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8 Summer Yoga Essentials

There’s 420-friendly yoga. There’s co-ed naked yoga. There’s yoga California Chrome could love. There’s even yoga that includes a beer chaser. No matter which you choose, you’re likely to need some gear to practice.

We looked high and low for the latest and greatest in yoga mats, bags, and outerwear (for you prudes who don’t go au naturel). Here are our findings:

Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Tee ($64)

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Similar to the now sold-out Assert Tech Short Sleeve Tee we raved about in a recent review of Lululemon products, the Metal Vent Tech Short Sleeve is one of our favorite T-shirts by virtue of the cut alone, which is athletic while not being skin-tight. Put simply, it's damn flattering. And that goes for body types ranging from Cat 2 to Clydesdale. Thanks to anti-stink technology that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria, the only funk that flows from you will be from your earbuds.

Manduka LiveOn Mat ($58)

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New to yoga? Released on June 4, the LiveOn is the perfect first mat because it’s lightweight, and at 5mm, it’s relatively thick (your knees will thank you for this in poses like cat/cow and dolphin). Plus, that joint-saving foam is 100 percent reclaimable and recyclable. Looking for something a bit thinner? A 3mm version is slated to go on sale this September.

The North Face Be Calm Tank for Women ($38)

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More affordable than most, this staple from The North Face is a poly-blend built from recycled fabric that wicks. And it’s cut long enough to reach the top of even the lowest of low-riding yoga pants.

yogitoes We Are One Collection Skidless Yoga Towel ($64)

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Whether you’re down with hot yoga or you just sweat a lot, this skidless yoga towel will save you from a saturated and, therefore, slippery mat. Silicon nubs help with grippiness, which you’ll appreciate in trikonasana and warrior poses when you're squeezing your inner thigh muscles and pushing down on your feet.

Much more absorbent than regular towels, it also dries quickly in the sun. Pro tip: the little nibs go face down. Keeping them face-up is the yoga version of wearing a bike helmet backward.

Yoga Sak ($50)

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Minimalist and multi-modal? Check out Yoga Sak. The fourth generation of this bag stows your mat vertically and is complete with a retractable pouch to make sure heavier mats (like the Manduka PRO) don’t slide out the bottom. 

And for hot-yoga-inclined people, the company also offers a wet bag ($10) for any sweat-drenched clothes. One drawback? The cell phone pocket is too small for an iPhone 5, Nexus 5, or Galaxy S4.

Prana Sutra Pant ($70)

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Although most running and climbing shorts translate well to yoga, the Sutra is our favorite full-length pant. Available in three lengths (30”, 32”, 34”), they’re built from a blend of hemp, polyester, and lycra. With an inseam gusset, front pockets, drawstring waist, and relaxed fit, the Sutra is the Levi’s 501 of yoga—a classic.

Manduka GO Free Backpack ($120)

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Pedaling to yoga is the best. You get a warm-up and another excuse to ride your bike. But carrying a mat can be tricky: if you put it into a traditional backpack, it’ll hit the back of your helmet, testing even the most enlightened yogi’s equanimity.

Save your sanity with the GO Free that secures your mat with quick-release buckles and is big enough to haul a laptop (in a padded sleeve), a few bike locks, and change of clothes. There are also internal pockets for pens, tools, and a pad of paper, plus several large external pockets.

Lululemon For The People Short ($68)

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Although you can practice yoga wearing an old Radiohead T-shirt, shorts are different. Go with a pair without four-way stretch and you’ll be able to blame your clothing for keeping you out of half-pigeon. Go too baggy, on the other hand, and you’ll show too much when you’re upside down.

The tapered For The People were designed for yoga and are sweat-wicking, breathable, and knee-length. Plus, the breathable fabric feels good on your skin.

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Tour Tech

It's not just about the bikes at the 2014 Tour. Many companies use the world’s biggest race to unveil all manner of gear. And why not? Stick a racer in your helmet, shoe, or jersey, and if they win a stage or place well, you can claim your product helped. We can’t verify all of that, but here are a few of the new things we’ve seen that we like.

Giro Empire SLX ($350)

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Lace-up cleats have made a bit of a comeback in recent years, in part thanks to American Taylor Phinney’s affinity for them. The original Empire was already lightweight and trim, but Giro has pared the shoe down further for the new SLX version. With an even trimmer EC90 SLXII carbon outsole and a highly ventilated Teijin upper, a size 42.5 SLX weighs just six ounces—about the same as a large banana.

Bell Star Pro ($240)

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Aero road helmets have exploded since Giro launched the first-of-its kind Air Attack two years ago. Bell’s Star Pro is a bit different than most because it uses a system that allows riders to either close or open the vents, improving aerodynamics or ventilation respectively. Bell says that in wind-tunnel testing, the Star Pro had the least drag of any of its aero competition (the Specialized Evade and Air Attack among them), while it was cooler than the average road helmet with vents open. Some models will include a sun visor, which attaches with built-in magnets. 

Rapha Climber’s Jersey ($225)

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This jersey, worn by Team Sky, takes lightweight to an almost ridiculous level. The open-mesh body fabric is so lightweight and gossamer that the garment comes with a warning tag that it must be worn with sunblock for safety reasons. It is, indeed, extremely comfortable on stuffy days, and as with all Rapha apparel, the fit and tailoring is just right. The locking zip, which keeps the jersey secure with the thob down but allows for quick cooling with just a tug of the fabric if the thob is up, is a nice touch. And though we have nothing against Team Sky, we do wish this jersey was available in a non-Team edition for less-conspicuous riding.

Louis Garneau Course Superleggera 2 Jersey ($160)

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Ironically, after typing that about wanting a non-branded version of the climber’s jersey, the Course Superleggera 2 showed up, and it’s mostly cut from the same gauzy fabric used by Rapha, which Garneau calls Kite Mesh. An extremely sheer Lycra covers the upper chest and shoulder blades, a material that Garneau uses in order to add a Cold Black treatment for UV protection. This one also has a neat, laser-perforated elastic waistband, and it’s nominally lighter than the Rapha—90 grams for a size medium. Wisely, Garneau is opting to offer it to the public in options other than the cash green of Europcar, which, in Rapha’s defense, isn’t nearly as fetching as the Sky design.

Oakley TDF Eyeshade ($200) 

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Remember those giant, ski-goggle-esque glasses that Greg Lemond, Andy Hampsten, and all the cool kids wore back in the ‘80s? They’re back, courtesy of a Heritage line by Oakley. The resurgent Eyeshades (as well as two other models, the Razorblades and Frogskins) come in three lifestyle colorways (Seafoam, Black, and Fog), as well as a Tour-de-France edition that has white frames adorned with a color swatch to match the three jerseys of the Tour. And yes, there are some pros actually wearing these.

 

Shimano CM-1000 ($300)

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Those paying close attention might have noticed a few riders with cameras mounted to their bikes. For the first time in history, the UCI has approved the use of these electronics at the Tour, and Shimano has placed a number of its new CM-1000 with sponsored teams. The diminutive device sports an f2.0 lens that records in 1080 HD, and it’s also ANT+ and WiFi enabled so it can talk to a host of devices, including Shimano’s new Di2 transmitter, power meters, and smart phones. Shimano is hush hush about what it plans to do with any video it might collect, but footage from the Tour de Suisse in June has become a bit of an internet sensation.

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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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