Adventure Mom’s Gear Review

On this blog, we want to not only share our pup’s adventures, we want to provide helpful information for others who like adventuring with their four-legged family members. This includes gear reviews!

Before venturing out on our three-day backpacking trip at Wilson Creek, Adventure Mom (that’s me!) knew it was time for some updates to her gear. Specifically, hiking shoes, socks and warm-weather friendly clothing.

img_3768.jpg

Sawyer is ready to help review some gear!

The Boots

Growing up in an outdoor-friendly family, hiking boots were a wardrobe staple. We were an L.L. Bean family, so, naturally my boots came from the Bean. I absolutely loved when my feet grew and I was able to pick out a new pair from THE catalogue. It was a huge deal, and I practically had the catalogue memorized. Now, my mother was insistent on mid-height boots to prevent twisted ankles and snakebites. A solid justification that I never ever ever once questioned. Until now. You see, when I was a kid we did most of our hiking and camping trips in the fall, when it was cold(er). Having mid-boots made sense – they kept my ankles secure, snake-bite free, and warm.

About a year ago, when the Mr. and I started getting into more frequent trips, I finally switched out of my L.L.Bean-obsessed phase and purchased a pair of Lowa’s. These things are fantastic, and I highly recommend for WINTER. They are nubuck leather, waterproof, and just all-around good, sturdy boots. The problem? They are heavy. They are warm. And they are a pain to lace up.

img_3102.jpg

Hot day? Hot feet.

I finally came to the conclusion that they weren’t cutting it for our year-round adventures, and decided it was time to test out some lows. I’ve always heard good things about Merrell, and after scouting at our local outfitter, Great Outdoor Provision Co., REI and reading countless online reviews, I decided to go with the Merrell Moab Ventilator.

img_3757.jpg

Who needs Louboutin’s when you can have these beauties?

Lucky for me, these suckers were on clearance so I was able to snag them for under $60. WIN! After three days and about 18 miles covered, I can say that these boots are perfection. I have zero cons to report, all pros!

  • Toe box is wide enough for my weird feet (NO blisters!)
  • No breaking in: I took a stroll around our neighborhood before our trip, but like most low boots, you really don’t need a “breaking in” period
  • Breathable, yet still sturdy enough to make my feet feel secure on the trail (take that, snakes!)
  • Lightweight: seriously, did not realize how heavy my other boots were until walking in these for a few miles
  • Quick-drying: there was an, ahem, incident, where during one of the creek crossings we got a bit cocky and decided to not change into our water shoes. Bad choice, as I promptly slipped and got both feet SOAKED. Set them next to the fire and they dried before we went to bed that night.
  • Cute: yes, this is a big factor for me. Go ahead and judge. I don’t feel like I have giant blocks strapped to my feet, and they are “normal looking” enough to where I feel like I can run errands in them around town and not look like I’m about to climb K2.
img_3879.jpg

Campfires = nature’s Maytag

The Socks 

Now that I had new lower boots, I needed new lower socks. Up until about a year ago, I would have rolled my eyes had someone suggested I spend $20 on a pair of socks. They are SOCKS. That’s INSANE. Although I still think the price is ridiculous, they are oh-so-worth-it. Socks can make or break a trip, trust me. This seems like a no-brainer, but fit is super important. I have always had trouble finding socks that fit because I have tiny feet (I range between a 5 and a 6, depending on the brand), so I used to just grab whatever white cotton socks were in stock. THIS IS BAD. DON’T DO WHAT I DID. Now, I have to order most of my socks from Amazon since most stores only stock medium and up. You always want wool, and for longer trips or heavier packs, you want cushion. (I used to think that wool = hot, but in truth, wool is your best friend in all types of weather. Plus, it dries super quick, and dry feet = happy feet.)

My favorite brands are Smartwool, Farm to Feet, and Darn Tough. I do own a few REI-brand socks, and those work great too! I wasn’t sure what height would be most comfortable, so I bought one pair of low socks and one quarter height (both Smartwool).

On the left: Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Ultra Light Micro Socks (Black) Small and on the right: Smartwool Women’s PhD Outdoor Light Mini Socks (Glacial Blue) Small

I wore both during our trip, and they both have their pros and cons:

  • The Run Ultra Lights: I love the way they look, they are light and breathable. I was concerned they would allow my boots to rub, but they didn’t! I would not recommend these for longer trips or whenever you are carrying significant weight. They don’t have enough cushion for that, and it is easier for dirt to get inside your socks and boots.
  • The Outdoor Lights: These are your more traditional socks for hiking. The heel and toe cushion is oh-so-nice for backpacking. They provide a good bit of support, are warm, and the height is good to prevent dirt from getting in your boots. The only drawback is that they are a bit too warm, so for this trip where the temps were hovering in the high 70s / low 80s, my feet were a tad uncomfortable.

Overall, it’s a trade-off. With the better support and cushion, you get more heat. With the lower profile you get the breathability but lose the cushion. Ultimately, I’m keeping both socks and will probably alternate depending on the weather and the length of the trip!

img_3963.jpg

The Pants

Ok, I admit it. My “hiking outfits” two years ago consisted of yoga pants (or jeans), a t-shirt and boots. I didn’t see the need to invest in hiking clothing, because what I had worked just fine, thankyouverymuch. Oh, how wrong I was. Now words such as ‘quick dry,’ ‘wicking,’ and ‘SPF’ get my immediate attention.

In summers past, I would hike in yoga pants. I realized for this trip I’d need something that would keep me cool, but were also quick to dry. I hate hate hate shorts, and it was going to be way too hot for hiking pants. I went to REI and found these North Face Capris that seemed to fit the bill of what I wanted.

img_3780.jpg

After crossing 5 or so creeks and swimming in one waterfall, the verdict is in! I’d give these capris an A-. They are reasonably priced ($50), dry quickly and are breathable. The ankles have an elastic band that can be tightened to secure the leg, and there is a zippered card pocket, which comes in handy. My one point of concern was that the waistband wouldn’t be “quick dry,” but after getting fully submerged in a waterfall pool I can safely say that the waistband dries out quicker than I anticipated. The “minus” comes from the overall look – they aren’t super flattering for my short 5’2″ frame. Finding capris / pants / anything that fits me “off the rack” is rare, so it’s not a huge deal, but it is something that I always give bonus points for.

FullSizeRender 4

It is my humble opinion that hiking clothes for women still leave much to be desired. For me, I want to be comfortable (first and foremost) but I also want to look somewhat normal. The options seem to be two extremes: on one hand, you have the “living off the land, eating tree bark and bathing in a stream” style, and on the other you have the over-the-top girly neon pink “cutsie” gear. Also, increasing options in fit (PETITE, people! How hard is that?! Don’t just offer “regular” and “tall”!) would be a good start, since so many outdoor pieces are extremely difficult to alter, if not impossible. I’ve seen significant improvements in recent years, but I still feel as though there is a long way to go.

Overall, I was really pleased with the new gear for this trip. It was one of my first overnight backpacking trips, and there were only a few small things I would have changed or left behind to lighten the load.

IMG_3788

Sawyer thinks gear reviews are exhausting!

Up next we will review our trip to Wilson Creek!