Review: The Other Stuff

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, February 1999

Review: The Other Stuff


To counter stiff Caribbean trade winds and muscular prey, saltwater fly fishermen have traditionally cast with rods that feel more like broom handles than trout rigs. Such sacrifice is unnecessary with the BL5 from R. L. Winston Rod Co. ($695; 800-237-8763), a model with a tip supple enough to detect the faintest of nibbles and a backbone stout enough to put the brakes on a 100-pound tarpon. Winston arranged this unlikely pairing by reinforcing the butt of a graphite rod with boron, a natural fiber that's exceedingly strong for its weight; for the paltry heft of a three-piece rod, you get a five-piece. So what, you say? Well, the BL5 breaks down to fit a two-foot case, allowing you to stash it in a carry-on bag and thus to avoid that uncomfortable moment when you must check your high-end gear at the first of four connections to some remote Bahamian isle. Not surprisingly, Winston didn't skimp on the details: Hand-sculpted cork grips give you an extra hour of casting before your hand cramps, and titanium-coated guides provide a low-friction path for your line. Important features all, especially when nothing stands between you and the catch of a lifetime but 50 feet of mirror-still flats. — Will Rizzo

It may sound like an extravagant way to suit up for rambling about in the snow: swaddling yourself in silky Australian merino wool. But SmartWool's new long underwear (bottoms $79, zippered mock turtleneck $82; 800-550-9665) is as functional as it is luxurious. Like conventional wool, this breed both wicks moisture and helps it to evaporate. Unlike the garden variety, however, it also holds its own in the dryer. And thanks to a proprietary treatment that blunts minuscule straggling fibers — the little buggers that give wool its nettlesome reputation — you won't find yourself scratching. Add in finer points such as flat seams and a soft waistband, and you may soon find your SmartWool skivvies a winter habit you won't want to break. — Claire Martin

If your quiver is so large that the prospect of packing a trip's worth of carving equipage into one measly bag seems all but absurd, have a look at the Shaw Ski & Snowboard Bag from K2 ($140; 800-426-1617). Large capacity is its marquee feature: The Shaw holds four pairs of skis, or four snowboards, or some portly combination thereof. Padding on three sides and compression straps inside and out keep your boards safe and snug. To heft such a bulky package — you can load some 100 pounds into the 6-foot-11, 1,200-denier-polyester hauler — two people approach it as if they were pallbearers, hoisting it by padded loops on either end. If you get stuck shouldering it alone, you'll appreciate the smooth-rolling, skate-quality wheels and the protective skid plate to which they attach. It's a worthy bag for minivan owners and indecisive riders alike. — Andy Dappen

Nothing casts a pall over a spirited telemark outing quite like a spiral fracture of the fibula — except maybe a torn ACL. Both injuries are now infinitely more avoidable thanks to the Rottefella TRP-100 binding release plate ($210; 802-658-8426), which transforms any standard telemark mount into a releasing unit with a DIN rating, the same trusty standard used for alpine bindings. Unlike other telly setups, which either don't detach at all or leave you guessing as to when they will, the TRP-100 can be tuned to release at a precise level of pressure that takes into account your height, weight, age, and ability. Drive a tip into a mogul and the plate separates, releasing your boot — with the binding attached — from the ski. Getting back in is a snap: Wedge the top plate's tongue into the base plate from the side and then swivel your heel over the ski. A leash (or brakes, if you're still on skinny skis) keeps errant boards from impaling anyone downslope, and the 14-millimeter lift lets you carve without fear of snagging a boot in the snow. The TRP-100 adds 490 grams to each ski, so you might not choose it for an epic hut-to-hut. But on the other hand, two extra pounds seems a small price to pay to keep your bones and connective tissues intact. — Mark North

Photographs by Clay Ellis

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