The Outside Blog

Skiing and Snowboarding : Gear

Duckworth WoolCloud Snap Shirt

In the winter, we can’t get enough of these insulated wool snap-down shirts. They’re way more streamlined than many Stay-Puft-Marshmallow jackets, which means they wear well out to dinner, and they layer neatly under a storm shell when the forecast delivers wet, sloppy slush instead of light, dry flakes.

The Duckworth WoolCloud Snap Shirt caught our attention not only for its good looks. Launching this fall, Duckworth’s tailored collection of wool apparel is made entirely in the United States by the founders of former wool fashion apparel brand I/O Bio.

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Follow Duckworth’s manufacturing process and you’ll see that it’s unlike the majority of wool-apparel makers, which source their wool from Down Under (most often Australia or New Zealand), send it to China to be turned into clothing, and then ship it to the U.S. to be sold.

Duckworth has beat this manufacturing process by sourcing all of its wool from the Helle sheep ranch in Montana and then sending it to the Carolinas, home to some of the few remaining textile factories in the U.S. The climate of the Rockies in Montana—hot, dry summers paired with freezing winters—nurtures wool that’s not only soft and breathable, but is naturally more crimped than other wool on the market, aiding its durability.

A jacket that can handle the trail but looks tailored enough for a dinner in Aspen—and is 100-percent American? We can’t think of a better package.

$200, duckworthco.com

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A Guide to the Summer's Best Flip-Flops

It's summer's most casual shoe, but that doesn't mean you should settle for the drug-store variety. These flip-flops range from the $24 sunbathers' special to the $110 Birkenstock for hiking up a volcano, then heading to the bar afterward. Keep your feet happy with our 11 favorites for whatever adventure you decide to go on.     

Cushe Manuka Wrap ($70)

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Best for: Minimalists
This soft, full-grain leather flip-flop comes with a cupped suede footbed that breaks in well with wear to conform to your foot. The molded-rubber sole has a Manuka honeycomb design with canvas pressed into it for added durability and support. The sectioned sole isn’t restrictive, and makes walking in these as close to barefoot as you can get with shoes on.

Columbia Women’s Suntech Vent Flip PFG ($35)

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Best for: River Rats
These flip-flops are made for river trips, with drainage ports that effectively shed water and also help cool your feet. The cushioned sole was supportive, but not overbuilt, and the colorful straps added a fun pop to most outfits. Bonus: even after being submersed in water, they didn't get soggy, and they had surprisingly good traction on wet rocks.

OluKai Holomua ($90)

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Best for: Hikers
Developed in partnership with the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, the adjustable-strap Holomua is technical footwear made for working professionals. Made for hiking through sharp volcanic rocks, its patent-pending, injected-plastic midsole plate is lightweight but protective. Micro hook-and-loop closure and an aluminum buckle let you dial in fit so you don’t lose them in a swell.

Sanuk Tiki Block ($24)

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Best for: Loungers
Sanuks’s Tiki Block is light on technical features, but heavy on comfort and smiley faces (hundreds of which are embossed into the EVA sole). The rubber strap is comfortable, and the sole will last longer than the drug-store version of a simlar shoe.

Ecco Colin Thong ($90)

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Best for: Party Animals
The closest thing to a dress flip-flop we’ve seen, the Colin has a distressed leather strap and lining. It’s perforated for breathability, with a microfiber footbed that won’t trap sweat. The direct-injected polyurethane sole won’t compress as quick as an EVA midsole, and of all the flip-flops we tested, this one offered the most support.

Teva Original Flip ($30)

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Best for: Raft Guides
Teva was the first to make technical flip-flops, and its Original is still a great buy. The nylon-webbing strap serves as a spot of color above the textured EVA topsole that molds to your feet as you walk. I found these shoes had the grippiest outsole of any other flip-flop I tested, not surprising considering these were originally designed for raft guides.

Chaco Reversiflip ($60)

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Best for: Travelers
The Reversiflips have everything you love about your Chaco sandals—good arch support and durability—but you can swap out the straps (which takes about a minute) whenever you want. The shoes come with black straps; colored straps are sold separately ($20). Choose from green/purple, blue/orange, and pink/yellow solid and print packages. They’re the only pair of shoes you’ll need on your next vacation—pack the right straps, and they’ll match any outfit.

$60 for the shoes; $20 for the straps.

Birkenstock Habana Oiled Leather Como ($110)

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Best for: Hippies
Birkenstock slip-ons have been a hippie staple since the 1960s. But it’s not just because they were the first sandals with structure. Birkenstock’s cork and natural-latex footbed is contoured to improve your posture and take stress of your back and knees. A toe bar gives your digits something to hold onto—grip and flex your toes to improve circulation and your balance, according to Birkenstock. 

Propet Harrison ($70)

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Best for: Recovering Athletes
Walking involves half of your body’s muscles and bones, along with numerous joints and ligaments. And if you’re suffering from any injuries, you could be putting additional stresses on certain parts of your body doing even this simple activity. Enter Rejuve’s sandals, whose topsole is designed to improve your posture, stabilize your gait, and supposedly reduce joint pain. This Nubuck leather thong has sweat-wicking neoprene lining in the upper and a cushy EVA midsole over a high-traction outsole.

Combat Flips Tuck Tuck ($70)

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Best for: Do-Gooders
Combat flip-flops aren’t designed for covert beach ops. The company was founded by a veteran who wanted to create job opportunities for entrepreneurs in areas affected by conflict. Afghanistan’s loud, flashy taxis inspired the bright-colored Tuck Tuck, which was made in Bogota, Columbia. Red, green, and blue with yellow stitching, it’ll get some attention. The Tuck Tuck has a cowhide leather deck and thong, a medium-density EVA midsole, and sturdy rubber tread.

Freewaters Scamp ($40)

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Best for: Sore Soles
The best thing about the Scamp is the squishy, springy, shock-absorbing Therm-a-Rest footbed. Bedroom slipper comfortable, the ribs massage your feet as you walk. The Scamp footbed absorbs some water when submersed, but take a few steps and it squeezes out. I found the soft webbing straps never chafed the top of my foot.

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Track Your Gluttony—and Lose Weight—with Jawbone’s New UP App

Fitness trackers (those little wearable pods that seem to be on everybody’s wrists or in everybody’s pockets these days) do a pretty good job keeping track of your activity levels and estimating your caloric burn. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better than nothing. The thing is, they can only see half the equation. It’s good to measure calories out, but what about calories in?

Well, an update to the Jawbone UP app for iOS is adding a bunch of new features to help you keep track of what’s going in your food-hole. For those who don’t know, the company's UP (and the more recent UP24) are among the more popular wrist-worn activity trackers out there.

Now, Jawbone's iPhone app will support easy search for food items. You just punch in what it is (hard-boiled eggs, for example) and the quantity (three, medium-sized) and it will be added to your food log, which will keep track of your daily intake of calories, protein, fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other metrics.

What’s more, the app will come pre-populated with a database of menu items from popular restaurants across the country (mostly chains). This means you’ll be able to plug in an In n’ Out Double-Double to get the number of calories, rather than have to enter all the components individually (patties, buns, cheese, etc.). For smaller restaurants, you’ll have to add stuff in manually at the beginning, but as more people use the app, more menu items will be saved to Jawbone’s database, which means items will continue to get easier to find.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. MyFitnessPal has been around for a long time (in both web and app versions) and has built up quite the database of food—over three million items as of now, mostly user-generated. That’s going to be hard to compete with. Also, MyFitnessPal already integrates with some very popular fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Withings, and (curiously) even the Jawbone UP.

Where Jawbone may have an edge, though, is in the design. The app simply looks terrific. There are several layers of polish that MyFitnessPal just doesn’t have, which makes it cleaner and a whole lot easier on the eyes.

The company has also built some neat intelligence into it. For example, if you enter in cereal, it knows you’re likely also going to want to add milk, so milk pops right up, eliminating the need to search for it. It has created pairings for several dozens of food (many of which you can see in this interactive map), and that, combined with the smarts to learn some of your favorite meals, may make logging your food a quicker, easier process.

Creating a food journal is one of the most powerful weight-loss, fitness tools out there, but it’s notoriously tedious and tough to stick with. Anything that makes it easier is certainly a welcome change. The biggest downsides to Jawbone’s new app is you need to own an UP or UP24 device to use it, and the new version has not yet been released for Android.

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goTenna

Wouldn’t it be nice to communicate directly with the other members of your party without having to rely on shaky cell service or WiFi?

Thanks to goTenna, a new communications device that launched Thursday, you can. The rugged off-the-grid tool pairs with your iPhone or Android via BlueToothLE to enable users to send and receive text messages (160 characters max) and share their GPS locations. It’s a bit like a super walkie-talkie with a range of up to 50 miles, depending on terrain.

The big bonus: it only costs $150 per pair, with no subscription fees. Field radios or sat phones can cost 10 times that.  

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It’s a nifty, affordable solution to communication in the backcountry where you rarely have reliable cell service. Say everyone in your hiking party is on the system. It would be easy to relay messages between the group, even if you got separated on the trail. Or a guide could use the device to make sure all her clients make it safely back to base camp.

As handy as goTenna might be on a backpacking trip, it was initially conceived as a tool for emergency situations. Founders (and siblings) Daniela and Jorge Perdomo came up with the idea during Hurricane Sandy when millions of people across the East Coast were left without electricity or Internet. They realized people needed a way to communicate even when cell towers were down.

goTenna could also be used while travelling abroad (forget expensive, convoluted international phone services), or anywhere on-the-grid where it’s easy to lose members of your party (think music festivals and soccer stadiums). 

The gadget has one major limitation: you can only send and receive messages from other goTenna users. You won’t be able to send an emergency text to your girlfriend back home if she’s not on the goTenna network.  

So is it about to replace all our backcountry emergency communication devices? No. But is it a game-changing tool for the majority of us who hike without $1,000 field radios or travel without international phone plans? Absolutely.

Pre-order for $150, gotenna.com

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6 Beach-Ready Essentials

Instead of that old-school boombox, consider throwing a powerful water-resistant speaker or high-tech action camera in your beach bag this summer. Check out these six sand- and sun-resistant products guaranteed to make your hot summer nights even more fun:

Canon PowerShot D30 ($330)

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Go ahead and dive up to 82 feet below the surface with this 12.1-megapixel pocket camera. The tough outer shell can withstand drops on the dock up to 6.5 feet. The killer feature? Perfect for beach-goers, the screen uses a new LCD screen that’s viewable even in direct sunlight.

Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell ($230)

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Don’t dip your toes in the water unless you have the tunes to play in the background. This durable Bluetooth speaker is water- and splash-resistant (not waterproof), plays music at a loud 110 decibels, and connects to your phone or tablet from up to 30 feet away.

Quiksilver Rashguard ($40)

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This smart short-sleeve shirt has a hidden feature. Although it looks like every other T-shirt you’d wear to the beach, it uses a new Rashguard tech with a UPF 50+ rating for sunblock. The entire line includes long-sleeve shirts, swimming trunks, and surf shirts.

Miir Growler ($59)

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Not every water bottle is beach-ready. Not so the Miir Growler, which uses a unique clamp system that keeps sand and other residue from building up at the lip. The double-insulated shell keeps cold drinks cold for about 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours.

Sprint Kyocera Hydro Vibe (Free with contract)

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A few years ago, companies started offering so-called “waterproof” phones. The Kyocera Hydro Vibe actually lives up to the claim—it can be submerged down to 3.28 feet for 30 minutes. The 4.5-inch screen is also crack-resistant and the phone wards off dust and sand.

Plantronics BackBeat FIT ($130)

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This Bluetooth headset, which is splash-resistant and durable, comes with a neoprene armband to hold your smartphone on your arm while you lay out at the beach. The headset lets you control music and answer calls with a quick finger press.

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