Here is the first, in hopefully a long line of reviews I'll do on all (or most) of the products I carry in my ULA Circuit pack. See, I'm already dropping product names on ya. I figure I'll try to pair a product with a food item for no other reason but diversity. So sit back, relax and get ready to read a whole bunch of my rambling opinions. Someone, cue the dehydrator's hum.
Frist up, the Salomon XA- Alpine trail runners
I've been a Salomon fan ever since hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015. A friend recommended that I try Salomon's because of the wide toe-box and as they say, the rest is history. I've worn through 9 pairs of Salomon's total, 4 on the AT and 5 on the PCT, as well as tried 5 different styles- all in the light hiker, trail runner series. The reason for the variety was that sometimes I was at the mercy of the on trail outfitter if I needed a pair asap, and sometimes one style seemed to fit a particular terrain better.
Just some rules of thumb I like to keep- the reason I like trail runners better than boots (for thru-hiking, hear that, I said for for thru-hiking, not just for general hiking. Please consult a doctor before any serious activity. Please accept iTunes terms and agreements. Ok I now hold no liability.) is due to weight and blister prevention. When hiking 20-30 miles a day, weight matters. Someone once told me that a pound off the foot is comparable to seven off your back. I have no idea if that's true but I think the point holds true. Hiking many miles a day, I want the lightest shoe possible.
Next blister prevention. My feet swell a lot when I'm on trail. I'm talking over two thru-hikes my feet have grown 1.5 sizes. Plus day to day swelling that occurs. So I want a shoe with tons of wiggle room in the toe box, which I think trail runners do well, usually with a meshy stretchy upper and sides. That way, no blisters between the toes.
Also i want a shoe that's going to dry quickly after I ford a river. With sometimes 15 fords in a day there's no time to stop and change shoes. If the shoe doesn't dry, your foot doesn't dry and wet feet blister easier than dry feet. Also, trail runners have a quick break in time. Most of the shoes I wear on trail, the first miles I ever walk in them are on trail so break in time is zero. All of that is why I love trail runners and for some reason only known by the trail gods and last makers, Salomon shoes fit me like a glove.
Now to the XA- Alpine. This was the first time I wore this particular style and I'll tell you what...i fricken love them!
One of the most notable features is the built in gaiters perfect for keeping out dirt, rocks and debris. They still have the awesome quick lace system underneath too so that's a plus. I was concerned that the zipper would be a point of failure but after 650 miles +, it was still going strong.
I tested these through some of the harshest trail conditions the CDT has offered too. I loved them in the snow because 1) they were compatable with the Black Diamond Contact crampons which I need up in Glacier and 2) they were water proof on the lower section which kept my feet dry in the low snow.
On rock and scree they also performed very well with great traction.
As with the rover fords, I know I can't have the best of both world's but I was close. The water proof lowers just meant that when did creek crossings I would just unzip the shoe right after, let out some of the excess water and the show would actually dry amazingly fast. In my experience not as fast as the Speed Cross Pro but not that much longer.
Really the only minor criticism I have is of the color. Although the black, I think, looks super sharp, it could get a little toasty in the Montana burn sections with little shade.
Overall, I would definitely wear these again!
The tread after 650+ miles. My general rule is that if I can get 500 miles out of a shoe, they have done their duty. These were going along so well I actually forgot to have another pair shipped out to me at the 500 mile mark.
Now to the Eats!
I'll start with something light and simple... coffee!
Now I know what you're going to say, oh my gosh not Starbucks via?!? Because honestly out here you will see hikers eating Ramen and Pop tarts but then drinking Starbucks. Weird phenomenon. Anyhow, this is what my grandma drinks and I guess it runs on our family because I like Tasters Choice too and reminds me of my grandma so it has bonus nostalgia points!
So I think that's about it for this one! If you have any specific gear questions feel free to email me and I'll try to get back you to in a timely fashion :)