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The new HexaLite camp chairs from Crazy Creek offer a campfire

seating option for backpackers starting at less than 1 pound. By

employing hexagonal-cored closed cell foam and polyester mesh,

these foldable, rollable seats provide the clamshell comfort and back

support the company is known for but in a more minimal package.

 

Crazy Creek (www.crazycreek.com)

sells two HexaLite models, the HexaLite Original and the larger

HexaLite LongBack, which weigh in at 14.8 oz. and 18.5 oz.,

respectively.

 

 

I tried out the HexaLite Original model and was impressed with its

feathery weight and pack-ability. Fold it in half, roll it up and cinch

it with the seat straps and you have an unobtrusive package to strap on

the outside of a backpack.

You do sacrifice comfort in the name of weight savings,

though: The HexaLite Original has a narrow seat. My rear fit snug, and

I am by no means blessed abnormally on the backside. The company quotes

the seat width at 15 inches. But sitting in the chair the sides squeeze

in, making it feel smaller.

 

 

In addition, metal rods added for

rigidity in the seatback can press in and rub to an annoying effect if

you’re leaning back with some weight for a long period. (Note that I’m

being nitpicky here. In the woods, around a fire, this chair will

likely seem as comfortable as a Laz-E-Boy.)

 

 

The HexaLite LongBack model has extra width (18 inches) and a higher

back height. It may not suffer from those comfort issues. This larger

model, which I did not test, also doubles as an ad hoc sleeping pad for

backpackers, as it measures 38 inches long when laying flat.

Available: Now

 

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Pricing: HexaLite Original, $33; HexaLite LongBack, $44

 

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Contact: www.crazycreek.com

 

 

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The Gear Junkie Giveaway is back! And now the contest is bigger and

better, with a prize shipped out to one lucky winner drawn from our

list each week. This time the prizes range from a half-year’s supply of

Clif bars (this week) to shoes from Teva and Hi-Tec, a bike mount from

Thule, a slick jacket from Nau, and a tent from REI valued at $249.

 

 

Click here to signup. . . http://thegearjunkie.com/giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The impressive spread that is Novara’s 2008 bike lineup

includes cyclocross rides, full-suspension mountain bikes for women and

men, a foldable travel model, a “safari” bike, and fender-equipped

urban commuters ready to go. All are available now at REI stores or

online at REI.com. Here’s a quick peek at five specific models that caught my attention. . .

 

 

Novara Safari Bike—Dubbed the “ultimate

adventure-touring cycle,” the Safari was made for multiday tours, on

the pavement or off. The mountain-bike-like model has an aluminum

frame, a double-butted front fork for solid steering under heavy loads,

and an included rear rack. Fizik Rondine saddle and Post Moderne

suspension seatpost help keep your backside happy on the longest of

rides. Pricing: $849

 

 

Novara Fusion Bike—This ready-to-go commuter

includes touches like internal brakes and shifting, dual headlights, a

taillight, fenders, rear rack, bell and kickstand. No need to fool with

accessories for your urban commute. Buy it and go. Aluminum frame.

Shimano internal 8-speed rear hub cassette system. Dynamo hub powers a

dual-beam headlamp, no batteries required. 700c wheelset for a faster

ride. Pricing: $749

 

 

Novara Buzz Fly-By Foldable Bike—Novara has teamed

with Dahon, a folding bike manufacturer, to create the Fly-By, a

foldable bike built for urban commuting or taking along on a trip. It

folds into a small package and fits inside an included carrying bag.

Simply fold the handlebar in half, open the lever to split the frame

into two, and bend it back on itself. Bonus: When removed the seat post

doubles as an air pump. Pricing: $599

 

 

Novara Rivet Bike—Ride the bumps and deep mud with

speed on this cyclocross model. An aluminum frame with a carbon fork

makes for a fast and light ride. Grippy Geax Blade 700×33c tires to

handle mixed terrain, from mud to gravel roads to pavement. Avid Shorty

4 cantilever brakes for stopping power. Fizik Aliante Sport saddle can

be “likened to a fine tailor-made suit,” according to the company.

Pricing: $1,599

 

 

Novara Bliss 2.0 Women’s Mountain Bike—Female-centric

geometry with full-suspension shocks, disc brakes and a gender-specific

bike saddle make the Bliss 2.0 a literal good fit for women. To

reiterate, the Bliss was designed to fit women, not men: the frame

sizing accommodates short inseams, and frame geometry conforms to

shorter torso and reach lengths. RockShox suspension in the front and

rear helps soften landings. Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes allow

controlled deceleration and good stopping power. Pricing: $1,199

 

 

Go here to see the full Novara line. . . http://www.rei.com/rei/gearshop/novara/index.html 

 

 

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Adventure Lights

Posted by Stephen Regenold Feb 20, 2008

 

Adventure Lights of Beaconsfield, Quebec, (www.adventurelights.com)

makes lights for all type of flashing, signaling, attention-getting

needs, including lights and L.E.D. models for law enforcement,

search-and-rescue, the military, and public safety. This is a quick

look at three outdoors-oriented models I’ve been testing as of late. . .

 

 

 

 

 

The VIP Signal Light

is the company’s pinnacle product, an emergency L.E.D. that has been

tested “in deserts, the Arctic, in the stratosphere and hundreds of

feet below the sea,” according to the company’s press material. The

result is an emergency beacon light that holds up in almost any extreme

environmental condition, including 330 feet under water and in temps

ranging from 120 to minus-40 F.

 

 

The product (pictured above) can be used as a

flashlight, an emergency flasher and an SOS beacon. Twist the face dial

to toggle between these functions. I tested the VIP Standard Yellow Case

model, an $81 light that has a focused amber/orange L.E.D.—a color

optimized to enhance visibility and help penetrate smoke and fog,

according to Adventure Lights. Seemed to do the trick when I tried it,

pulsing bright and strong. The product is strangely shaped but

functional, with a belt clip and included zip-ties to secure the light

permanently to a backpack, life preserver, or other object. It runs on

a lithium battery (included) for a quoted 350 hours. Measures about 3×2

x 1.25 inches. Weight is 4 ounces.

 

 

Made to use in lieu of chemical glow sticks, the Lazer Stik Powergrip AA

looks like a children’s toy at first glance. But these steady-on light

sticks have a million uses—dangle them from a pack while biking, tether

to your PFD, keep them in the car for road beacons in an emergency.

 

 

 

 

 

The

company says the red light—which measure about 1 inch around by 6

inches long—can be seen from more than 2 kilometers away. They are

quoted to provide more than 50 hours of light using common AA

batteries. They are waterproof and fairly rugged. Attach them via

zip-ties to just about anything. Weight is 1.2 ounces apiece. Price:

$17.40.

 

 

The all-purpose Guardian L.E.D. is a simple white

flasher for signal and visibility use. It weighs less than 1 ounce and

can attach to anything via its integrated clip. The company quotes the

light for visibility up to 1 mile, and a single battery lasts for about

250 hours. Dual function of flashing and steady-on mode. Waterproof to

300 feet. Price: $14.

 

 

 

 

 

Company contact: Adventure Lights, www.adventurelights.com

 

 

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Kelty Packs, 2008

Posted by Stephen Regenold Feb 20, 2008

 

It’s been 55 years since Dick Kelty first put a backpack on the

market, welding aluminum tubes together in his garage while his wife,

Nena, sewed and fit the fabric onto the frame. The result was an

innovation for its time, and at $24 each Kelty’s packs sold like proverbial hotcakes.

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward to 2008 and Dick Kelty’s eponymous company

is still going strong, this spring debuting a new line of backcountry

packs that promise “a blend of new materials, innovative ventilation,

and unique suspension systems” never before seen from Kelty. Here’s a quick run-through of the new wares. Warning: They now do cost more than $24 a pop. . .

 

 

The Radii 27 model (pictured above) is a

1,650-cubic-inch pack with Kelty’s “AeroFly suspension system,” which

keeps your body ventilated with a breathable waist-belt, shoulder

straps, and a mesh backpanel that allows air to circulate freely. It

will cost $120. Zippered waist-belt pockets and a 2 lb. 7 oz. weight

make the Radii nice for fast-and-light feats, though with enough

support to carry loads up to 30 pounds.

 

 

 

 

 

Kelty’s Locus 40 (pictured below)

is a supportive 2,500-cubic-inch model I have in testing right now.

Like the other models, the Locus 40 incorporates a light internal frame

and a meshy back panel area—the “four-way ventilated AeroFly suspension

system”—to keep your mid-spinal region in contact not with nylon but

mostly with air. The top-loading pack has an adjustable torso length to

accommodate different size hikers, an easily-accessible “shove-it”

pocket for on-the-move stowage, hydration-system compatibility, and

highly water-resistant construction. Weight is 3 lb., 5 oz. Available

in a men’s and women’s model for $150.

 

 

For overnight trips with a bit more gear, the Span 60 (not pictured)

has 3,650 cubic inches of storage and a separate sleeping bag

compartment. A secondary low-profile hood provides volume-changing

versatility, and the AeroFly suspension system (again) can help keep

you cool. Adjustable torso length. Available in men’s and women’s

models for $180.

 

 

 

 

 

The men’s Slider 65 and women’s Arch 65 (pictured below)

are 4,000-cubic-inch packs made for long trips into the backcountry.

They have a ventilated back, torso adjustment, and meshy three-layer

shoulder straps to add padding. Constructed with stretchy PU laminate

panels, these packs can expand to accommodate larger loads. The side

pockets are waterproof. MSRP: $230

 

 

Finally, the biggest of the big (pictured below) are Kelty’s men’s Beam 82 and women’s Course 82,

packs with a cavernous 5,000 cubic inches of storage space. As with the

Span 60, these models have a low-profile hood configuration for

reducing volume when all that space is overkill. Stretch fabric in the

front and side pockets accommodates bulky items while still keeping

them handy on the go. MSRP: $250

 

 

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The summit of Mount Ogden, a craggy 9,570-foot peak in the

Wasatch-Cache National Forest, dominates the skyline above its namesake

town. In a good snow year, a massive squiggle of white known as the

Banana Chute fills in on Mount Ogden’s rocky northwest face, creating a

dramatic entrance to a skiable descent that is larger than any

lift-accessible run in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calibrate your altimeter at the top and you can ski for

four miles and nearly 5,000 vertical feet, from the thin alpine air,

down through the maw of the chute, over ridges and meadows of untracked

snow, then into a creek bed that funnels the backcountry line to its

unlikely terminus at the residential grid of a midsize American town.

 

My story today in New York Times, “In Utah, the Fast Way to Town,” covers my descent of the line last month. Go here for the full story: travel.nytimes.com/2008/02/15/travel/escapes/15banana.html?ref=escapes

 

 

 

My original trip report blog, with several photos of the ski, is here:

thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-skiing-mt-ogdens-banana-chute

 

 

 

 

 

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(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold's work.)

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Just got off the phone with Don Mann, the CEO of Primal Quest. He’s ramping up for Primal Quest Montana, the 5th edition of the world’s toughest adventure race, to be held June 21 to July 2 this year.

 

But my conversation with Mann was about next year’s event, the 2009 race, where Mann’s company plans to take the PQ international, potentially with a race that climbs one of the Seven Summits as part of its course.

 

 

 

In January, Mann and his wife, Dawn, traveled to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a 19,341-foot stratovolcano that claims prize as the highest point of elevation on the African continent. The pair made the summit at 6:45a.m. on January 11 after a seven-day trek and climb. “It was more wonderful than any of us ever dreamed,” Mann wrote in a web post.

 

Indeed, the experience seems to have inspired something in Mann. When we spoke, he said Primal Quest in 2009 will be held at an international destination (i.e., not in the United States), mentioning Iceland, Vancouver Island, B.C., Costa Rica, and Tanzania as options.

 

But it was the last option, Tanzania, about which Mann seemed most excited. “It’s expensive to get there,” he said. “But once you’re in the country everything is very cheap, and the people are wonderful.”

 

 

 

Though its very much in the drawing-board stage, Mann had obviously thought through the logistics of incorporating a Kilimanjaro summit bid into the race. He said a race in the Tanzania might last 12 days, of which four to five days could be committed to having teams climb the mountain. There’d be mandatory stops at huts on the way up the mountain, he said. Each team would get one porter. At each stop a doctor would assess the health of all racers, allowing only those who showed no sign of altitude sickness to continue. “You could leave a teammate behind at a hut if he or she was sick,” Mann said. “That way the rest of the group could still make the summit.”

 

 

 

 

Mann said the fastest team could make it in four days. “That’d still leave a week of racing time outside of Kilimanjaro.”

 

 

 

 

We’ll have to wait and see what materializes. As noted, this is just one of many options for PQ 2009. But the concept intrigues me: Tick off one of the world’s toughest races while at the same time climbing a Seven Summits mountain. Sign me up, Don!

 

 

 

 

 

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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The Gear Junkie Archive is a vast repository of information on outdoors gear and apparel, including more than 200 gear reviews stretching back to 2004. All reviews were written by Stephen Regenold; they originally appeared in his nationally-syndicated newspaper column, The Gear Junkie.

 

 

Today, we have updated the Archive with more than three-dozen new reviews, including the likes of the Zinetic Pocket Slippers, Brave Soldier athletic lube, the S.O.L. Pak, Guyot’s Squishy camp bowl, the Clip Shot Camera Holder, Vibram Five Fingers footwear, and many more.

 

 

Click here to see the whole list: GEAR JUNKIE ARCHIVE

 


 

 

 

 

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Spyder’s Heli GORE-tex Jacket and Chopper GORE-tex Pant

are top-shelf backcountry ski outerwear pieces, made—as the name

portends—for the helicopter-skiing crowd and other deep-powder

connoisseurs. This setup includes nearly every micro and macro feature

an intrepid alpine explorer could want or need in a shell system. Or

maybe you’ve got cash to burn and simply want the coolest of the cool.

 

Either way, this combo ski suit, available for the 2008/09 season, will

cost a hot $2,000—that’s $1,200 for the top, $800 for the bottoms. But,

behold! Neat features for comfort, safety and performance abound,

including:

 

 

  • A backpack-compatible jacket design, which has “waist belt portals”
               to let you pass-through the pack’s belt and secure it inside your
               GORE-tex suit of armor.

  • “Origami-inspired” design, with hood, pockets, and joints
               that articulate and fold neatly back in place via “geometric
               three-dimensional expansion” functionality.

  • GORE-tex Pro-Shell fabric (waterproof, breathable, stretchy) and 3M’s lightweight Thinsulate Supreme Insulation (warm)

  • A removable powder skirt.

  • RECCO avalanche-transceiver reflectors stitched on to the jacket.

  • An “ear-splitting” U.S. Coast Guard-certified whistle that’s audible at 1,000 meters.

 

For safety, Spyder includes an SOS safety lining that

features the international distress symbol of a white cross on a red

background in case you get lost or need help out there in the BC.

Further, there’s universal safety information, including body rescue

signals, international cell phone information, and distress Morse code

printed on the jacket’s interior lining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Available: Summer 2008

 

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Pricing: Heli GORE-tex Jacket, $1200; Chopper GORE-tex Pant MSRP, $800

 

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Colors: Pants and jacket come in black or green

 

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Contact: http://www.spyder.com

 

 

 

 

 

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

 

 

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"On the morning of February 6, 2006, in the Kabetogama State

Forest of northern Minnesota, the ground was frozen and dead, a chalky

medium that squeaked when I walked from the car pushing my bike. The

air was sharp, elemental and shrill, hurtful to breathe even through a

mask. It was predawn on the Arrowhead State Trail, a multiuse track

that connects International Falls to the town of Tower more than 100

miles to the south. My hands ached from the cold, fingers going numb

within minutes that morning as I got on the bike to pedal into

wilderness as desolate as the dark side of the moon."

 

Thus starts my story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on my experience in the Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon, a race held each February through the woods of far northern Minnesota. It kicked off for its fourth running yesterday, February 4, and goes through the cut-off time tomorrow night.

 

 

 


As ultra races go, the Arrowhead 135 is an odd fish, more akin to an Alaskan sled dog epic than the Ironman. The race requires
competitors to combine athletic strength with survivalism, sending cyclists, trekkers and skiers solo and unsupported on its namesake 135-mile course.


I did it in 2006 on a bike, braving temps down to 20-below and deep snow that kept my wheels spinning for traction, mile after
mile. (That’s me in the above image somewhere around Mile 40 on the first day.)

I pedaled a bike custom made for the snow, four-inch-wide tires and racks to carry gear. The trail, primarily a snowmobile route, was packed and solid for the first few miles of the race.



From a trailhead near International Falls, the course began with a prologue there-and-back leg west about nine miles into the
woods. I tagged the checkpoint intersection after an hour of motion, then turned around to pedal east and south to the inner reaches of the Kabetogama State Forest.





It took me almost two days, and along the way I made a wrong turn that cost 20 miles of wasted time. But I finished far under the cut-off, indeed taking 9th place that year out of the 30+ people who started. The race was a formative kind of thing for me, and I’ve written on my Arrowhead experience a couple times, most recently in a story last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (click here). Two years ago I also wrote this piece for the New York Times.

 

Monitor this year’s race on the organization’s home page: www.arrowheadultra.com

 

 

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