Versatile. That’s how our East Coast tester described Brooks Range's four-way stretch, water-resistant Isto softshell jacket. He spent 100 days last winter and spring skiing, hiking and ciimbing in snow, rain, slush, sleet, freezing rain, some more snow, sun, blue skies, and any other weather conditions you can think of from Quebec to Colorado in this jacket and gave it a rave review.
It’s cut a tad short, which was a bonus as far as our tester was concerned. “It never felt confining or constraining—it kind of fits like a great shirt,” he reported. “The stretch fabric was supremely comfortable in all conditions: when I wore the Isto as a layer on cold days—it fits great under a hard shell, as a skinning layer on medium temperature days—it was super breathable with enough wind resistance to keep me comfortable, and as my outer layer on spring ski days, it wasn't too warm, and proved itself very durable run after run in tough trees.”
Oregon-based companies—Danner Boots, an outfit that has been dedicated to quality craftsmanship for more than 80 years, and Tanner Goods, a group of young designers and craftspeople—have collaborated on a new boot as part of Danner Stumptown’s collection.
Called the Mountain Trail Left Bank, the boot is
named after the building that houses the Tanner Goods workshop in both brands’
Danner Stumptown boots, the Mountain Trail Left Bank is 100 percent USA-crafted
in Danner’s Portland factory. The boots are lined with leather, mirroring Danner’s original Mountain Light Trail
design that dates back to the early 1970s. They feature authentic components
and materials—rich Horween Chromexel leather from Chicago, gunmetal hardware, a contrast
midsole and a Vibram Gumlite outsole. And each pair of boots comes with both cream and
evergreen laces, and will ship with a special Tanner Goods key fob.
Package deals aren’t always winners, but this one is. To
celebrate its 100th birthday, Stanley—celebrated manufacturer of insulated
mugs and bottles used around the world—is giving you a present. It’s a stainless steel, vacuum-insulated travel mug that slides inside a leak-proof, BPA-free water bottle, meaning that you get a
pair of drinking vessels for about the same price you’d typically pay for just the mug.
Tires have been a major headache for me this season. Early on, every time I went out I had a flat tire of some manner—often a sidewall slash from our desert Southwest rocks. I spent a lot of time whinging about the state of bike tires, and the more I talked the more I heard others complaining, too. So I decided to try and find some solutions.
Over the past six months, I've ridden almost two dozen tires in search of that subtle mix of traits that turns average rubber into your favorite ride. What I've found is that almost no tire on the market has it all: light weight, durability, great traction, low rolling resistance, and a reasonable price tag. But I've settled on a few models that score high in most of those categories and compromise well on their weaker sides. As for methodology, I (along with half a dozen other testers) have simply ridden the heck out of every tire that's come in, tossing out the ones that flat or fail or just feel bad, and continuing on the ones that hold up. I've tested entirely tubeless and mostly on 29er wheels (mix of Stan's, Specialized Roval, Easton, and Mavic), though a handful of tires have also gotten 26 time on Shimano XTR wheels.
Presenting my favorite four tires for fall, none of which have flatted for months. I know, now I'm almost certain to flat on my next ride.
MAXXIS ARDENT Coming from a racing background, I've been a skinny tire devotee in the past (frequenting WTB Nanos and the like), but a long discourse with Jeff Jones about big tires and rolling resistance and deflection persuaded me to give the 2.4 Ardent a chance. And good thing, because this fatty, one of the widest 29er tires you can get, has become my hands-down favorite. It's as big as it says it is and weighs 800 grams, which is hefty but hardly corpulent for the girth. The mid- to wide-spaced chunky knobs grabbed best in dry to moist dirt and loam, though they tend to skitter a little in sandy and loose conditions. They make up for any slipperiness, though, in sheer size and strength, with a balloon-like round profile and sidewalls so thick they seem impervious to almost everything. I have ridden the same tire for six months in a dozen XC and endurance races, including a couple with brutal rock sections that went on for miles and miles, and not only did the Ardent shrug it all off, but the tire still has plenty of life. One note: The 26-inch 2.4 is just as good as the 29er, and the 29-inch 2.25 is also pretty good, though lacks a bit of the sidewall robustness of its bigger brother.
Gear Tester Andrew Forsthoefel has just finished his cross-country walk. It took him nearly a year. At approximately 2,000 steps per mile—he’s had plenty of chances to count—Andrew has taken more than six million steps on his way from Pennsylvania to the Pacific.
Forsthoelfel sent us notes on his shelter from the high desert of Arizona. "The Navajo reservation land is beautiful, it’s harsh, and it’s all dust, sand, and rock," he shared. "I like it, even if there aren’t any trees for shade and even though the towns are few and far between. Because of the distance between water-refueling spots, I’m normally walking 20-plus miles each day, sometimes 30-plus. These long hours are putting my body through the ringer: dry cracked feet, burnt brown skin, aching legs."
Before Forsthoefel left, we set him up with an MSR Nook Tent, specifically designed to fit in small and/or awkward spaces. Here's Forsthoefel's report on his home away from home: