The easiest tent you’ll ever own: Review of the Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent

Here’s the first full review from my Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Adventurers.
Check it out, and stay tuned for the rest of the reviews!

Picture this: You’ve finally arrived at your campsite – and it’s now 2:30 AM. You’re exhausted from the drive, but your car is too jam-packed with adventure equipment to allow for sleeping comfortably in it. What’s the last thing you want to do right now? Spend ten minutes fumbling with tent poles and hooks in order to snag a wistful few hours of sleep before waking up and deconstructing your tent all over again.

Major bummer, dude.

Now picture this: Same late-night camping scenario, same levels of I-just-want-to-sleep, but now you’ve got a Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent. You grab the bright yellow sack that holds your tent, unroll it, and within about 45 seconds, you’re ready for bed. You snuggle up in your sleeping bag while your buddies fumble around with their clunky tents.

Niko sets up our Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent at Grandfather Mountain Campground in NC.

Major victory, dude!

When Niko and I received our Outfitter XXL Quick Tent, we were elated – even more so when we managed to go from a sealed package to a set-up tent in less than three minutes. And that was our first time EVER setting it up. We were both instantly impressed, but the real test came when we took the Teton Sports tent on its first adventure to North Carolina for the Hound Ears Triple Crown climbing competition.

After keeping us cozy through misty mountain mornings, light afternoon rain, and some pretty gnarly wind gusts – the Outfitter XXL Quick Tent passed our camping test with flying floors.

Here’s what I love about the Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent:

  • It is the easiest tent I have ever camped with. Both set-up and take-down are simple tasks that take less than a minute.
  • It packs down extremely easy, and the roomy stuff sack doesn’t require a battle to get the tent packed away. With a weight of only 4 lbs, it’s light and easy to carry.
  • The tent was designed as a topper for camping cots, but the waterproof base and sturdy structure makes it an ideal tent for ground camping as well (I have only used it directly on the ground).
  • Where many tents offer a small window or two, the Outfitter XXL is entirely wrapped with see-through mesh, so if the weather allows you to go without the rain-fly, you can wake up surrounded by natural beauty.
  • When the rain-fly is up, there is an ample vestibule area for keeping your dirty hiking boots sheltered from the elements without dragging them into the tent. Plus, the rain-fly is easily assembled with four simple clip-ons.
  • While a larger person may find this to be a one-man tent, Niko and I fit perfectly together in it. This is a great tent for adventure couples.
  • It’s my favorite color – and it totally matches my big yellow van.

Peek-a-boo, that's me creeping inside my Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Quick Tent.There is only a single caveat I have with the world’s easiest tent: there are no pockets. But what I love about Teton Sports is their amazing receptiveness to user feedback. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if their next tent release features a pocket.

The bottom line: I would highly recommend this tent. It retails at $100, but could easily sell for upwards for $200. The value can’t be beat, but it’s the impossibly simple set-up that will win you over instantly.

Don’t believe my rave reviews about how quickly this tent sets up? Check it out for yourself:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctjyEtu8coo]

Want more from the folks at Teton Sports?
Send ‘em your thoughts on Twitter, or check out the Teton Sports Facebook page
– they’re always hosting giveaways and posting great outdoor content!

The Ultimate Jacket: Review of Triple Aught Design’s Valkyrie Hoodie LT

Everyone has it: that piece of gear that you just can’t imagine life without. It’s your go-to for every occasion – the least washed, and most worn item in your closet. Like a safety blanket, it offers comfort, shelter, and a trustworthy companion for adventures. For me, this item is the Triple Aught Design Valkyrie Hoodie LT.

The Valkyrie Hoodie LT From Triple Aught Designs (TAD Gear)From the moment I opened up my first package from TAD gear, I was smitten with the Valkyrie jacket. It’s softer than butter, loaded with clever little details, and offers the perfect combination of function and style. I was instantly in love, and instantly crushed to realize that I wouldn’t be able to wear my jacket for months (I received it in June, when it was still reaching 95º on a daily basis – not exactly jacket weather).

My first trip with my Valkyrie jacket was to the Hound Ears Triple Crown Bouldering competition in North Carolina during early October. The light, yet thick, jacket kept my upper body warmly bundled throughout the chilly evenings, and on the final day of the trip, the integrated Polartec Wind Pro fabric treated with water repellent offered a cozy haven while I was apple picking in brisk rainy weather in Hendersonville.Rockin' the Triple Aught Designs Valkyrie Hoodie LT while apple-picking at JH Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

Since our first trip together, my bond with the Valkyrie jacket has continued to blossom. We wake up together in my sleeping bag, we snuggle up during long road trips, and we always enjoy a roaring bonfire together. While the overall comfort and form-fitting style of the jacket is lovely, it’s the little things that really keep me coming back for more. Seriously, I wear it on a near daily basis.

Rockin' the Triple Aught Designs Valkyrie Hoodie LT while apple-picking at JH Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

Here are a few of my favorite things about the Valykrie LT Hoodie:

  • The hoodie features a structured hat shape that keeps the hood up even in windy weather.
  • Thumbholes places perfectly on the sleeve seams offer superior usability while adventuring.
  • Armpit vents create breathability for hiking or long approaches to climbing areas.
  • Pockets! I’ve never been so stoked about pockets. Two big standard front pockets, which offer dual purpose with a ‘secret’ storage pouch accessed from inside the jacket. Plus two additional discreet upper arm pockets – all with D-Rings and media portsfor ear buds.
    • Speaking of ear buds, there are two little clasps along the main zipper designed to help keep your ear bud cords in place. Genius.
  • All the zippers have little “zipper garages” they are tucked into when zipped, keeping them in place and out of sight.

There’s only one negative comment I can make about these jackets: they come with little cords knotted on each of the zippers, and I’ve already lost half of them. Not really a big deal, in my book.

Triple Aught Design logoOverall, this jacket has become my favorite piece of cold weather apparel I have ever owned. With a price tag of $215, it’s definitely an investment – but it’s 100% worthy of the cost. This is the kind of jacket you have for the rest of your life. It’s sturdy, durable, adventure-worthy, and I actually look good in it.

The Valkyrie Hoodie LT would be the ultimate present for any adventurous lady. Unlike most gifted sweaters, the Valykrie won’t spend the season hanging in your closet; it will be put to good use, time and time again.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on TAD’s heavy Merino wool Vesper sweater! Triple Aught Designs also makes a heavier version of the Valkyrie LT, and I can’t wait to test it out and compare it to the lighter hoodie.

*Note: The Valkyrie Hoodie LT was provided by Triple Aught Designs for review purposes,
but all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

A harness disguised as khaki shorts, and a climbing skort for ladies?

I was recently approached by fellow lady adventurer Amy Jurries of The Gearcaster to assist her with a new product review – which led me to a few truly unusual (and maybe awesome) discoveries in innovational climbing gear.

I’m usually a pretty verbose gal, but I think I’ll let the images do the speaking before I get all wordy – check out these two pieces of Mammut apparel:

Seriously – WHAT?!

Personally, my mind is most blown by the Realization shorts; a fully-functional harness disguised as a pair of casual khaki shorts. Is this real life? I was immediately impressed, but when I showed my male housemates, they didn’t seem as convinced. We dove into a discussion about all the areas where this seemingly fantastic concept might fail: How comfortable would it be to wear that the entire day? Does the butt part of the fabric bunch up while you’re climbing? (As a climbing photographer, that is actually a legit thing to consider; I don’t want saggy asses ruining my shots!)

When it comes to the women’s Refine skort, the boys all giggled at the idea of a skirt built for climbing – but you’ll just have to wait for my review to come out on The Gearcaster to find out how it really works out! I’m still pretty wowed by the little velcro straps in the front of the skirt designed to let you pull your harness leg straps up while maintaining the skirt-y shape – pretty darn interesting idea!

What do you think about the Realization harness shorts,
or the Mammut women’s climbing skort?

Would you wear either one of these? 

Announcing the GeigerRig Giveaway winner!

I called upon my readers to share their best summer adventures for a chance to win a GeigerRig Rig 500 hydration pack system – and wow, did you respond! 

From solo lady-adventures in the desert and Big Sur backpacking to sailing off the peninsula of Michigan and summiting 14-ers in Colorado, every entry was worthy of winning. It was phenomenal to see all the different ways everyone gets out to explore the outdoors.

But there could only be one winner.

One story totally stood out to me – partly because it hit pretty close to home. After discovering her love for adventuring outside, our giveaway winner realized her Jansport backpack just isn’t cuttin’ it anymore. Casey, I’ve totally been there too! To help you bring your outdoor explorations to the next level, I’m hooking you up with a sweet new hydration system – and I expect you to really put it through the ringer as you journey to new destinations and really let your newfound adventure spirit blossom! [Read more…]

A guide to the Outdoor Retailer summer show with #ATQA

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or so I hear. The annual Outdoor Retailer show is gearing up to begin its popular summer event, and I’m gearing up for my first ever attendance at this legendary gathering of outdoor brands, reps, and industry enthusiasts.

So what can you expect from the OR Show? Well, frankly, I haven’t a clue. Fortunately, last week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel chat took an in-depth look at the event – and in lieu of the standard chat recap, I thought it would be much more fruitful to turn our conversation into a mini guide to Outdoor Retailer’s summer show.

[Read more…]

Turning sweat into a renewable resource with Omni-Freeze Zero gear technology – and a sweet, sweet neck gaiter.

A fan of thrifty scores and budget-friendly gear, it’s quite difficult for a brand to get me truly hyped on so-called innovations. I feel like I’ve heard it all, and I’ve never been a believer – until now.

The first two days of my Arizona adventure with Columbia Sportswear and the OmniTen team revolved around a fabulous industry event designed to preview the upcoming Spring 2013 line and unveil Columbia’s latest (and greatest) innovation: OmniFreeze Zero.

Since recruiting me onto their inaugural OmniTen team, Columbia Sportswear has wooed me with a range of excellent outdoor apparel. The Omni-Wick Evap feature in my Compounder Dry Shell has kept me dry through Floridian rainstorms; the Omni-Grip in my PeakFreak trail shoes quickly became a standard for my hikes and climbing approaches; and the Omni-Heat Reflective fabric in my new sleeping bag offers undeniably optimized warmth – but none compare to my adoration for the new OmniFreeze Zero products.

So how does it work?

First, check out the video.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNfLu3qfJUQ]

One of the first things you’ll notice about apparel infused with Omni-Freeze technology is the pattern of little raised blue rings on the inside of the fabric. These small circles use cooling polymer to create a noticeable cooling sensation when exposed to sweat and moisture. And it works.

In the spirit of Trying Things, Columbia Sportswear armed me with a variety of Omni-Freeze Zero products to put to the test during our three-day hike to Havasu Falls through the Grand Canyon. I received two performance short sleeved shirts (you can get a sneak peek of the mens’ version here), the Trail Dryer hat (a triple whammy with Omni-Shade UPF 40 sun protection, Omni-Wick evaporation, AND Omni-Freeze sweat activated cooling technology), and my personal favorite, the Freezer Zero neck gaiter.

During grueling hike to and from Havasu Falls in Arizona’s iconic Grand Canyon, temperatures reached over 100 degrees, and there was often no shade to be found. While both my hat and shirt contributed to keeping me cool during the scorching sections of the hike, it was my neck gaiter that acted as my true savior.

Rather than simply relying on my sweat, which I found to evaporate way too quickly in the dry Arizona air, I made a habit of keeping my gaiter wet with water from fresh streams or my hydration pack. It was unbelievably refreshing – and versatile. It served perfectly as a simple neck buff, but I really loved wearing it as a headband as well. Another great way to rock the gaiter is pulling it up over your ears and down your chin – it works great to keep dusty and sand out of your lungs. I’m accustomed to the humid air of the southeast, so pulling the moist, cool cloth over my mouth and nose acted as a great tool against the harsh dry conditions I was hiking in.

Seriously, get yourself the Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter.

You’ll have to wait until spring 2013 to get your hands on all the fabulous Omni-Freeze Zero gear,
but trust me, it’s worth the wait. 

My first foray into ‘Trying Stuff’ – testing out Columbia Sportswear’s newest outdoor gear

When I received my first package from Columbia Sportswear as part of their inaugural OmniTen team, I was immediately overwhelmed by a box full of gear that beckoned me to get outside and put it to good use. All this mountainous gear delivered to my doorstep while I’m stuck in flat Florida? Absolute torture.

Unable to contain my excitement, I immediately jumped into my Powerdrain shoes, a sneaker-style water shoe that promises to keep explorers trudging onward through even the wettest terrain. Unfortunately, the forecast was sunny and clear the day I received my package, so I decided to test out my shoes with a bike ride to Tally Rock Gym.

Having not owned a proper pair of sneakers in years, I was immediately pleased with my Powerdrains. They are extremely comfortable, feel very light, and yet offer great protection and stability. The grip on their sole is impeccable; I initially struggled to get my feet fully into the bike pedal clips because the soles kept catching the little metal arms. Plus, I totally love the easy cinch lace system; makes it super convenient to tighten or loosen.

The true test came when I took my gear out during my climbing excursion to Little River Canyon in Alabama. As soon as we approached a sputtering cliff that leaked water all over the trail during our hike to the climbs, I was in heaven.

The shoes served ideally as boulder field romping sneakers. I’ve grown accustomed to slipping and sliding all over slick rocks and steep dirt inclines in my faulty footwear, but this time I bounded from boulder to boulder without a moment’s hesitation. Perhaps these Powerdrains improve balance too?

I found a small creek in which to splash around and get my gear wet, and learned that Columbia’s hype about the extreme draining power of these shoes is no joke. Even after fully submerging my feet in water, they were instantly drained as soon as they touched dry land. Impressive.

My only qualm? I totally thought they were going to also have some sort of Omni-Dry technology – but they don’t. So as blissful as I was to get my shoes soaking wet and see the water rush out, I then had to let my shoes sit in the sun for an hour to let the materials dry. But you know me, getting my toes dirty while I hung out barefoot for a bit was no biggie.

On the other hand, my Compounder shell jacket passed the waterworks test with flying colors. I stood directly under the small waterfall with my hood up and my zipper zipped – and stayed completely dry. Except for my leggings, which were definitely not waterproof. (Hey Columbia, help a climber lady out and make us some warm, water-proof leggings!)

My lower half was drenched, but my upper half was perfectly dry thanks to the shell. It’s light, easy to shove in a pack when it’s not being worn, and it’s rather comfortable. When the shaded cliff line grew a bit cold with a brisk breeze, the shell provided protection from the chill, but I wouldn’t say it did much to warm me up (but that’s to be expected, it’s a shell for a reason).

* There may or may not be a video of me standing under the waterfall – and I may or may not upload it to YouTube, depending on how many people ask me nicely to make a fool out of myself.

Overall, I have been quite pleased with my Columbia Sportswear gear this far. Aside from a snowboarding jacket that I snagged at a thrift shop for $12, I have never been particularly aware of the brand, nor have I had the budget to allot for the investment of a $300 dry shell – but I am now a woman converted. While I have no doubt that my shoes will quickly be worn until their death, I truly believe that my Compounder shell is an item that will remain in my wardrobe for decades. I guess it costs $300 because it gives you $300 worth of use, wear, tear, and general grooviness.

I most recently received this package from Columbia Sportswear, featuring their Peakfreak trail shoes, which I do believe offer the Omni-Dry technology I was looking for in my Powerdrains. These modified hiking boots were named “Best Trail Shoe” by Outside Magazine, so I’m really looking forward to taking them out for a spin when I head to climb at Red River Gorge in a few weeks.

Stay tuned for the next gear review upon my return!

Joining Columbia Sportswear’s inaugural OmniTen crew for a season of epic adventures

After thirty hours of driving across the country, I finally returned to Florida well after nightfall – and immediately pounced on a mysterious package I had received from Columbia Sportswear. On the top of the box, a sticker for “OmniTen” was slapped across the cardboard.

I dug into the box, which held another box, and lifted the lid to discover a quick letter on Columbia Sportswear letterhead. Elated, I devoured the contents of the letter, which informed me that I was selected to join a team of ten influential outdoor adventurers with strong social media presences. Columbia Sportswear invited us to form the inaugural OmniTen crew, which is given early access to new gear – and Columbia will be taking us on epic adventures to put their gear to the test. 

The first adventure? I received a late-night e-mail with a spontaneous invitation to head out to the Chugach Mountains for eight days of all-inclusive heli-skiing in Alaska. WHAT! Since I only recently conquered the bunny slopes, I figured dropping out of a helicopter to shred fresh snow would be better left to seasoned skiers like fellow OmniTen member, and one of my favorite adventure ladies, Gina Bégin. Even though I won’t be heading to Alaska for one last winter trip before spring sets in, I’m beyond excited to see what else Columbia has in store for me.

But back to my package. Check it out:

20120310-235906.jpg

The cleverly designed box contained three compartments with informative flaps describing the treats that were waiting beneath. The first was “The Compounder Shell,” a waterproof and super breathable dry-shell jacket that features Omni-Dry and Omni-Wick EVAP technology to keep both rain and perspiration at bay while I’m out in the wilderness. The middle compartment presented a bright blue “Solar Polar Top,” with featuring Omni-Freeze ICE that is triggered by my hot sweat to drop the fabric’s temperature and create a cooling sensation – SWEET.

Finally, my favorite part of the package. The wonderful folks at Columbia Sportswear sent me a fresh pair of charcoal and blue kicks, which couldn’t have come at a better time as I am currently alternating between too-big hiking boots, and tattered Toms when I adventure outdoors. Now I can ditch the mediocre footwear in favor of my new “Powerdrain Shoes“, hybrid water shoes that look like running sneakers and feature Tech-Lite and Omni-Grip technology.

Words can’t begin to express how excited, surprised, and eager I am about this thrilling new venture. I’m humbled to have been handpicked by Columbia Sportswear to join OmniTen, and am endless thankful for the opportunity to participate. Stay tuned for some seriously epic adventures, my thoughts on Columbia’s new products, and more. 

Twitter fans, be sure to check out our team by using the #OmniTen hashtag.
You can follow as crew members head out on adventures,
read about our experiences with the products, and more.