The Gear Our Editors Loved in March
Hey, spring, didn’t see you there
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Spring comes annually due to the tilt of our planet and the way that it orbits the sun. The days grow longer, buds emerge on trees, and the rays warm our skin—and every year it’s just as sweet. Here’s what the Outside crew used to enjoy the shift in seasons.
Janji Multipass Sling Bag ($50)
You know you love a product if you’re devastated when you lose it. That’s what happened with this sling from Janji: I went into a state of panic when I couldn’t locate it this winter (spoiler alert: I had just left it at my parents’ house). This distress was warranted, though, as it had become my go-to carryall for a variety of activities, including skiing, hiking, and running, both on the trails and during errands around town. Its two-liter capacity lets me pack all the small essentials—on a recent ski trip it carried my lunch, a snack, beanie, sunglasses, sunscreen stick, wallet, and ChapStick—but my favorite feature is the hidden cross strap that can be deployed to secure the pack to my body when it’s in over-the-shoulder mode. Because of this feature, it’s the only sling I’ve ever tested that doesn’t slide around while running or flip over my head when I bend down to tie my shoe. Plus, I’ve received more compliments on this bag than any other. —Kelsey Lindsey, senior editor
Power Tank 15-Pound CO2 Tank ($660)
Airing down—decreasing your tire pressures—is crucial for traction, ride quality, and puncture resistance off-road. But what goes down must come up. The low pressures you use off-road aren’t safe to use on pavement, and filling up oversize tires using a normal compressor can take 15 minutes or more. That’s been enough to discourage me from airing down as often as I should. The solution? Speed. Airing my 34-inch tires up from 15 to 42 pounds per square inch (psi) using CO2 already compressed inside a Power Tank takes maybe 30 seconds a tire. And that time saving enables me to air down more often, ensuring that I’m getting the most traction, ride quality, and puncture resistance possible every single time I drive off-road. Bonus: the Power Tank can be mounted externally, and requires no electrical connection, so it’s easier to carry than a compressor, and more reliable too. Need more air? Any welding shop in the country will fill your Power Tank for just a couple bucks, and the 15-pound canister is enough to last half a year or more of use. —Wes Siler, contributing editor
Smartwool Women’s Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer Long Sleeve ($85)
I’ve been living in this base layer for the past few months. It’s my go-to for ski touring, as it’s lightweight (150 weight) and breathes well when I’m going hard, and it has a longer hem that prevents it from riding up under the waistband of a pack. A snug, flattering fit, cute crew neck, and casual, nontechnical look means I can also wear it out for casual dinners or brewery hangs, too. This one doesn’t sit in a drawer for long—I’m either wearing it or washing it—and it’s survived countless laundry cycles without being worse for wear too (though I do hang-dry it). If I could clone this layer I would. —Gloria Liu, contributing writer
Swiftwick Flite XT Trail Socks ($24 to $27)
As milder March weather melted the snow, I spent most of my outdoor time running and hiking on trails. As a shoe tester, nearly every day I headed out in a different pair of runners, but on more days than not reached for these merino-blend socks. The Flite XT Trails, with their wicking blend of merino and Olefin fibers, worked admirably at keeping my feet dry and reducing friction. But what made them stand out was the slip-resistant fibers in heel and forefoot, which helped anchor my footplants, particularly under the ball of the foot where I feel like I’m always compromising between locking down a secure fit and allowing a natural foot splay. This “micro tread” grip, combined with light compression support around the ankle and arch, made every shoe feel a bit more nimble on iffy terrain. The sock thickness and merino fiber might make them a bit hot come summer, but they’re perfect for the variety of temperatures and conditions of spring. I have two pairs, and re-wore them several times between washes without noticing odor or stiffness. —Jonathan Beverly, senior running editor
Organic Cotton Raw Neck Boxy Tee ($52)
This month, I’ve made a uniform out of a t-shirt from one of my favorite brands for basics, Mate. I have its Raw Neck Boxy tee in two muted tones—sage green and creamy white—and I just keep cycling between the two. Made from 100 percent organic cotton jersey, the shirts are impossibly light and drape like your favorite vintage tee, while a subtle boxy cut feels flattering and modern. Perfect for tucking in or layering over, these shirts have become part of my capsule wardrobe: the pieces I can wear whenever, wherever, and know I’ll be comfortable and look put together. —Abigail Barronian, senior editor
Adidas FastImpact Luxe Run High-Support Bra ($80)
I came of age in the late nineties, when the only sports-bra options for larger chested women consisted of uncomfortably tight racer backs or overly complicated body-armor-like devices with too much coverage and too many straps and clasps. So, as sports-bra technology has exploded over the past decade, I’ve become a connoisseur. And Adidas’s new high-impact offering has me head over heels. Why? The clasp system. All good high-impact bras that accommodate large cup sizes have some sort of mechanism to adjust the tightness of the bottom band, usually in the form of back clasps like you’d find on a regular bra. These are effective, and allow you to loosen the bra for easier on-off. But they only yield a small amount of size range. Plus, reaching behind your back is a pain—literally. Adidas’s ingenious solution: a two-part bottom band with left and right sections that overlap in the back, stretch around the side body and then hook onto fabric loops on the front. Unhook one side to open the bra up wide to put it on without any arm wrestling, then stretch the band around and hook it to one of four loops (you can do this on both sides, yielding roughly two inches of range). All of these mechanisms are low-profile enough to avoid unwanted bulk. Did I mention the straps are adjustable too—or that it comes in the equivalent of a 30 to 46 band and an A to F cup? I have an embarrassing number of sports bras in my dresser, but since this one arrived a month ago, it’s the only one I want to use. —Ariella Gintzler, senior editor
Blizzard Hustle 10 Skis ($800)
I’m a 41-year-old dad with kids, and as such, my backcountry powder days are few and far between. Most of the time I ski whatever snow safely presents itself on the days I’m free. To ensure I still enjoy myself, I recently upgraded to the new Blizzard Hustle 10 skis (102 millimeters underfoot). They’re a good choice for those of us that can’t be too picky with conditions, and they’re a big step above traditional touring skis in terms of stiffness and drivability, while still being significantly lighter than a traditional inbounds ski (the 180’s I tested were a reasonable 7.8 pounds). Over the past couple weeks I’ve happily used them to drive through breakable crust and cruise over icey chunder—I even enjoyed the hell out of them on a pitch of perfect corn. —Jakob Schiller, contributing writer
Crocs All-Terrain Clog ($55)
I recently came back from a couple days of backcountry skiing in Colorado’s Elk Range and noticed that Crocs were the preferred spring après footwear in parking lots. I got my hands on a pair of the new All-Terrain version afterward—and not just to fit in. Like the originals, the ultra-wide, foam-cushioned, and ventilated footbed is a wonderful resting place for tired and sweaty feet that have been crushed in vice-like ski boots for eight hours. And the slip-on design was exactly what I wanted after struggling to get those boots off. But the All-Terrains have a beefed up sole for a little extra grip on snow and dirt, thanks to some firm lugs on the edges. That, along with the adjustable heel strap that allowed me to ratchet them down for a more secure fit, made me thankful I had this in those slushy parking zones. —J.S.
Retül Premium Bike Fit ($400)
The bicycle is hardly a set-it-and-forget-it piece of gear—it’s a good idea to regularly replace tires, brake pads, and even your drivetrain. This fall I discovered another item to add to the list: your fit. One month after turning 40, I started to feel pain in my lower back during rides, and I noticed that my right foot shimmied awkwardly with each pedal stroke. My most recent bike fit was in 2014, when I was 33, childless, and raced regularly. Needless to say, my life has changed, so I scheduled a long overdue appointment with Todd Carver, one of the cofounders of the 3D bike fitting system Retül, based in Boulder, Colorado. The session lasted nearly three hours. Carver asked me a long list of questions about my riding habits (miles per week, racing ambitions, and type of riding I do, and many others). He then measured my flexibility with a digital wand-like tool. When placed in Retüls new proprietary software, this data—my flexibility metrics and my answers—created a set of personalized bike fit parameters based on historical data from thousands of other Retül customers. From that, Carver knew, more or less, what angles my various joints should be at when pedaling a bicycle. Then, similar to my fit from 2014, I got onto my bicycle on a stationary trainer, and Carver affixed Velcro-mounted body markers to my joints. I then pedaled in front of a motion-capture camera, and watched a real-time avatar of myself appear on screen, pedaling furiously. Carver adjusted my seat height, handlebar tilt, and other measurements until my body hit the angles recommended from the off-the-bike assessment. Then, we refined those measurements until I felt comfortable. The motion-capture element has been part of the Retül process since its founding in 2007, but the company’s ability to customize a series of angles for your riding style based on historic data is new. Also new is a funky iPad tool that measures your sit-bones and matches you with the correct saddle width—keenly called the “assometer.” As it turns out, both new elements helped refine my fit. We traded out my narrow saddle for a wider one. We also dramatically raised my seat post and pushed my saddle forward. Finally, we raised my stem by five millimeters and rotated my handlebars slightly upward. The position made it feel like I was pedaling a new bicycle. I’m now riding pain-free, and the shimmy in my pedal stroke is gone. I just wish I had more time to ride and race! —Frederick Dreier, articles editor