I’ve been so busy USING my stash of gear that I haven’t kept up with my gear review write-ups! So, here are a few highlights from the items I’ve been putting through their paces over the last few months.
A couple of changes in my product reviews… while I’m a user first and an outdoor industry worker second, in order to avoid any appearance of unfairness I’m going to cut back on the number of product reviews I do personally for a bit. I’m hoping to have some guest reviewers chime in, too.
Also, the FTC has recently published final guidelines that require certain types of disclosure when companies provide items to reviewers (like me). I’m actually happy to fully disclose, per the FTC requirements. If I like a piece of gear enough to take the time to write it up, then I’m perfectly happy to tell you exactly how it was obtained.
One of the items I’m testing but not yet ready to review is Columbia Sportswear’s rechargeable heated boot… So far, my one word review is: “TOASTY.” But, I’d like to be able to say more than that, so stay tuned.
Evolv XY Custom Climbing Shoes
I’ve long been a fan of Evolv the company, ever since my second pair of climbing shoes. Those long ago first Evolvs never quite fit… but I was completely impressed with the company’s customer service and responsiveness, and have thought fondly of them ever since. Every time I shop climbing shoes, I try Evolvs, but have yet to find a really good fit in their shoes.
When Evolv offered me a pair of their XY custom line to try out, I was excited to give them a try.I had a little bit of technical difficulty with their website for doing the shoe design (but they were in the middle of working out some kinks at the time, so hopefully those issues have been resolved). I wound up designing a custom pair of their Womens’ Elektra model. I added the Pontas Lace “extra” rubber on the upper, and carefully picked my colors.
I went with my best guess on shoe size, based on my history with Evolvs, and ordered a 7.5 / EU 38. That was a size gamble… but I haven’t consistently fit a size in Evolvs, and their recommendation is to order your street shoe size. My street shoe size is 8 in most US shoes, and 38 in most EU shoes, but my last pair of Evolvs (Heras) were quite big at an 8, so I though I’d try a half size down.
When my XY Customs arrived, I opened the box and with one look could tell that they were larger than I’d hoped for. I tried them on around my house, and was worried that they were going to be just plain too large. But, you can’t judge a rock climbing shoe by its performance on carpet, so off to the gym I went.
I’m glad I did.
I did a bit of bouldering in the XY shoe and was surprised… usually, I have to have a very tight shoe for my feet to be comfortable on the wall. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. I tend to have foot cramps and/or pain, when I climb in larger shoes. Some women specific models are just too narrow for me, which contributes to the problem. I found, even with a more roomy fit, the Electra XY to support my foot and allow me to climb in comfort.
The end result? I’ve been climbing in the gym in these for a couple of months now, and they’re my current pick for gym shoes. They’re the perfect middle ground between my favorite performance models and the other shoes I’ve tried to wear for long routes and/or all day which, for some reason, give me foot cramps. I can wear these for long gym sessions without having to take them off in between every climb, and — possibly the highest praise I give a shoe — I don’t even think about my feet while I have them on. I just climb.
I haven’t climbed in a fully synthetic shoe for some time, and sure enough, these have not stretched the way I’m used to leather shoes stretching. While the fit isn’t exactly what I expected when I ordered, it’s turned out to be great for the gym.
I haven’t yet gotten them outside, but I’m looking forward to it in the spring, since my hope is that these are a solution for my long route / all day shoe issues.
I do wish I could find a size and stick with it, in Evolv shoes — but to be fair, I didn’t go out and try Elektras on prior to ordering, so I was guessing at my size. Since custom shoes are not returnable / refundable, I’d be pretty darn sure you know what your size is in the platform you’re ordering, before you place your order.
Overall? I’m very happy with the XY Elektras. They’re definitely distinctive — I get asked about them every time I wear them (I can confirm, climbers pay a ridiculous amount of attention to footwear), and I liked picking out my own colors, as silly as that sounds. I do think, if I order a second pair (which appears likely, given that I can’t find my favorite old model of Red Chili Corona VCRs in my size anywhere) I’ll try on Elektras and size down a bit for the fit I prefer, and add the stiff midsole option for a little more support for my funny feet.
Full disclosure: Evolv provided this sample pair of shoes at no charge for the purpose of my testing and review. And, I’m going to wear the crap out of ’em.
More information: http://www.evolvesports.com/flash_app/index.htm
Crumpler Customary Barge Deluxe
I first got to know Crumpler at last year’s Summer Outdoor Retailer during one of my wanders around the show floor, and was blown away by the company’s sense of humor (their product capacity is often described in terms of how many beers the bags hold). I was on a hunt for a true blogger / media / journalist bag, and I found it in the Customary Barge.
From the outside, this looks like a Kermit-colored backpack. Inside, it’s packing a wallop.
For photogs, this bag has an internal organization system that attaches to the interior with velcro (and holds well, in my testing) to hold lenses, camera bodies and accessories.
For road warriors, the bag has a well-padded laptop compartment that holds up to a 17-inch laptop.
For anybody who hauls their life around on their back on a daily basis (um, like me) the capacity is fantastic. The listed capacity is 28 litres, and for a road warrior commute bag, it’s the best I’ve tried. It holds my gym wear, laptop, point and shoot camera, cords and accessories, makeup bag, and has a usable organization system that helps keep each item where it belongs. Even fully loaded, the bag is comfortable for me to carry (which isn’t always the case with one-size fits all backpacks).
I get asked about the bag a LOT… probably because it’s bright green, and larger than the average backpack carried by woman booking around Seattle… but it doesn’t scream
“I’m carrying expensive photography and computer equipment!” which I like.
The price tag ($255 retail, US) will put this outside of the price range of most of us dirtbag photographers. But, if you’ve got the funds, and you’re looking for a really solid road warrior / media / blogger / journalist bag, then check this one out.
Full disclosure: Crumpler provided a sample of this bag at no charge for my review purposes, with the expectation that it will be returned at the end of my review period. I’d love to keep it, though.
More information: http://www.crumplerbags.com/
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