Gear Review: Patagonia Micro Puff

Hikers wearing the Patagonia Micro Puff Insulated Jacket

Patagonia’s new Micro Puff is available as an insulated jacket (women’s and men’s, $249) and insulated hoodie (women’s and men’s, $299). Our testers tried out the hoodie version. The Patagonia Micro Puff insulated jacket and insulated hoodie are now available online and will be available at REI stores in the coming weeks.

Patagonia Micro Puff Insulated Hoodie, $299

Weight: 8.3 oz. (women’s medium), 9 oz. (men’s medium)

Sizes: women’s XS-XL, men’s S-XXL

On October and November hikes ranging from the high 30s with chilly wind in Idaho’s Boise Mountains to a 14-degree morning at nearly 10,000 feet in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, our testers pulled on Patagonia’s new Micro Puff hoodie and instantly felt … heat. In truth, we really didn’t expect that much warmth, given what a slender figure this packable, featherweight puffy cuts. The secret lies in a minimalist design that doesn’t sacrifice critical performance details, and a new, highly compressible synthetic insulation that delivers down-like warmth for its weight.

10 years in development at Patagonia, the water-resistant PlumaFill synthetic insulation is deceptive because, while it doesn’t loft quite like down feathers, it matches the superior compressibility and warmth-to-weight ratio of the highest-quality down (850- to 900-fill power). And it couples that with the properties of synthetic insulation: While down is famously useless when wet, PlumaFill, like other synthetic insulations, continues to trap heat even when soaked.

Shelli Johnson tests the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoodie

Shelli Johnson tests the Patagonia Micro Puff hoodie on hiking trails above Lander, Wyoming, in the foothills of the Wind River Range. (Photo Credit: Shelli Johnson/YourEpicLife.com)

The explanation behind the unusual confluence of performance aspects of down and synthetics lies in the insulation’s unique properties. Whereas typical synthetic fibers are stacked in “sheets” of material, PlumaFill is constructed as a continuous strand; that and the offset, discontinuous quilting construction, which prevents the insulation from shifting around, allows Patagonia to place the insulation strategically to maximize warmth per ounce and prevent cold spots. The quilting pattern creates large spaces inside, mimicking how down traps heat to deliver high warmth for its weight. Those properties also help make the insulation more durable, according to Patagonia: While down can tend to clump and become less effective over time, PlumaFill, being a continuous strand, does not clump.

As for appearances, all of that technical alphabet soup means that the Micro Puff resembles down-jacket styling, minus the bubble-wrap look.

Flipping the hood up made our testers noticeably warmer. While it’s not adjustable—minimizing features kept the jacket’s weight down—the hood’s elasticized, under-the-helmet design clings snugly around your face, moving with your head movements even with the front zipper partly open.

Michael Lanza wearing the Micro Puff hoodie

Michael Lanza tests the Patagonia Micro Puff hoodie in Idaho’s Boise Mountains. (Photo Credit: Michael Lanza)

The jacket’s fit runs true to usual sizing, and the length extends well below the waist—another impressive, warmth-boosting detail, considering this jacket’s low weight. The front of the Micro Puff poofs out a bit—it’s not an “athletic” or “slim” cut—but not excessively, and that does allow space for a midweight layer underneath it. Similarly, the elasticized cuffs and hem seal tightly enough to keep drafts out.

The ultralight, water-resistant Pertex Quantum nylon ripstop shell blocks wind effectively and sheds light precipitation, thanks to a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. The two zippered hand pockets rewarm numb digits quickly, and the jacket stuffs easily into the left pocket, packing down to the size of a foam football. The lightweight front zipper slides smoothly and appears reasonably durable—we had no problems with it, and as one tester confessed, “I’m hard on zippers—I’m usually just yanking fast to get warm!” All three zippers have pull tabs for grabbing with gloves on. Two inside stuff pockets are big enough for warming or drying winter gloves.

Micro Puff hoodie stuffed into its pocket

The Micro Puff hoodie stuffs easily into the left pocket, packing down to the size of a foam football.

One demerit: The women’s jacket we tested sustained a small tear along one seam near the hem, allowing a tiny bit of insulation to begin leaking out. Our tester thinks she may have caught it on a sharp rock. At 10-denier—a measure of the thickness of fibers or filaments in fabric—the shell fabric isn’t made for doing rodeo. Patagonia says its lab testing demonstrated that adding weight anywhere—in fabrics, insulation or construction methods—only brought diminishing returns. While 10-denier isn’t unique, face fabrics of 15- or 20-denier are common in insulated jackets and generally more durable. Takeaway lesson: Extra care when using any ultralight gear is just smart policy.

Puffy jackets under 10 ounces are often coveted primarily by ultralight backpackers for summer evenings and mornings in camp. But Patagonia’s new Micro Puff hoodie for women and men packs serious warmth in a puffy jacket that weighs in barely north of a half-pound, making it ideal for three-season backpacking and day hiking—even deep into shoulder seasons—and as a winter layering piece.

Shop Micro Puff Hoodie – Women’s  Shop Micro Puff Hoodie – Men’s

The post Gear Review: Patagonia Micro Puff appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

5 Christmasy Towns in the U.S. and Where to Camp Nearby

Christmas and camping go together like Comet and Cupid.

OK… not always. Cold weather camping doesn’t put everyone in a merry mood. But if you love Christmas, then these U.S. destinations will warm your cold, winter heart with twinkly light displays, festive town centers, towering Christmas trees, and of course, visits from Santa.

If you also love camping (we’re guessing you do), you’re in luck! Most of these destinations are warm enough to sleep outdoors year-round. RV’s and cabins are also cozy options.

Christmas and Camping Come Together at These Festive Places

A post shared by OCFamily (@ocfamily) on Dec 24, 2016 at 10:24pm PST

Don’t forget a string of lights for the tent and hot chocolate for the fire.

1. Christmas Town, North Carolina

The residents of McAdenville, North Carolina love Christmas so much, they change the name of their town each year for the season. The population of McAdenville is less than 1,000, but nearly 600,000 people visit during the holidays when it becomes Christmas Town. Hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights make downtown sparkle, and lit up trees line a lake with glittering reflections on the water.

Recommended Campground: Crowder’s Mountain State Park

“The trails are strenuous but views are amazing! Its definitely worth it and right outside town.” — The Dyrt camper Tricia B.

2. Nevada City, California

A post shared by Outside Inn (@outsideinn) on Dec 10, 2017 at 4:26pm PST

The annual Nevada City Victorian Christmas festival is a big deal for this town of about 3,000. Nevada City is just an hour outside of Sacramento, but you’ll feel centuries away as visitors dress in period appropriate clothing; expect to see lots of gowns and top hats! Street vendors fill the streets with gift ideas and the aroma of roasting chestnuts. Join the carolers to really get into the spirit.

Recommended Campground: Inn Town Campground

Inn Town campground is just minutes from downtown and open year-round. Bring your own tent or RV, or stay at one of the onsite “glamping” tents.

3. Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri

Over 6 million lights decorate Silver Dollar City in Branson Missouri, making it one of the brightest and most festive holiday parks in the country. The 1880’s style theme park features rides and attractions year-round, but Christmas brings the extra-festive spirit, with music performances on multiple stages, 1,000 decorated trees, and of course plenty of Christmas shopping. Don’t miss the holiday edition of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede!

Recommended Campground: Branson City Campground

“Branson has so many interesting things to see and do and this campground gives you a place to camp that is easy to come and go from. Its its along Lake Taneycomo and offers a chance to relax, unwind, and enjoy some natural beauty!” — The Dyrt camper Lisa H.

4. Ogunquit, Maine

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You have a good chance of experiencing a white Christmas in Ogunquit, on the coast of Maine. The former artists’ colony is popular in the summer for its beaches, but the holiday season means the Christmas by The Sea Festival, which includes a beach bonfire and a chowder fest. Downtown Ogunquit has that quaint New England charm that’s perfect for Christmas, if you don’t mind the cold.

Recommended Campground: Moody Beach RV Campground

You probably won’t want to be in a tent during a Maine winter, but Moody Beach is great for RV campers. If you don’t have a big camping rig, check out the many vacation rentals along the beach.

5. Santa Claus, Indiana

#santaclauspostoffice #santaclausindiana #christmas #vegansarahmarie

A post shared by Sarah Marie Hartley (@vegansarahmarie) on Dec 9, 2017 at 5:25pm PST

When Santa Fe, Indiana was forced to change its name (there was already another Santa Fe, IN), the town met on Christmas Eve to brainstorm, and landed on Santa Claus, Indiana. That festive identity has led to a tradition of year-round Christmas. When the official holiday season arrives, you can enjoy Christmas Dinner with Santa, a drive through Santa Claus Land of Lights, and an interactive performance of The Story of Santa Claus.

Recommended Campground: Lake Rudolph Campground-RV Resort 

“Lake Rudolph is a nicely themed campground, right in line with the nearby town, Santa Claus, IN. It is conveniently located beside one of the best theme parks in the midwest, Holiday World.” — The Dyrt camper Rick B.


Shameless plug:

The Dyrt is a FREE app solving the pain of finding campsites online. Like Yelp for camping, you can find the perfect campsite for you with photos and reviews from real campers across the country. And if you write reviews, you can WIN free outdoor gear all summer long.

The post 5 Christmasy Towns in the U.S. and Where to Camp Nearby appeared first on The Dyrt.

For the Hunter: A Holiday Gift Guide

No matter the type of hunting, you’re sure to find a suiting gift in this list that will enhance the outdoor hunting experience.

For the Hunter: A Holiday Gift Guide

Whether the hunter in your life is prepping to step into the field for the first time or a seasoned expert, these hunting gift ideas cover a variety of disciplines to ensure a thoughtful gift choice.

Gift categories include Female, Whitetail, Upland, Backcountry, and Waterfowl.

Woman’s Wishlist

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Compound Bow: $400

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Compound Bow

The complementing attributes of a bow in a hunter’s hand bring out precision, stealth, and patience. While a firearm can be overwhelming, a bow allows for a more relaxed and thoughtful approach to a tradition of feeding yourself or the family.

Bear’s Archery Cruzer G2 is engineered to maximize adjustability for the end user. The bow comes in at 3 pounds with draw length adjustability from 12–30-inch and a draw weight of 5–70 pounds with 70 percent let off. The bow is perfect for a novice archer to begin and expand as strength and expertise increase.

Buy Now

First Lite Aurora Puffy Jacket: $225

Stepping into the woods without a proper outer insulation option can ruin the experience. The Aurora Puffy is a 16-ounce insulated jacket with 100-gram 37.5 synthetic insulation.

The jacket actively manages core temperature while the cut is specific to a woman’s body. Plus, it allows unrestricted movement when drawing a bow or managing a firearm. A DWR finish gives a degree of weather protection that is appreciated when the rain droplets being to fall.

Buy Now

Danner Sierra 8” Boot: $340

Danner Sierra 8” Boot

From chasing ringneck pheasants through bluestem grass to hiking over mountains for mule deer, the Danner Sierra is a fantastic versatile boot that comes in women’s sizing.

This three-season boot is wrapped with an inner Gore-Tex liner with 200 grams of Thinsulate Insulation and made in the USA. A gift to last generations, this boot can be re-crafted in the Danner factory once the tread runs out.

Buy Now

The Whitetail Hunter

Sitka Fanatic Jacket: $400

The Fanatic Jacket is by far the top engineered whitetail hunting jacket to wear while in the treestand. This Berber fleece includes a Gore-Tex Windstopper barrier to calm those sharp Midwestern winds that chill down to the bone.

Features in the jacket include specifically mapped out Primaloft Silver Insulation for maximum insulation effect, diagonal zip to block chilling winds, zippered front muff for hand protection from the cold, magnetic range finder pocket, grunt tube pocket, and a safety harness pass-through port.

Buy Now

LaCrosse AlphaBurly Pro: $150–$190

alpha burly

Leaving behind no scent trails is a hunter’s ambition while entering hunting areas. The LaCrosse AlphaBurly Pro is a built out, scent-free rubber boot up for the conditions. The boot is available in a variety of colorways and insulation options to match your hunting style.

A thick EVA midsole adds comfort and an embossed liner increases air circulation. The adjustable rear gusset is a finishing touch that lets your foot into the boot without bunching up your pant. The AlphaBurly Pro is available insulation free and up to 1600g for protection in the coldest hunts.

Buy Now

NiteIze INOVA T10R Flashlight: $400

NiteIzeInova T10R Flashlight

Pierce the night more than a quarter-mile away with—count ’em—3,500 lumens of LED light. The rechargeable NiteIze INOVA T10R runs up to six hours on full blast, and 95 hours on low. Besides high and low, it features SOS, strobe, variable dim, and momentary high and strobe modes. Plus it’s shock-, crush-, and water-resistant.

Nearly every hunter needs a flashlight. Stow this in the truck for emergencies, or to light a kill site for game processing.

Buy Now

YETI Rambler 26oz: $30 (holiday sale price)

The 26-ounce Rambler bottle is a universal gift that most anyone can enjoy. The double-wall vacuum insulation keeps drinks or meals at a maintained temperature for as long as you can endure the elements in a treestand.

For the hunters, we recommend a red, olive, or black DuraCoat color to match natural coloring. A holiday sale currently has the Rambler at 25 percent off.

Buy Now

The Bird Hunter

Filson Shelter Cloth Strap Vest: $225

The Shelter Cloth Strap Vest by Filson is a redesigned classic upland vest. This adjustable vest fits snug for early season warm hunts and expands out for precise placement over laters for the mid-winter snow covered upland fields.

The vest includes a classic design with two shell pockets, one rear game pocket, and two front game pockets. The materials include the renowned Filson 11-ounce Shelter Cloth with cotton webbing with blaze orange accents for field safety.

Buy Now

Gerber Take-A-Part 8″ Game Shear: $15

When the hunt is over and the processing begins, the Gerber Take-A-Part Game Shear is the tool to have. This Gerber product works wonders for all small-game and fish cleaning.

The 8-inch shears are built with high-carbon stainless steel blades, glass-filled nylon handles, and are encased in a ballistic nylon sheath. This tool also separates into two pieces with ease for cleaning and sharpening. The Gerber Take-A-Part Game Shear comes with a lifetime warranty.

Buy Now

Farm To Feet Ely Medium Weight Mid-Calf Sock: $25

The age-old joke of receiving socks as a gift becomes null and void after experiencing Farm to Feet’s products. A built out hunting and fishing sock line includes options for any hunting pursuit. For bird hunters looking to cover miles while their beloved pointer is on the chase, the Ely Medium Weight option is a great choice.

Thermoregulation is a primary function for hunters covering ground with natural wool materials. The Ely is an advanced hunting sock. It has merino wool with copper fibers in the heel and toe to combat stink-causing microbes. Full density padding through the entire sock maximizes comfort and allows for that last hedgerow walk.

Buy Now

The Backcountry Hunter

Duckworth Vapor Hoody: $110

Duckworth Vapor Hoody

Specific layering for thermoregulation is a top priority for backcountry hunters. The Vapor Hoody from Duckworth is a lightweight option that excels in a myriad of conditions.

This 100 percent Montana grown and made-in-the-USA piece reduces body odor after hiking miles to the hunting destination and is ultra fast at drying. The hood is an effective barrier when the chilled mountain thermals start moving. A versatile piece that is equally at home in spike camp or shoveling snow in the driveway.

Buy Now

Platypus 4.0L Gravity Filter: $120

Platypus 4.0L Gravity Filter

The Platypus Gravity Filter is a must-have when setting base or spike camp near a water source. The filter system delivers 4 liters of filtered water in a hands-off 2.5 minutes. Simply scoop water, connect the system, and let gravity do the work.

This lightweight filter option is perfect for solo or group trips. The included filter has a lifetime of 1,500 liters of water, which breaks down to 375 filtrations. When it’s time to pack up, simply empty the reservoirs, roll the thin bladders up, and pack the system into its space-saving supplied pack.

Buy Now

Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort Insole: $50

Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort Insole

A hunter’s top priority is to take care of their feet when hiking miles into the backcountry. While most backcountry hunters are minimalists and a fully loaded pack can be heavy, this is especially true when packing meat out with loads easily reaching over 80-plus pounds.

Superfeet created an insole to accompany your favorite hunting boots. The Trailblazer Comfort Insole features the widest and deepest heel cup that offers a maximum level of support and positions soft foot tissue to help with shock absorption.

Buy Now

Waterfowl

Duck Commander Triple Threat: $39

Duck Commander Triple Threat

The Triple Threat call from Duck Commander is built to produce nasally and raspy calls that a Mallard Hen would sound. The polycarbonate material houses the triple reed system with a friction fit.

This call will assist the novice’s efforts and has a place on the lanyard for an expert duck caller.

Buy Now

Sitka Callers Glove: $99

Sitka Callers Glove

The Callers Glove is a Gore-Tex-wrapped innovation inspired from field and blind sits. The glove is sold as a single, allowing one hand to be kept free for calling and trigger control.

While sitting in a lull, the top of the glove has a Berber-lined muff pocket to place your free hand in. This well-thought-out product is a perfect gear addition to enhance your time in the blind.

Buy Now

Banded Redzone Insulated Wader: $329

Banded Redzone Insulated Wader

When it comes to insulating gear, a quality pair of waders is a top priority for waterfowl hunters. Banded has introduced the Redzone Insulated wader for comfort ratings from -10 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Banded engineered these waterproof waders for unrestricted movement with reinforced knee and seat areas. The waders are finished with a 1,600-gram insulated boot. Perfect for nearly all waterfowl hunting applications, from blind to hiding in the water-filled timber.

Buy Now

The post For the Hunter: A Holiday Gift Guide appeared first on GearJunkie.

8 Essential Pieces of Gear for Winter Hiking

Sunshine and snow, frigid temps and icy trails, those never-ending patches of mud … Winter certainly isn’t the easiest time for hiking adventures on mountain trails, but with a little help from Mother Nature, and the right gear, it’s one of the most rewarding seasons to be a hiking enthusiast. Check out these 8 essential pieces of gear to sweeten up your cold weather hikes.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra 

When it comes to wintertime hiking, the most game-changing piece of gear on the trail is a good pair of crampons, like Hillsound’s Trail Crampon Ultra. This flexible and lightweight design easily and securely fits over your hiking boot of choice, creating necessary and unparalleled traction to keep you moving on the iciest of trails. The Trail Crampon Ultra also comes with a two-year warranty and a convenient carrying bag. $69.95; hillsound.com

Mountainsmith Halite 7075 Trekking Poles 

It’s easy to forget how helpful trekking poles can be until you absolutely need them, which more often than not, is only for brief stretches of rugged trail. Not only are Mountainsmith’s Halite 7075 trekking poles available in men’s and women’s-specific designs, they’re easy to adjust the fit to achieve maximum performance for different body types, and fold down to a mere 16 inches when not in use. $79.95; mountainsmith.com

Helly Hansen W Odin Muninn Pant 

Ideal hiking pants for winter excursions should be warm and functional, yet comfortable and easy to move in. For the ladies, Helly Hansen’s W Oden Muninn Pant is just that. Made with a durable 4-way stretch and water and wind repellant fabric, these pants provide protection from the elements, without slowing you down. $190; hellyhansen.com

Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell Trouser 

For men looking for a great pair of pants to hit the trail in, Fjällräven’s Keb Eco-Shell Trouser is a technical three-layer trouser designed for year-round use. Made with a breathable wind and water resistant stretchy eco shell fabric, the Keb Eco-Shell trousers are about as durable as they come. $400; fjallraven.us

 

Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer 

Warm, moisture-wicking base layers are essential for outdoor adventurers in the cold weather months, and Smartwool is making some of the most comfortable and technical base layers around. Smartwool’s warmest base layer is made with a soft Merino 250 fabric, and comes in men’s and women’s sizes. $105-$130; smartwool.com

The Northface Ventrix Jacket 

Consistently layering up and delayering on the trail is a major buzzkill, but The Northface’s Ventrix Jacket eliminates the need for wardrobe changes every time the temperature changes. This jacket is warm, water-resistant, and made with a dynamic Ventrix temperature-regulating ventilation system that retains and dumps heat as you need it. Available in men’s a women’s version. $199; thenorthface.com

 

Fits Medium Hiking Socks 

A good pair of technical socks is important for any hiking adventure, but absolutely necessary when hitting the trails in the winter. For a cushiony, proper-fitting, warm and  comfortable sock, check out Fits Medium Hiking Socks. $21.99; fitssock.com

TomTom Adventurer GPS Multisport Watch 

As the days get shorter, it’s more important to monitor your location on the trail to make sure you don’t get caught lost on the trail after dark. TomTom’s Adventurer GPS Multisport Watch provides real-time GPS and barometer tracking information like altitude and 3D distance, and captures heart rate and calories burned while doing so. $349.99; tomtom.com

The post 8 Essential Pieces of Gear for Winter Hiking appeared first on Elevation Outdoors Magazine.

5 Tips to Go Backpacking on a Budget

We get it: backpacking can be expensive. But you don’t have to shell out a lot of cash to get outside this weekend. Follow these tips to hit the trail for less.

Hiking on a budget doesn’t have to be tough.

Buy used. Check out your local consignment shop for base layers, jackets, and shoes, or look for hidden gems like tents and backpacks at a yard sale. No consignment shops in your town? Check out craigslist, geartrade.com, or the Mountain Equipment Co-Op Gear Swap.

Clean out the attic. Chances are, mom’s external frame pack from 30 years ago still works. It’ll be heavy, but you’ve always wanted stronger quads, right? Dust off the cobwebs and give it a whirl; you might even get a compliment on the trail. So retro!

Join the club. Sign up for a co-op membership to get a discount every time you shop, as well as other perks like members-only events and opportunities to give back to the community. In addition to REI Co-Op ($20 lifetime membership), several lesser-known ones like Mountain Equipment Co-Op ($5 lifetime membership) and Gear Co-Op (free membership) offer great value.

Stay close to home. Long drives can amount to a lot of money spent on gas, and you don’t need to truck across state lines to have a great adventure.

Get cooking. Instead of paying a premium for fancy dehydrated meals, buy in bulk and package your own food ahead of time. You’ll save money and packweight, and you’ll likely reduce your sodium intake. For meal planning inspiration, check out BACKPACKER’s recipes and the AIM Adventure U Backcountry Kitchen course. 

For more in-depth tips, lessons, and backpacking inspiration, check out the AIM Adventure U Backpacking 101 course. Buy it once, and you’ll have unlimited access to course materials, so you can keep the learning juices flowing year after year.

Dos Palmas Preserve

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  • Location: Riverside County, northeast of the Salton Sea. From the Salton Sea State Recreation Area near the town of North Shore on Highway 111 (10.8 miles southeast of Mecca and 67 miles north of El Centro) head east on Parkside Drive for 1.8 miles. Turn right onto Desert Aire Drive, go 0.4 mile and bear left onto Power Line Road (dirt). Follow Power Line Road for 0.6 mile to Dos Palmas Road (signed on Google Maps as Sea Breeze Drive). Bear right and follow this road, also dirt (but passable by all vehicles) for 1.7 miles to a metal gate. The trail head and small parking area will be on the right.
  • Agency: Bureau of Land Management/Palm Springs Office; Center for Natural Lands Management
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: October – May
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on hot days)
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Vault style toilets at the trail head
  • Camping: None
  • More information: Trip description here; Article about the geological and seismic history of the area here
  • Rating: 5

If you’re looking for a hike that’s about as far off the beaten path as you can get in So Cal, the Dos Palmas Preserve is your spot. Under the radar (and below sea level), Dos Palmas is likely to be deserted even on winter weekends when Joshua Tree National Park is filled with tourists. For many visitors, this trip will likely be a long drive for a very short hike, but you can also visit the Salton Sea, the Mecca Hills Wilderness or any number of other unusual destinations in this area and make a day trip out of it. You can also add two miles to this hike by visiting the Dos Palmas Oasis, although some may find the flat hike along a dirt road tedious.

The trip described here visits the San Andreas Palms which are named after the (in)famous fault line. It is thought that activity along the San Andreas Fault has created the springs that feed this oasis and the Dos Palmas Oasis a mile to the east. The San Andreas Trail leads from the parking area across the desert plain, taking in vast views on both sides. In 0.3 mile, you cross a service road and enter the oasis. Some of the palms have been cut and fire damaged but there are still enough to provide some shade. The trail meanders through the grove before rejoining the service road. Turn left and follow the road 0.1 mile back to the previous junction, where you’ll retrace your steps to the parking area. If you want to continue to the Dos Palmas Oasis, head east past the gate on Dos Palmas Road.

Dos Palmas Preserve, Mecca, CA
Start of the San Andreas Trail
Dos Palmas Preserve, Mecca, CA
Mesquite bush at the Dos Palmas Preserve
San Andreas Oasis, Mecca, CA
San Andreas Oasis palms
San Andreas Oasis, Dos Palmas Preserve, Mecca, CA
Among the San Andreas Oasis palms

Text and photography copyright 2017  by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Otso Makes Fat Biking More Fun And Injury Free

Otso Voytek
The Otso team on our winter bikepacking mission.

Photo by: Meyvn Creative

A couple of years ago, the engineers that brought you Wolf Tooth Components set out to find the next niche product they could improve upon. After one of their colleagues ended up with buggered knees from riding his fat bike, the team had their objective — how to deliver a smaller q-factor on a fat bike. The result? Otso Cycles.

As tires and wheels sizes grew over the past few years, bike geometry grew with it, bringing wider chainstays, increased hub spacing, wider bottom brackets, and larger q-factors (the distance between the pedal attachment points on the crank arms, when measured parallel to the bottom bracket axle).

With a wider pedaling base, your knees are more likely to drive inward towards the top-tube, leading to misalignment and injury down the road. You also use different muscles with a wider pedaling base, so when you switch from your road or mountain bike to a fat bike, it takes you weeks to build up leg fitness using this new muscle recruitment pattern. For reference, one of the reasons Eric Larsen had to abandon his Antarctica solo fat bike mission in 2012 is because his knees hurt so bad he could hardly pedal anymore. So it is definitely an issue.

This larger q-factor not only impacts your body, but also impacts the handling of the bike as well as traction potential in snowy conditions. By completely redesigning the fat bike so that it can deliver a q-factor similar to that of your mountain bike, Otso gets around all these issues.

The Otso Voytek features a carbon fiber frame with spacing for up to 4.6-inch tires. You can choose between a rigid and suspension fork, and during the summer, throw on your 29er wheels and use it as a mountain bike.

The other unique feature on an Otso fat bike is the Tuning Chip system that provides 20mm of chainstay length adjustment, along with subtle changes to the bottom bracket drop and head tube angle. The change can be done in only a couple of minutes and will affect the riding characteristic such as going from fun and nimble in the shortest position to stable in the longest to power through deep snow and sand.

I had the chance to ride an Otso Voytek in Crested Butte and loved it. Lightweight (the top of the line build comes in and just over 21 pounds) and nimble, it felt like I was riding a mountain bike.

The Otso Voytek fat bike retails for anywhere from $3000 to $8000 depending on build. You can purchase them from the company website and the team is also super eager to help you settle on the right bike.

Bar Mitts Cold Weather Pogies Review

Bar Mitts can be used as cold weather pogies for regular trekking poles in cold weather. (Sleeves rolled up for illustration purposes only. )
Bar Mitts can be used as cold weather pogies for cycling or regular trekking poles in cold weather. (Sleeves rolled up for illustration purposes only. )

Bar Mitts are cold weather pogies used by cyclists to keep their hands warm in cold weather. While they’re available for many different bar and shifter combinations, the straight bar version of Bar Mitts designed for mountain bikes can also be used as pogies for regular-handled trekking poles. Made with 5 mm Neoprene, Bar Mitts protect your hands from wind and create a micro-climate that lets you use lighter weight gloves in winter, both on a bike or on foot when used with trekking poles. They’re a nice solution for people who have habitually cold hands outdoors and can help reduce the number of gloves you need to carry in winter.

The idea for using Neoprene pogies with trekking poles is not new. I first encountered it with Pacerpole’s OverMitts in 2013, makers of the ergonomic gripped trekking poles that I prefer to use year-round. Like all winter hikers, I’ve struggled with the problem of winter glove layering and developing a system that minimizes the number of gloves you need to carry, since they get wet from perspiration or come into contact with snow. I found that using Neoprene overmitts lets you use a lighter weight and more breathable glove, so your hands sweat less and stay drier longer. They also also let you use a higher dexterity glove in crappy conditions where you’d be forced to use a low dexterity glove otherwise.

Bar Mitts are available in many different sizes, styles (corresponding to different handle bars and shifter combinations), so you want to be sure to get the ones for straight bar mountain bikes if you want to be able to use them as I show above. Be advised that you can’t lean heavily on your pole straps the way you might normally because the mountain bike version isn’t really sized for it. Bar Mitts does make a version of the Mitts for XC skiing poles and Snowshoe poles and they might be a better solution for you.

Of course, if you’re a cyclist and you don’t know about Bar Mitts, get some! They make it possible to keep your hands toasty in winter and are a complete godsend. The Mitts are sized by the size of the gloves and jacket you intend to wear them with, since your sleeve ends tuck into the ends of the pogies.  They have a zipper on one side that makes it easy to slip them onto your handlebars, with velcro tabs to seal in the heat and reinforce the zipper.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds.

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