Honda’s Little 2015 Fit Packs a Big Punch for Adventurers

Gear testing is one of my favorite parts of my job. I’ve taken solar panels into the sun-soaked desert, beaten up trail shoes until they became shredded, and even put smartphone cameras to the dirtbag test. Pushing gear limits to prove adventure worthiness is somewhat of a pastime for me, so when Honda invited me to fly out to San Diego to test the biggest product I’ve ever reviewed, the 2015 Fit – the answer was an eager “yes, please!

I have toured the country in vehicles ranging from my infamous retrofitted Sprinter van to my Scion tC hatchback, and even a Honda Pilot. Experiencing adventure travel in such a diverse spread of four-wheeled exploration enablers has offered a wealth of perspective on what it takes to be a worthy road warrior. My Sprinter was superior for living on the road, but my hatchback was the clear victor when it came to parking at a crowded trailhead. So how would the 2015 Honda Fit perform as a car for adventurers?The 2015 Honda Fit. Photo by Katie Boué

My first impression of the 2015 Honda Fit was well, this is a pretty cute little car. Honestly, cute and little don’t exactly fit into the list of things I look for while seeking the ideal car for adventure – but then I saw the interior. Honda prides itself on the wizardry they crafted when designing a vehicle that is very compact on the outside, but packs a big punch when it comes to interior space.

The 2015 Fit has 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space – enough for multiple crash pads, camping gear, climbing equipment, and my dog. As a chronic over-packer, that was the first thing that made me start thinking the 2015 Fit could prove itself worthy of adventure. The improved design features fold-down rear seats that lay completely flat, so I could comfortably lay down a sleeping pad and car camp inside (I’m 5’4 – taller people would definitely have to lay diagonally a bit).

The rear seats can be configured in a number of ways to accommodate anything an adventurer needs to haul. Utility Mode is the previously mentioned method of laying the rear seats flat to create a large space in the cargo area – I’d probably spend most of my time with the Fit in this mode. Tall Mode lifts the bottom of the rear seats to create a bucket-style space that can fit up to two mountain bikes for easy transportation. For long adventure gear like surfboard, Long Mode makes room for equipment up to 7’9 in length. My favorite configuration is Refresh Mode: removing the front headrests and reclining the front seats all the way creates a chaise lounge set-up perfect for kicking back after a long hike or relaxing while road tripping.

Casey of Modern Hiker and Joan Hester get cozy in the back of the 2015 Honda Fit. A demonstration of how easily the 2015 Honda Fit can accomodate surfboards.
It only took one evening for the Honda Fit to win my heart as a vehicle I could easily travel in – but how did the 2015 Honda Fit perform on the road? I teamed up with Casey from Modern Hiker to test drive the Fit, and we were both instantly impressed. Driving the 2015 Fit from the streets of downtown San Diego to the coastal highways near Torrey Pines was fantastic. The acceleration is smooth, the eco-minded mileage meter keeps you motivated to drive economically, and features like a LaneWatch camera mounted on the passenger side mirror make driving the 2015 Fit a pleasant experience.

A key perk for adventurers is the quiet interior perfected by Honda. The 2015 Fit is noticeably quiet, even on a crowded highway. As someone who spends a lot of time snoozing next to rumbling semi-trucks in interstate rest stops, a sound-blocking interior is a major bonus. An impressive list of safety features further solidifies the Fit’s accolades as a great vehicle for someone who spends a lot of time traveling. Driving the 2015 Honda Fit in San Diego.Here's the thing, I totally love the Honda Fit!
For chronic road trippers, fuel efficiency is a major concern when choosing an adventure vehicle. The 2015 Honda Fit gets 33 mpg in the city, and 41 mpg on the highway – although my partner Casey managed to pump it up to 42 mpg during our test drive. I’ve driven multiple hybrids that get excellent mileage, but this is the first car with such high mileage that drove like a real, hearty car with strong acceleration.

So what didn’t I love about the 2015 Honda Fit? Honestly, not much. The Honda Link navigation system was a little bit tough to get used to (what can I say, I love Google Maps), but that was my only complaint about the car.

By the end of my time test driving with the Honda crew, I was seriously scheming ways to trade in my Scion for the 2015 Fit. My first-hand experience with the vehicle was only supported when I reached out to readers for their opinions on Fits, and found a surprising number of fellow adventurers who love their Fits – including climbers. The fellas behind two of my favorite climbing blogs, Climbing Narc and The Stone Mind both drive Fits, and lady adventurer Laurie Tewksbury said she’s never been stuck in the snow in her Fit. Check, check, and check.

I’m on a mission to figure out how I can get my hands on the 2015 Honda Fit, and make it my new adventure side-kick. Now that I’ve officially launched my new Colorado List adventure project, I need a reliable vehicle to join me for all my explorations. From a sleek moonroof and the ability to park anywhere to sturdy handling and seemingly endless cargo space, the Fit offers the perfect combination of ladylike style and dirtbag functionality.

Want to hear more about the 2015 Honda Fit?
Read the reviews from SoCal Hiker and Campfire Chic!

What’s YOUR go to adventure vehicle?

Bamboo Black Magic Leggings: tasc performance review

For the adventurous, sometimes dirtbagging, sometimes ladylike woman, there is one wardrobe staple that is a non-negotiable must: black leggings. It’s the one item in your closet (or dirty hamper in your van) that can effortlessly go from boulder fields to a downtown speakeasy. I’ve put holes in more pairs of cheap cotton leggings than I can count, so when tasc Performance contacted me with a challenge to test out their women’s apparel, I responded with an eager “game on!tasc Performance leggings.

Here’s the thing about tasc: Everything is made with bamboo. My NOLA crop leggings are made with fabric concocted from 55% organic cotton, 35% viscose from bamboo, and 10% elastane. In normal people terms, that translates to: insanely soft, ridiculously comfortable, and impossibly form-fitting. The design strikes a perfect balance between athletic performance and stylishness.

As a gal who often wears leggings for days (really, weeks) on end without washing them, my first priority was to see how long I could go wearing tasc leggings before the butt area fell victim to the dreaded saggy-butt syndrome. My typical leggings will last a maximum of three days before they lose their hip-hugging shape.

These. leggings. will. not. get. saggy.  Out on a hike with my tasc performance leggings.

During my first test, I wore the leggings for four days straight, then took a few days off before wearing them for two more days before they needed to be washed (because I use my pants as napkins). Then, I just started wearing them with reckless abandon – from hikes around Colorado to airport hopping in San Diego. Ten+ days of wearing these leggings and they fit as snug as they did when I first put them on.

Excerpts from my e-mails to tasc about the leggings include snippets like, “HOW DO THESE LEGGINGS NOT STRETCH OUT IN THE BUTT? It almost makes me mad that I can’t get them to get saggy.” Also, “y’all crafted up some black magic.” Ladies, it just doesn’t make sense.

What makes tasc Performance apparel seem like a voodoo trick is the bamboo technology they perfected. By ditching the usual polyester material used in athletic clothing, they solved major issues like skin irritation, breathability, odor, and that whole sagging issue I keep bringing up. The bamboo also offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun and moisture wicking.Rocking my tasc performance gear on a press trip to San Diego.

While I usually pay around $10 for leggings, the tasc leggings proved themselves worthy of the ~$50 investment. Their durability has taken me from climbing trips to city slicking without a single snag, and I am confident that I’ll have them in my closet for years.

Bonus points: tasc Performance make everything you need to stay cozy (and looking good) while adventuring. I also have the Intensity Sports Bra – which I liked, but didn’t totally love the style of, a pair of well-fitted socks that magically don’t make my feet stink, and a tank top (pictured above) that feels like I’m wrapped in a cloud every time I wear it. I’m currently coveting their grey Contour Fleece.

Disclosure: tasc Performance provided me with a complimentary package of clothing for gear-testing purposes – but as always, the opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

What’s in my Pack? | roadtrip to miami

One of the best things about living in a van? Everything you own (and ever need) is always with you. Transitioning to life out of my big yellow van has brought along a lot of interesting changes – and accessibility to my “things” has been so hard to adjust to. Now when I’m getting ready for an adventure, I have to pack smart – which I learned after a few weeks of forgetting everything all the time.

Visiting Miami is always pleasant. I’m heading to a land of palm trees, freshly fried empanadas, my mama’s homecooking, and more sunshine that I can possibly soak up in one sitting. Spoiler alert: my favorite thing to pack was my bikini – that poor thing hasn’t been worn in ages!

So what’s in my pack?

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset+ the pack: Returning to Miami always puts me under a bit of pressure to return to my former fashionable self. My stinky, mud-caked camping packs are just not going to cut it – so I turned to the best looking bag in my arsenal: the Topo Designs Klettersack. It’s undoubtedly stylish, but I was really impressed with it’s functionality once I realized I’d be easily able to stuff everything I needed in just this single pack!

+ sunshine state gear: If there’s one thing I can count on Miami to provide, it’s sunshine. The most important thing to bring for that? My favorite pair of Rayban sunglasses – to protect my little eyes! And while my body might need sheilding from those bright rays, my Goal Zero solar pack will be perfect for soaking up the energy from the sun and keeping my iPhone charged while I’m out on the boat all day. Toss in my ENO singlenest hammock for shady naps between palm trees, and I’m set.

+ reading & writing: This trip down south is somewhat of a retreat for me – I’m using this little adventure to refresh myself after transitioning from van life to “regular” life, and it’s prime time for words (both written and read). While continuing to write my own story, I’ve been seeking inspiration and getting schooled in the art of adventure writing as I read Brendan Leonard’s “The New American Road Trip Mixtape.” It’s the best book I’ve read in years. And of course, my little Moleskine planner and laptop (in that sweet Colcasac case) provide material for scribbling down random van thoughts. 

+ the boots: Ladies, take note: Steve Madden’s Troopa boot is the only boot you’ll ever need for day-to-day wear. These certainly aren’t hike-worthy footwear, but they’re the most trusty everyday shoe I’ve ever owned. Buy yourself a pair. Does this make me a hipster? I don’t even care.

+ what to wear: I’m somewhat cheating here – I have an entire closet full of clothes in Miami, so I didn’t need to pack much. The two things I insisted on bringing were my tasc performance sports bra and leggings (not pictured). I’m gear testing them, and after over a week total of wearing the leggings and not seeing any loosening of the fabric, I’m fairly sure the folks at Tasc are up to some bamboo black magic. And I like it. Plus, Miami is the perfect place to test the matieral’s breathability.

+ sustenance: To survive a 10-hour bus ride from Tallahassee to Miami, I need snackage. I have been mega crushing on PROBAR lately, especially their blueberry fuel bars and the cookie dough protien bars. Yeah, that’s right – cookie dough protien bars. Toss a packet of Skratch Labs hydration powder into my Nalgene, and I’m ready to roll.

PS: Notice all those little balms? I’m working on a head-to-head(-to-head) review of climbing’s three best hand salves: ClimbOn!, Joshua Tree, and Giddy. Keep your eye out for the full review in a few weeks!

Are you heading out on an adventure soon?
What’s in YOUR pack?

A Holiday Gift Guide for Dirtbag Climbers

So, what do you buy for that dirt-caked, vagabond person on your shopping list who responds “I want to live in a van” when you ask them what they want to do when they grow up? You could waste your money and purchase a gift that encourages them to get a real job and start planning for the future – or you could embrace their dirtbag lifestyle, which is totally what you ought to do.

These items have all been put through my yearlong adventure living in a van to climb across the country, so they’re 100% dirtbag approved. Give this guide a gander, and spoil the dirtbag in your life with a thoughtful and practical holiday gift:

Kendal Jackson BagsA Homemade, One-of-a-Kind Chalk Bag

Since the beginning of my climbing career, I’ve had one chalk bag – a Kendal Jackson Bags original, a beige canvas sack with little earth-colored mushroom fabric accents. It’s my lucky charm when I climb. Kendal Jackson is a wonderful friend of mine from Tampa, who makes beautifully crafted bags that are sold everywhere from Four Bridges Outfitters in Tennessee to Rock Ventures in New York. You can order one of his already made creations, or you can make a request for custom work. With so many generic chalk bags dangling from harnesses, climbing with a one-of-a-kind is something to be proud of – and you’re supporting a small, family-owned, made-with-love business. Win-win, all around. (And stay tuned for a Kendal Jackson Bags giveaway soon!)

Climbing at Red River Gorge with my Yellow 108 Travis Beanie.Something to Keep Your Noggin Warm

Climbers spend a lot of time exposed to the elements. We all claim to love cold weather for prime sending conditions – but life in freezing temperatures can get pretty miserable. I was gifted a Yellow 108’s Travis Beanie at the beginning of my yearlong climbing trip, and I’ve been wearing it religiously ever since. Made with 30% hemp and 70% recycled organic cotton/hemp, this beanie is as cozy as it is stylish – and when you live in a van, you need all the style points you can muster. Keep your ears warm while covering hair that hasn’t been washed in over a week? Yes, please!

Bonus points: The products made by Yellow 108 use either recycled or salvaged.

 

A Way to Stay Charged – For Free

Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar charging kit.Here’s the thing about dirtbags: We’re really cheap, and usually broke. Spending money on anything is just not on our to-do list, which makes solar power quite enticing – the sun is free! Goal Zero makes a huge selection of products that help you harness the sun’s rays and turn them into energy that can power everything from phones and laptops to blenders and electric razors (both true stories, Niko loves making fruit smoothies in the van, and our buddy Spenser from The RV Project once used our solar battery to power a haircut in Squamish). Our entire van is powered by Goal Zero products, and we absolutely adore it all. For a first-time solar user, I would highly recommend the Nomad 7 Solar Panel. Solar power is the gift that keeps on giving!

Hiking the Annie U White trail in Boulder with the Topo Designs Klettersack.A Sack for All Your Gear

Again, I’ll reiterate something about dirtbags: We don’t always look too good. We’ll wear the same tatter tank tops for years, refuse to buy new gear, and rarely even register how disheveled we often look. Topo Designs creates the perfect products to sneakily offer climbers a way to combine style with functionality. My favorite pack is the Klettersack, a sleek piece that takes aesthetic cues from vintage design while providing durable portable storage for everything from laptops and electronics to camping supplies and climbing shoes.

My favorite part about Topo Designs? The products are proudly made in the USA – right in beautiful Colorado – and the folks behind the brand are all wonderful.

 

Billabong Brady Slippers.Cozy Non-Hiking Shoes to Warm Your Toes

If you hear a climber mention “prime sending conditions,” it probably means that the temperatures are dipping far below what normal folks would consider pleasant. After jamming frozen toes into down-sized climbing shoes all day, there’s nothing like relaxing and restoring blood flow to your feet with a pair of cozy boots. Surfdome recently sent me a pair of Billabong Brady Slippers, and these comfy slippers make my toes feel like royalty. They admittedly aren’t the most durable pair of fluffy boots, but check out this collection of boots for some snug inspiration from brands like The North Face and Sorel. Bonus points if you spoil the dirtbag in your life with one of those pairs of boots that have battery-powered heaters built in!

Something to Sip by the Fire

This gift suggestion is something that won’t be accompanied by a specific product endorsement – but the overall message here is this: dirtbags love campfires, and dirtbags really love sipping booze by that fire. The most obvious choice here is whiskey, but a six-pack of quality craft beer is just as enjoyable. Bonus points if you get something brewed or distilled locally!

Stocking Stuffers:

ClimbOn Lip Balm – For the climber that already uses a hand balm, step up their game with a little lovin’ for their lips.
PROBAR – Cookie dough flavored nutrition bar that packs 20 grams of protein (and it’s organic and vegan), need I say more? Probar is currently my favorite energizing snack on the trail.
Action Wipes – No words needed. Dirtbags are, well, dirty. Help ‘em stay somewhat presentable for those rare occasions when we need to interact with the rest of society.

What are you buying for the dirtbag on your shopping list?
Dirtbags, what do YOU want for the holidays?

Gear Review: Cypher Phelix Climbing Shoes

I’m somewhat of a climbing shoe snob. I have unwavering loyalty to my favorite pairs, despise certain models just because they irk me, and am not easily won over by newcomers to my shoe collection. The Cypher Phelix is a beautifully created shoe for female climbers. It features a feminine (but not too girly) design that I have gotten countless compliments on, and Velcro closures that use webbing for a sturdy solution that won’t be worn out easily.

Here’s the official description of the Cypher Phelix shoes from Liberty Mountain:

“Designed for a lower volume foot and heel, the Phelix comes with a perforated toe-‐box and heel-‐cup designed for technical toe and heel-‐hooking. Not all feet are the same, for that reason the Phelix uses the cross-‐velcro system to provide a custom fit to the foot. Made of leather with an inside cotton lining. 4.2mm Enigma HP rubber provides a sticky sole to land any of those tiny foot jibs.”

The Cypher Phelix climbing shoe at the Red River Gorge.Climbing Plate Tectonics at Muir Valley in Red River Gorge with the Cypher Phelix shoes.

I received my Phelix shoes while in Colorado, and have since tested them while bouldering on granite at Rocky Mountain National Park, sport climbing for three weeks at the Red River Gorge, route-setting at Tallahassee Rock Gym, and adventuring through my favorite southeastern boulder fields. Overall, I’m a big fan of these shoes – but I don’t think I totally agree with the “official description” for them.

The ultimate strength of these shoes is smearing on slabs or vertical surfaces. I have never had a pair of shoes that I truly felt confident smearing with until I climbed “The Scoop” at Rocktown in Georgia while wearing the Cypher Phelix. Every millimeter of the shoe’s surface gripped onto the sandstone slab as I shuffled my feet along the rock, never once slipping. Impressive. You can press onto the tiniest of jibs and the Phelix will stay put.Projecting The Kind at Rock Mountain National Park while wearing the Cypher Phelix climbing shoes.

One of the striking features of the Cypher Phelix shoe is how comfortable they are on your feet. I wear a street size 6 and got these climbing shoes in a 5.5, which provided just the perfect amount of masochistic-climber-toe-crunch while still being cozy enough to wear for hours while setting routes in a rock gym (which is another one of the situations where the Phelix becomes my preferred shoe – they are so comfortable while you’re pulling an all-night route setting session).

Routesetting with the Cypher Phelix climbing shoes.

Initially, I was very skeptical about the Enigma HP rubber on the Cypher Phelix – it’s super soft compared to the usual hard rubber I climb with, so I feared I would wear through the shoes very quickly. Surprisingly, the rubber has held up well, except for a few spots where it seems like I wore through the first little layer to expose the stronger surface beneath. The softness allows me to feel small features when I’m dancing up a slab, which I love.

As with any climbing shoe, I did notice a few things that the Cypher Phelix shoe isn’t built for: namely, overhanging climbs and heel hooks. Cypher specifically mentions heel hooking as a strength for these shoes, but my heel is just a little too big to finagle strong heel hooks in the Phelix – but it would probably be a great fit for someone with a smaller heel. For reference, La Sportiva Katanas and Testarossas are my favorite shoes for heel hooks – so if those heels are baggy on you, the Phelix will likely be a great fit. 

Overall, these shoes have earned their place in my small collection of go-to climbing shoes. The Cypher Phelix is my new preferred shoe for climbing slabs, long sport routes, warming up, and setting routes. I would highly recommend it as a first shoe for beginner climbers, or as a comfortable shoe for someone like me with way too many pairs of aggressive shoes. Retailing for $100, the Cypher Phelix is affordably priced and worth the investment. These shoes look good, feel good, and will leave your feet feeling cozy even after a long day of sending.

Thoughts on Adventure + a $100 Sierra Trading Post Giveaway!

The other morning, I woke up to a rather long message from one of my oldest friends in Florida, Josh. I read it, felt really flattered, then stepped back and realized that he wasn’t talking about me, he was talking about so many other adventurers I know. He was talking about me, and he was talking about you too. With his permission, I thought I’d share what he said:

Niko and I enjoying the view from the top of a climb appropriated called "It's a Wonderful Life"Here are my philosophical thoughts for the night:

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ That’s pretty much a widely accepted universal truth.

But it got me thinking. I started thinking about what DOES kill you. And when you really break it down, the only thing certain to kill you… is life. Statistically speaking, the more time you spend alive, the closer you are to death.

Then it hit me. The way to really get stronger, the way to beat death, would be to challenge it. Go through life looking for a test. Pass it or fail it, it doesn’t matter – all you have to do is get through it.

So, then I think of you. All the stereotypes you’ve broken; All the doubt you’ve overcome. You’re strong because you’ve had your heart broken. You’re strong because you’ve beaten the odds. You’re strong because you chose to explore, to discover, to go on an adventure. It wasn’t a safe choice… In fact it was the opposite.

It was dangerous. It was a risk. And risks are what separate you from the weak.

So please just remember this: every mile that you travel away from home; every night you spend in van or a tent; every strain in your fingers as they grasp the top of whatever boulder, crag, or mountain that you just climbed – that is what makes you stronger.

You are the strongest person I know. And that’s why I love you.”

Whoa – pretty awesome stuff, right? It’s really great that someone thinks those things about me, but what’s even better is that I instantly associated all those words about strength, taking risks, and adventure with all of YOU. I am constantly surrounded by such strong spirited adventurers – from the climbers I hang out with in southeastern boulder fields and the always-trying-stuff Omniten crew to my fellow #TeamSierra members. You embody everything Josh said. We challenge life on a daily basis, never fearing the consequences – the only thing to be afraid of is a life not lived to the fullest. Keep doing that, keep getting out there, and keep living those words.

To celebrate the spirit of adventure, I’m partnering with Sierra Trading Post to host a $100 giftcard giveaway for one lucky explorer. As you know, I’ve joined the Team Sierra blogging team, writing monthly content for the Sierra Social Hub (like this sweet guide to climbing at Red River Gorge).Team Sierra Crew

How to Enter the $100 Sierra Trading Post Giveaway:

I want you to reflect on that wonderful message about challenging life and being strong and getting out there – and leave a comment on this post telling me how winning a $100 Sierra Trading Post giftcard will help you become the best adventurer you can be. For a bonus entry, tweet about the giveaway (tagging @themorningfresh and @Sierratp) or share this giveaway on your Facebook – then leave a second comment so I know you did that!

The winner will be chosen on November 27th – so check back on the blog for the announcement.

Can’t wait to order a new pair of climbing shoes or a cozy winter sleeping bag? Sierra Trading Post is offering my readers a special 30% discount from today until November 26th by clicking here to shop for outdoor gear, or using the code SHUBTS0413 when checking out.

Now get out there and explore, y’all!

UPDATE: And the winner is: Melissa Martin!

I was torn between three potential winners, one who wanted to use the gift card for his children, one who vowed to spend the money on dog gear, and one who was inspired by a climbing trip to get outdoors more – so I randomized the number using random.org, and Melissa was chosen as the winner! Melissa, send me an e-mail at katieboue(at)gmail(dot)com to claim your prize!

Didn’t win this giveaway? No worries, I’ll have another giveaway coming up soon – stay tuned!

Review: Stonelick’s YOSE Crash Pads for Bouldering

Climbing at Moe's Valley in Utah with the Stonelick YOSE crash pad.One of the most profound and important pieces of climbing gear in my yearlong-trip arsenal is my crash pad. Tasked with keeping me from busting myself apart while popping from crimps and punting off boulders, crash pads are as vital to my bouldering as my trusty climbing shoes. Niko and I have three different crash pads provided to us by Stonelick for our yearlong trip, but my go-to pad is the Yose.

It all starts with the hinge-step system, Stonelick’s signature innovative technology. Eliminating any soft spots or creasing, the Tetris-style folding technique ensures that I have an even landing every time. Visiting new bouldering areas on a weekly basis means that I am constantly battling new elements, and frequently falling off problems, so having a crash pad set-up I can trust is crucial to helping me keep my confidence when I’m in try-hard mode. One of the most valuable things I’ve gained on this trip is confidence in topping out boulders, which I credit largely to having an awesome spotter (thanks, Niko!) and reliable crash pads.

Aside from being a generally primo landing zone, the Yose has a few features that set it apart from any other crash pad I’ve totted around a boulder field. The biggest item for me is the thickly padded waist belt. I’m a tiny gal, so when I hoist a big ‘ole crash pad full of gear on my back, it quickly becomes a top-heavy, unbalanced mess. Having a comfortable support system to help distribute and manage the weight of the pad helps me carry it around with ease – and Stonelick gets bonus points for making a waist strap system that actually accommodates my miniscule hips. But on a brutally honest note: I still totally knock myself over all the time bumping into trees and rocks. I’m the worst.

A crew of Stonelick crash pads out at Red Rocks in Las Vegas.

Another great crash pad amenity offered by the Yose is a dual-flap adjustable closure that makes my closed crash pad a perfect slotted vestibule for stuffing in my gear, snacks, extra layers, and camera gear. I never have to worry about stuff falling out while I’m hopping around in search of climbs. During the entire nine months I’ve spent lugging my gear around in my Yose thus far, I have yet to drop a single item while tromping from boulder to boulder.

With features like a ballistic cover, reinforced corners, and a hardy, multi-layer foam interior, the construction of Stonelick pads is something that has always made this brand stand out from the crowd in my opinion. Spotting one out at a climbing area is somewhat of a rarity, so it’s always great when climbers fall on my Stonelick pads and compliment their superb structure and durability. Bonus points: These beautiful pads are made in the USA – which I love.

Climbing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown in Georgia with a Stonelick crash pad.Stonelick crash pads, made in the USA!

What Would I Change? Honestly, there isn’t much I would tinker with if I was to “rebuild” the Yose. The only thing I don’t love about the crash pad is the metal hooks used to close up the pad, but I really don’t mind ‘em too much. I’d make the metal hooks a bit fatter/thicker so they’re easier to maneuver, but the current system works perfectly fine in terms of keeping my crash pad shut.  

Bottom line: I won’t lie, Stonelick crash pads can cost a tad more than other options, but the extra dollars are totally worth the investment. After nine solid months of a non-stop climbing trip, my Yose is still in excellent condition, and the quality foam has proven itself time and time again. I’ve frayed a few corners with my overuse, and have begun to pull a few stitching out from daily use, but I am truly impressed that the Yose has been able to keep up with my bouldering adventures. From what I figure, Niko and I have put in the amount of climbing days in nine months that most folks clock in a few years, so these pads will last you a long, long time.

Even better? The two folks behind Stonelick, Arone and Diana, are downright awesome people who love climbing, and have a deep passion for what they’re doing. I love supporting Stonelick because I know who is making my pads, and can climb with confidence knowing they were built with love by folks who get out there and beat up their gear as much as I do.

Want to get your hands on a sweet Stonelick Yose crash pad?
You can grab one on the Stonelick online store for $279.
Be sure to tell ‘em I sent ya!

Swoob Sports Bra Review: A Pocketed Solution to Stashing Your iPhone (and chapstick and keys!)

It’s a situation that every woman encounters: you’re clad head to toe in spandex workout gear, with no pockets – and no where to put your stuff. Leaving home without your iPhone, keys, chapstick, and a bit of cash sometimes isn’t an option, so we do what we must – we stick our stuff straight in between our boobs. And inevitably, it gets sweaty. Gross.

I always bring my iPhone out on adventures to snap shots of my climbing, hiking, etc. – and I am totally guilty of sweaty-boob-phone syndrome. It just happens.

Swoob Fit LogoSwoob stepped in to remedy the dilemma women face when we are pocket-less. Kyle Muir of Swoob designed sports bras that feature multiple discrete pockets in easily concealed, out-of-the-way places. After a few mishaps trying to get a package sent through Canadian mail customs, I received an Idona Racerback Sports Bra at Outdoor Retailer in August. First impressions? Super soft fabric, sturdy bra structure – and it’s cute. In a male-dominated industry, finding feminine and functional outdoor apparel often feels like a big victory for me.

I wore the Swoob Idona Racerback frequently for day-to-day wear, which was very comfortable, but my favorite testing ground for this sports bra was Rocky Mountain National Park. I went climbing there a few times during my monthlong Colorado adventures, and wore my Swoob sports bra every time. Best part? No more sweaty iPhone!

The pockets immediately became useful during the hour-long hike up to the Emerald Lake boulders. It’s a really scenic hike, so I love to take pictures, but there’s no way I’d carry my heavy DSLR camera during that grueling uphill battle. Being able to conveniently tuck my iPhone in my pocketed sports bra gave me easy access when I wanted to snap a quick shot without disrupting the balance of the bulky crash pad I was lugging up the mountains.

It was great to always have my iPhone on hand when I wanted to take climbing and nature photos, and I never had to worry about where it was while wandering around the boulder field. The main phone-sized pocket in the Idona Racerback it’s ideally sized, allowing for quick sliding in and out, but tight enough to keep my iPhone secure. And most importantly, the bra itself was very comfortable while climbing.Climbing in my pocketed Swoob Fit sports bra at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The only flaw I found in the Swoob sports bra was with the sizing. I got a size Small, which was almost a little too small for my tiny body. I’m fairly flat-chested, and I know a lot of gals who wear typically wear a small, but would probably be a bit squished in this brand’s “small.” Maybe offer an extra small as well instead?

Swoob Idona sports bra with pockets.Overall, the Swoob pocketed sports bra is my new go-to when I’m wearing an outfit that would otherwise render me without a place to stow away my iPhone. It has also come in handy for stashing chapstick, my van key, and cash while I’m on the trail or out and about in town.

The Idona Racerback ($45) is thicker and seems sturdier than the Luana Cross Strap ($35). I think the Idona is ideal for women who need more support, so I’d love to try the Luana instead – with thinner, sleeker straps, it seems better suited for ladies who don’t really need much support. The Idona doesn’t always blend in conspicuously with my street clothes, but I think the Luana would fit in well with any casual or on-the-go outfit.

I think this brand has a lot of potential for success amongst outdoorsy ladies. Swoob’s shop has everything from really cute racer tanks and leggings to pullover sweatshirts and organic lip balm. The bras are sold at a pretty standard price-point for quality sports bras, and everyone I’ve met from the company is really down to earth and stoked on their brand – smells like a recipe for success to me.

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* I received a complimentary sports bra from Swoob, but all opinions expressed here are, as always, my own! 

A Comprehensive Guide to Climbing Shoes

A Guide to the Best Climbing ShoesIf you really want to get to know your climbing shoes, take them on a yearlong climbing trip – at least, that’s what Niko and I did. From splitter cracks in Indian Creek to overhung bouldering at Joe’s Valley, we’ve tested our climbing shoes on gritty sandstone, polished granite, greasy limestone, and everything in between.

After wearing through countless pairs of climbing shoes and borrowing shoes from the friends we’ve met at crags along our adventures, we’ve tested and reviewed the best models to help you achieve a send. I’ve always been a believer in the philosophy that shoes don’t make a send, the climber does – but after doing things like trying to send a slab in my super downturned shoes, I’ve changed my tune. Wearing the right climbing shoe can be essential to a successful climb.

We based these climbing shoe reviews on our personal experiences with each shoe, the overall feedback we received from folks out at crags across the country, and our time spent helping climbers choose shoes while Niko worked at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Overall Best Climbing Shoe | Anasazi, Five Ten

Best Overall Climbing Shoe: Five Ten's AnasaziIf there is one shoe that I have never heard a single negative remark about, it’s the Five Ten Anasazi. Whether you’re a beginner flailing on V2s or a lifelong crusher battling a V13 project, the Anasazi is a reliable shoe that can accomplish nearly any task thrown its way. This velcro shoe features Stealth Onyx Rubber and stiff sole, making them ideal for fancy footwork on tiny holds. Anasazis are known best for their incredible edging abilities, and superior handling on technical climbs – and they are comfortable to boot.

The true test for the Anasazi came for Niko and I during our trip to Squamish. This Canadian wonderland is one of the only world‐class destinations where you can get a taste of bouldering, trad, and sport climbing all in a single day – and no other shoe is as well‐rounded as the Anasazi for tagging along each of these excursions. Heel hooking on an overhung boulder? No problem. Smearing up a slab? Sure thing! Jamming into a crack? Perfect. And that is why the Five Ten Anasazi is the best overall shoe for any climbing adventure.

Pros: Comfortable, reliable, and functional for any style of climbing.
Cons: None. Seriously. I’d love to hear from anyone who has any downsides about these shoes.

Aggressive Bouldering | Testarossas, La Sportiva

Our favorite aggressive climbing shoe: La Sportiva Testarossas.When deciding on the best shoe for bouldering, Niko and I had a lot of contenders to consider. There was the ever‐popular La Sportiva Solution, my beloved Katanas, the Five Ten Dragons, and the Team 5.10s. Admittedly, I still have little girl dreams about my first pair of Dragons, but there is one shoe that has earned the title of the best pick for aggressive climbs: La Sportiva Testarossas.

These shoes feature bi‐lateral stretch technology. (Read: it combines non‐stretching Lorica with stretchable leather in a strategic way to help them break in perfectly in all the right places.) It also boasts sticky Vibram rubber, which achieves a balance of gummy comfort and reliable stiffness. Furthermore, these are one of the most durable shoes I’ve owned. I’ve had mine for well over a year, and they are still in great condition.

Niko and I both have a pair, and these shoes are usually the first things we reach for during a bouldering session. I bought mine used, so they were already broken in. Niko has purchased two pairs over the past year, and he experiences the same thing that I love about the Testarossas: their unbelievable form‐fitting suction effect. You slide these shoes on, and suddenly, they become your foot – a taloned, rubbery, perfectly downturned extension of your body.

Pros: Impressive downturn, form‐fitting, durable.
Cons: Expensive. At $175 a pair, these shoes are definitely an investment.

Crack / Trad: Moccasyms, Five Ten (and super/mini)

Best crack and trad climbing shoe: Moccasyms by Five Ten.Entering the world of crack climbing was a whole new experience that I got thrown into head first when I went to Indian Creek for the first time. The first thing you’ll learn about climbing crack (or any trad, really), is that you are going to need some comfortable shoes. Anything downturned is an automatic no‐go. Our praises for the Moccasyms aren’t just for the popular red slippers that notoriously stain your toes a bloody hue; we also have big love for the Supermocc (which is unfortunately no longer made), and I have two pairs of Mini Mocs, because yes, I totally fit into children’s climbing shoes.

What makes the Moccasyms stand out as a superb crack shoe is their comfortable slipper style. Laces or velcro may not seem like a problematic choice for crack shoes, but it won’t take long before the laces are frayed, and velcro straps start getting snagged and undone in jams.  Moccasyms don’t fall apart, work with your feet as you contort into tight jams, and provide your toes with comfortable security on the rock.

Pros: Comfortable for jamming, Stealth C4 rubber, great smearing.
Cons: They turn your feet red, not the best for heel hooking.

Best First Shoe | Defy, Evolv

Best climbing shoe for beginners: Evolv Defys.While climbing is known for its community of broke dirtbags, getting started in this sport can be a pretty expensive investment. Between a rock gym membership, chalk bag, harness, and new shoes, novice climbers can end up spending a pretty penny. When it comes to choosing your first shoe, some climbers feel pressured to dive straight into the deep end, but we always advise beginners to invest in a pair of Evolv Defys. Costing less than $100, these shoes are the perfect choice for someone who wants to get into rock climbing but can’t commit to expensive equipment.

My first pair of climbing shoes were Evolvs, and they really took a beating. When you start getting into the lifestyle, it consumes you – I was climbing nearly every single day. While learning new techniques, how to hold your body, and how to use your feet to climb efficiently, you are bound to abuse your climbing shoes. The Defy is a comfortable shoe that helps you get used to the tight‐fitting style of climbing shoes while providing beginners with the perfect stepping stone from rental shoes to style‐specific footwear. We sell more Evolv Defys at Tallahassee Rock Gym than any other shoe.

Pros: Affordable, comfortable, and excellent for beginners.
Cons: Not particularly appealing for anyone besides new climbers.

Lady Beta | Katana, La Sportiva

Best climbing shoe for the ladies? La Sportiva Katanas!It didn’t quite make the cut for the best bouldering shoe, but the La Sportiva Katanas deserve a huge shout‐out for being one of the best shoes for women. They were my first pair of “big girl” shoes once I started getting serious about climbing four years ago, and I have loved them ever since. I was inspired to purchase them by an older lady friend who swore by them, and have since convinced numerous women to join the Katana party –and they all love ‘em.

The lace‐up Katanas feature Vibram XS grip, lasting downturn, and soft yet firm heel cups. They strike a unique balance between being an aggressive, performance specific shoe and all‐around option. I keep my old pair around as my warm‐up casual shoe, and my new Katanas join me for every bouldering and sport climbing adventure I embark on. I still remember flailing on the heel hook intensive Kill By Numbers (V5) at Joe’s Valley, until I put on my Katanas and got the send!

Pros: Great downturn, precise heel hooking, break in very well.
Cons: Expensive.

 There you have it – a guide to the best climbing shoes for any lifestyle. Whether you’re into taping up and jamming your body into cracks, smearing your way up a slab, or pebble pushin’ on a boulder, there’s a climbing shoe designed specifically to help you crush. Climbing on a budget? No worries – check The Clymb for deals on climbing shoes (and gear)! We’ve seen huge discounts on brands like Five Ten, Evolv, Scarpa, and more. What’s your favorite climbing shoe, and why? 

Gear Review: Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes with Omni-Freeze Zero technology

After surviving my first backpacking trip up and down the Grand Canyon to Havasu Falls wearing only last year’s Powerdrain shoes from Columbia Sportswear last summer, I feel in love with the sneakers – and wore them to death.

By the time Columbia came out with their new generation of Powerdrains, my original pair had been through the ultimate test: three months as my sole go-to hiking shoes during life on the road. The only real visible wear were two holes – two soft spots on the toe area. Fittingly, this was one of the major improvements made to the new Powerdrain Cools, making me a very happy camper.

The Powerdrain Cool is a hybrid shoe that features the epic Omni-Freeze Zero sweat-activated cooling technology, which earned the Gear of the Year 2013 award from National Geographic Adventure. From the moment I unwrapped mine, they have been put through a gauntlet of outdoor tests, which they passed with flying colors.

Columbia Sportswear's Powerdrain Cool shoe with OmniFreeze Zero Technology.

On our first day together, I took my new purple shoes out for a trek up a chossy hillside where I was helping build a trail across a frigid creek crossing. I was immediately smug with the product when I watched the rest of my crew struggle to delicately balance from slippery rock to slippery rock while I just stomped right in and waded across. Omni-Grip “holds tight on any terrain”? Check.

As the product description promises, the Powerdrains moved seamlessly from the water crossing to the crumbly “trail.” I dug my way up a sandy wash, tromped across rocky piles, and admired the shoes as they collected a healthy layer of outdoor dirtiness. I’ve been wearing them nearly every day since, and they continue to perform.

This new version offers a few improvements over the old design – some of which I remember actually discussing with the head of design during my trip to Sedona last year, earning Columbia bonus points for really listening to user feedback. They beefed up the ankle padding at the back of the shoe, reinforced a few hot spots where the shoes often saw quick deterioration, and slimmed down the overall design for a sleeker (and for ladies, more feminine) look. Two thumbs up all around.Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.

The only issue with the new Powerdrain Cools has been a seemingly irreversible staining of the inner Omni-Freeze Zero lining due to my latest habit of spending weeks on end playing in red sanded deserts. Oops. I also made a slight mistake in wearing the Powerdrain Cool shoes while hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park – the deep sand dunes kept relentlessly filling the drains in my shoes, leaving my feet surrounded by piles of sand. Double oops!

Want to get your hands on a pair of Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes? You can scoop all three colors on their official website, or you can head to a local retailer to get your hands on these versatile and reliable sneakers. I would highly recommend the Powerdrain Cools for folks who usually experience a variety of terrains during an adventure, or for someone who is into those wild mud races – I’ve heard nothing but good things from many users who wear them to those events.