are made of a durable plastic that uses Entech™ technology. The company states that the Entech™ decks are more durable, can resist extreme temperatures down to -50° Celsius (-58° Fahrenheit), prevents friction on the deck bottom and generates 50% less plastic waste. Not too shabby. Good job on reducing plastic waste GV; you get extra points for that one. The crampons feel sturdy and offer great grip when traveling up or down inclines. During our outing the other night, we had to cross a bare patch of paved road. We were a little worried about what might happen to the crampons as we crossed. When we were done, we did a thorough inspection of the bottoms of the snowshoes. The crampons were fine; no bending or dents, not even scuffed paint.

GV is a purely Canadian company, with their base of operations located in Quebec. They locally source the materials to manufacture their many snowshoes; another win in my books.

Snowshoeing In The Field

Layered up and heading out for some exercise in the freshly snow-covered field.

Final Thoughts:

  • With the GV Mountain Trail snowshoes strapped on, you’ll be able to trek farther into the depths of winter on your search for the ever-elusive and mystical Yeti. Or just get a really good workout, while having fun in the snow.

5 out of 5

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.

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Review: Black Diamond Trail Back Poles

Black Diamond Trail Back Poles

 


 

Some people might argue that hiking poles are glorified walking sticks. Why not just grab a stick on the side of the trail and use that instead? This manner of thinking is why hiking poles get kind of lumped into that group of gear that is considered a “nice to have” for some hikers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; to each their own as the saying goes. However, after trying out a pair of poles while hiking on a glacier in Alaska, I was instantly sold. When I got back to civilization, I ended up purchasing the Black Diamond Trail Back hiking poles.

BD Hand Grips

Simple rubber hand grip. Grip it and rip it.

Pros:

  • Comfortable hand grip
  • Easily adjustable to various heights with the FlickLock® system
  • Collapsible
  • Colour (easily visible in most environments)
  • Durable
  • Comes with powder baskets (great for snowshoeing)
  • Weight (525g)

Cons:

  • Price (they cost more than deadwood)
  • Made overseas
BD FlickLock

The FlickLock® system in action. Clever design.

Review:

The Black Diamond Trail Back hiking poles come with a hand grip made of rubber. While I find this to be comfortable and perfectly serviceable, others might find they need the extra padding offered by dual-density foam. That being said, you’ll also be dishing out more cash for the foam hand grips as they’re only offered on more expensive models. One of the main draws to these poles is how easy it is to adjust their height. You open the FlickLocks®, adjust the height, close the FlickLocks® and continue along your hike. It’s so easy, adjustments can even be done on the fly. Just watch your footing. The poles also come with height markers printed directly on the legs for you to use as a guide when setting them up from their collapsed position. After adjusting the height, they stay locked in position. The FlickLock® system does not come loose and start sliding down when in use. During several difficult hikes (like hiking up two mountains in the Yukon for example), I’ve never had these poles bend or bow out when supporting most of my body weight on some risky descents. These poles are very sturdy. Even though they are made of aluminum, they are fairly light-weight at 525 grams. Although, for the hiker that counts every gram, there are lighter options. The poles are easy to store with a collapsed height of only 65.5cm (25 inches). The “fire red” colour on the upper body make them fairly easy to spot in different environments if you happen to lay them down. With the addition of removable powder baskets, these poles are great to use in the winter for snowshoeing. The poles are also very useful on icy trails. For me, there are only two real drawbacks when it comes to these hiking poles. Firstly, the price point for these poles is fairly high, but I wanted a decent pair of poles that will last a long time. Secondly, these are made overseas. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with most of the hiking poles I have seen.

BD Powder Basket

The powder baskets are on and ready to break some trails!

Final Thoughts:

  • The Black Diamond Trail Back Hiking Poles can definitely be a Godsend on trails with constant elevation changes. They’re easy to adjust and take a good beating. Even on moderate trails, people will find these useful to stay balanced and upright. Give your knees a bit of a break and grab some Black Diamond Trail Back hiking poles for your next outing.

5 out of 5

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.

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Review: SmartWool Hiking Socks

SmartWool Medium Hiking Socks

 


 

Socks have one of the most important jobs out of all your hiking gear. They’re one half of the dynamic duo that help keep your feet dry and comfortable out on the trails (you’ll need good boots too!). Your feet are taking the most abuse of all your body parts when hiking. They’re helping to absorb a good chunk of the force and weight of your body (plus the weight of your pack) as you’re moving along. They’re also simultaneously acting as a lever to propel you forward, while responding to the uneven terrain surfaces to keep you upright. Needless to say, a lot of things are going on with your feet. If your feet aren’t comfortable, you really can’t hike properly. When you can’t hike properly, you get grumpy and possibly start taking out your anger on fellow hikers by cursing and throwing things. This is no good. When it comes to choosing a hiking sock, you should take the time and do your research. Luckily, the Internet is full of helpful people offering real-world reviews. Here’s my take.

Pros:

  • Comfy
  • Durable
  • Blister free fit
  • Wick away sweat
  • Made in the USA!

Cons:

  • Price
  • Some pilling (After extensive use.)

Review:

The benefits of the SmartWool hiking socks might not be immediately apparent while you’re standing in the store looking at a seemingly mundane pair of wool sacks that go on your feet. While I could tell you to try wearing a pair of cotton socks out on the trail instead of wool, I really don’t want any potential fiery death rage flung in my general direction because you now have some nice blisters (or worse). While these socks are a bit more on the pricey side, you do get what you pay for. SmartWool socks are super tough. I’ve had my 1st pair now for several years and after severe use, they don’t yet have any holes. The only issue I’ve encountered is that the socks do pill a bit in some areas. I guess this is to be expected after being used and washed many times though. I only recently bought another pair to have on hand just in case. SmartWool socks are very comfortable. The foot bed has a nice cushion and there’s enough room so that your toes aren’t crushed together. The packaging states that these socks have a blister free fit. I’m going to have to agree with the company on this one. While wearing these socks, I’ve never once had any blisters. I’m not saying you will never get blisters while wearing these socks because they are some sort of magical foot pouches. I would imagine that if they became wet and the hotspots of your feet were constantly rubbing against your boot for many kilometers, then logic dictates that blisters are bound to form eventually. The SmartWool socks are constructed with a bit of nylon for elasticity purposes. Because of this, once they’re pulled up, they don’t fall down. When I’m out hiking, my feet are dry in these socks. They do their job well by wicking away any sweat.  Want another solid reason to buy these? SmartWool socks are made in the USA.

Final Thoughts:

  • SmartWool hiking socks are worth the price in the long run. Be nice to your feet when you’re out on the trails. Grab a pair of these SmartWool socks and hike along your merry way. Seriously, nobody likes blisters.

5 out of 5

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.

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Review: Chaos Coastal Toque

Chaos Coastal Toque

 


 

I bought the Chaos Coastal Toque this past weekend before heading out on a 9Km hike at Hilton Falls Conservation Area. I was eager to see how it would perform in real world conditions.

Pros:

  • Keeps my head at a perfect temperature.
  • Great fit.
  • Stylish.
  • Made in Canada!

Cons:

  • Colour selection. (Not really a big deal.)

Review:

The Chaos Coastal Toque is longer than the usual beanie style toque. Since there’s more material available, you can choose to wear it a couple of different ways. I pulled the toque on, then rolled the bottom up a bit so that my ear lobes were still covered. I also positioned it to run across my face slightly above my eyebrows. Once on my head, it sat snugly in place for the entirety of the hike. If I had needed to, it would have been quick and easy to roll it up a few more times allowing for some heat to escape. At the beginning of the hike, I had my shell hood up over top of the toque. When I moved my head around with the hood up, the toque followed my head movements; it did not twist around or drop down over my eyes. This was an important test for me. It’s extremely annoying to have a toque move around and block your vision, not to mention dangerous. It was -8 Celsius (after the windchill) out during the hike. The Chaos Coastal Toque kept my head at that “Goldilocks” temperature the entire time; juuust right. I didn’t feel any wind cutting through and it didn’t roast my head either. The toque, made of 50% wool and 50% acrylic, is very comfy to wear. It’s fairly soft to the touch and did not irritate my skin at all. The construction quality of the Chaos Coastal Toque is really nice. It feels sturdy and will likely last quite a long while. Lastly, I love the fact that it was made in Canada. I’m a huge advocate of buying Canadian-made or USA-made products. I try and do so whenever I can. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than you would think.

Final Thoughts:

  • I’m looking forward to pulling this toque on again and again for many more winter hikes. It keeps my head happy while I’m out on the trail.

5 out of 5

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Clothing, Gear, Winter

How To: Layering For Winter Hiking

Layering Featured

 


 

It’s -15 degrees Celsius and snowing outside? Get out and hike!

It’s winter here in Canada. Yeah it’s cold out, but so what? If you dress for the weather outside, you’ll be a comfortable and happy hiker while you’re out on the trails.

The Concept

Layering is key when it comes to spending long periods of time outdoors doing physical activity during the cooler winter months. By dressing in multiple lighter layers, you’ll be able to adapt to fluctuating weather conditions and quickly manage any changes to your body’s temperature.

The idea is that after you’ve been moving around for a while and have generated a fair amount of body heat, take a quick break to remove a layer (usually the mid layer). This will cool your body down before you start to sweat profusely and drench your clothes.

Having wet clothes while you’re outdoors in the cold of winter is the last thing you want. After your clothes become wet, the cold air will begin to cool them down quite fast. When your clothes are wet and cold, you become wet and cold. At that point, it’s very hard for your body to maintain warmth. This can potentially lead to hypothermia.

The Materials

There’s the age old adage that states cotton kills. While your favourite, comfy 100% cotton blend t-shirt won’t sneak up and try and stab you in your sleep, it will lose all ability to keep you warm when it becomes wet. Cotton takes a very long time to dry when wet, as it absorbs sweat or water rather than “wicking” (pulling) it away from your skin to the outer surface where it can evaporate. This is obviously not ideal.

Enter your new friends – wool and synthetic garments. These materials will wick away sweat from your skin, they dry quickly and they will still insulate when wet.

Layering Materials

Materials: Polyester and Wool; the two materials you’ll want to get more acquainted with.

The Layers

  • The Base Layer. This is the layer that sits closest to your skin. The base layer is responsible for wicking away any moisture from your skin. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to cover up in base layer garments from the neck down. Firstly, go and grab some good old long johns! Also known as thermal underwear, you’ll want to throw on a long-sleeved top and a pair of bottoms.  These can be found in both wool and synthetic materials (ex. Polartec Power Dry®). For winter activities, there are three different weights available; light, mid and expedition (the heaviest used for the coldest conditions or low activity). Choose the garment weight that will best suit your upcoming hike. Next up, pull on a good pair of hiking socks (ex. SmartWool) to keep your feet dry and warm. Tip – Always bring at least one extra pair of socks with you. Always. Wet feet are horrible to hike with. On top of sucking out precious body heat, wet socks create optimal conditions for blisters to form. If your socks become wet, swap them out for a dry pair.
Base Layer

Base Layer: Underwear has never been so high tech. It’s like you’re wearing a piece of the future.

  • The Mid Layer. This layer helps provide you with warmth. The mid layer will be thicker than your base layer. It should fit comfortably (not baggy) and it shouldn’t restrict movement in any way. A popular option here is fleece, but wool also works well. The mid layer is the layer you’ll be removing to cool down and then putting back on again to warm up when you slow down or stop. For this reason, you’ll probably find that a fully zippered top is the most efficient option.
Mid Layer

Mid Layer: Use your escaping body heat and some insulation to stay warm. GO SCIENCE!

  • The Shell Layer. This is the layer that keeps the wind and snow out. That being said, the shell layer should be weatherproof; windproof,  waterproof and breathable. Over the years, a few reliable technologies have popped up that perform very well in this manner. Probably the most well known and most widely used is Gore-tex®. For your upper body, you’ll want a good quality hard shell jacket. For your lower body, a pair of weatherproof or weather-resistant pants will do nicely. These will be large enough to fit over top of the layers beneath them. Sometimes, you’ll need more ventilation to cool down during your hike. A lot of jackets and pants have ventilation zippers built in that you can quickly open up to let out a bit of that increasing heat.
Shell Layer

Shell Layer: Slap Old Man Winter in the face. Throw on a weatherproof shell.

  • The Extras. Lastly, you’ll need to cover up your head and your hands. Again, you’ll want to stick with synthetics or wool. For your head, you can use a thick wool toque or a thinner polyester toque; it’s up to you. To cut the wind on your noggin, pull up the hood of your shell jacket. Optionally, you can wear a neck gaiter, balaclava or face mask to keep your neck and face warm. For your hands, you can grab a thin pair of glove liners and then slip on a larger weatherproof pair of gloves over top. Remove and add these layers as needed. Personally, my gloves are the first layer that I remove even before my mid layer. I have found that once my gloves are removed, I cool down nicely and my body maintains a balanced temperature. Something else to consider bringing on your winter hike are those little chemical-based hand and toe warmer packs. They may come in really handy if you’re in need of some instant heat. As a bonus, they’re very light and easily fit in pockets.
Some accessories

Extras: Don’t allow frostbite to ruin your day. Keep those extremities toasty warm.

Final Thoughts

Put these layering concepts to good use this winter and head outdoors to enjoy those stunning, snow-covered landscapes. You won’t regret it.

 


Get out and hike!


Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Clothing, Hiking, How To Guides, Winter