It was one year ago this month that we launched TheGearJunkie.com. To celebrate, we're starting up a new weekly gear giveaway contest where you can win the likes of a Jetboil PCS Camp Stove; a GoPro Digital HERO 3 camera; Ahnu Footwear's SoMa travel shoes; the Kelty Lightyear 15 Sleeping Bag; Gregory's Z22 backpack; Osprey's Talon 11 pack; and much more. Sign up now to be entered into the weekly drawing: http://thegearjunkie.com/giveaway
I don't actually know what "après anything" means, but with its new Terrasoles line of shoes R.G. Barry Corp. "targets the void many people face when transitioning from active footwear into something that is more comfortable and casual, yet remains functional." Right. . . like when I get done climbing a mountain, remove my boots, and think "dang, if there wasn't just a shoe perfect for this pub and the muddy lot I need to negotiate on my way inside. . . ."
Sorry, had to get that out of my system. The press material accompanying these new shoes from R.G. Barry Corporation was just full of gems. (Example: "Terrasoles, innovative hybrid footwear designed for thrill seekers whose hearts belong to the spirit of the great outdoors.")
In reality, these are interesting shoes. They're soft and comfy, made with thick fleece and flexible soles. Kind of stylish, too.
The company (www.terrasoles.com) is trying to market them as some kind of hybrid performance/style brand. But they'd be better just to stick with the style angle.
They sent the Gear Junkie crew two pairs: The women's Rainier and the men's Tuckerman, both of which go at $49.95.
The Rainier model passed our tests. It's a ballet flat of sorts made for "yoga, pilates or for just a walk in the park," as per the promo. It comes in lavender, persimmon, stone and espresso colors. Fit was fine on our female tester. She liked the look and feel, which was comfortable and low-profile.
I tried the Tuckerman model and was less impressed, mainly because they kept slipping off my feet. The heel area is too short. My foot comes out too easily back there. Maybe I need a larger size, but then I'd be swimming up in the forefoot.
In the end, Terrasoles is an interesting first try. Maybe a brand to watch for now, but probably not to buy.
Pricing: $30 to $50
Contact: R.G. Barry Corporation, www.terrasoles.com
I wrote about this unique pack system last winter in an OR Show round-up. Looks like the company, RMK Accessories of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania (www.trailflex.com), will finally have a test pack for me to try this fall.
But here's the just of the system for now. . .
There are three steps to building a custom TrailFlex Modular Pack System: 1) Pick a base harness; 2) Add backpack; 3) Select your components.
This build-a-pack design lets you customize a backpack for your body type and your sport, from bird watching to adventure racing to geocaching.
The company offers more than 20 attachable accessories that snap on and off via little knobs. It's a patent-pending design that lets you attach pouches, pockets, and cases for a variety of gear -- from binocular holders to cell phone pouches.
Once connected, pouches can be positioned to eight different angles for accessibility to gear. With this "Advanced Modular Technology," users decide not only what they carry, but also where and in what easy-access position.
The TF Base Harness costs $99.95; accessories like a binocular pouch, bottle holder, cell phone pocket, knife/flashlight case, MP3 device pouch, GPS holder, and camera pouch start at $9.95 apiece. Pick and choose to make a custom pack for your adventure.
Company: RMK Accessories
Price: Base harness, $99.95; accessories, $9.95 to $19.95 apiece.
The Stick, a therapeutic self-massage tool made for athletes, is a semi-flexible rod stacked with independent, one-inch-wide spindles that rotate as you rub. Kind of a therapeutic rolling pin for your legs, kneading muscles deep and thoroughly.
Debuted in 1991, The Stick has been around for a while. I've seen guys hawking it at those trade-fair venues set up before marathons and tris for years. Now I finally got one.
I've been training for another marathon (my 8th one!), and for the first time I have a hamstring issue. Thus, I ordered The Stick. The company touts it as an athletic panacea, making "muscles feel better, work harder, last longer and recover faster."
For me, it's more of a recovery tool than anything. It loosens muscles up after a long run. Kind of like a good leg rub-down, though no need to recruit a spouse or friend to do the dirty work.
Instead, simply grip the Stick's handles and rub. Easy.
The company says The Stick works by compressing and stretching muscle; moving body fluid; and freeing circulation to allow muscles to regain "normal elasticity" before or after a workout.
I've found it to be effective for tight hamstrings and calves. While no miracle cure, it can loosen you up-and quick-with the same effectiveness of that massage you know your wife, husband, or friend really does not want to give.
In a recently-published academic paper titled "Energy harvesting from a backpack instrumented with piezoelectric shoulder straps," mechanical engineers from Michigan Technological University and Arizona State demonstrate the potential of a backpack that makes its own energy via piezoelectric straps.
According to a story on www.physorg.com, the piezoelectric backpack straps are the latest innovation in the area of "energy harvesting," where otherwise-wasted, ambient energy is converted into electrical energy to prolong the life of electronics.
Apparently, the rubbing of backpack straps on shoulders creates enough movement, heat and energy to create electric power that can be transferred to charge GPS devices, headlamps, a cell phone, or an iPod Nano while on the go.
"The strap would operate no differently than the strap on a traditional backpack," said Henry Sodano from Arizona State.
The theoretical backpack uses straps made of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), a strong, flexible material that feels similar to nylon. But unlike nylon, PVDF is piezoelectric, meaning that an applied stress generates an electrical charge.
When carrying a 100-pound load -- a typical amount for a soldier's pack, according to the researchers -- and walking at 2-3 mph, simulations showed that the straps could generate 45.6 mW of power.
The researchers said that this output could be used to power small electronics.
The researchers hope that additional energy harvesting systems can be integrated into a user's other gear -- shoes maybe? -- based on the results of the to-be-created piezoelectric backpack straps.
This week's story is on something I dubbed The Marathon Lifestyle, which is a way of being held by tens of thousands of Americans who are in a continual training regimen, a marathon always on the horizon, always there for motivation.
I'm one of them.
For me, the marathon experience makes most other things in life seem easy, physical or otherwise. It's a top reason why I love the sport.
Marathons have also propelled me into ultra racing, where competitors run, bike or trek for 24 hours straight or longer. To other (maybe more normal) runners, marathons can boost the ego and breed mental toughness or self-confidence.
Watch this blog for Ultra Fit updates over the coming weeks. . .
The pain in Mike Levad’s heel first pricked up after the Twin Cities Marathon last fall. “It felt like someone had whacked my heel with a hammer,” he said, describing a pain that shot through his foot and up the leg when he got out of bed in the morning.
In April, Levad ran the Boston Marathon.
“I finished in 3 hours, 5 minutes and 46 seconds,” he said. “But then the pain in my heel got worse.”
Levad is victim of an injury caused not by a one-time traumatic incident, but by the repetitive strain of feet pounding pavement.
Indeed, during peak training times, runners such as Levad tick off 30, 40 or more miles in running shoes each week, striking foot to road tens of thousands of times. The abuse can affect the physiology of the foot, creating conditions unique to the running world that -- as in Levad’s case -- are difficult for some doctors to diagnose or treat.
In a story I wrote last month -- "Meet Dr. Feet" -- I look into Levad's case through the lens of Dr. Paul Langer, a podiatrist, a clinical faculty member at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and a veteran of two dozen marathons, several triathlons and the Ironman.
Levad was diagnosed with a heel malady called plantar fasciitis.
Dr. Langer's prescription for healing may surprise you.
I write a syndicated newspaper column on gear -- "The Gear Junkie" -- as well as run an ancillary web site, http://www.thegearjunkie.com, and now I'm a blogger on Active.com, too.
A little about me. . .
I have been active in outdoors journalism (and all the corresponding sports and adventures that go with the gig) for several years. I was the founding editor of Vertical Jones magazine, a climbing publication (1997 - 2001). In addition to the weekly Gear Junkie newspaper column, I write on the outdoors and adventure-travel for New York Times, Forbes Traveler, and other national media.
The Gear Junkie column runs in 10 newspapers weekly, from Seattle to St. Paul, to Greensboro, N.C. The web site -- which launched Sept. 18, 2006 -- includes the Daily Dose blog; video gear reviews; interactive slideshow features; The Gear Junkie column archive; and feature stories ("Gear Junkie Adventures").
What makes The Gear Junkie different? I test gear to death, training daily for outdoors adventures, competing in national events, and running marathons, climbing mountains, rafting rivers, racing on a mountain bike, killing myself (nearly) on multi-day adventure races. . . you get the picture. I'm always on the go. This is my passion. This is my life.
This blog, I hope, will provide a bit of a peek into what I do.