Friday, January 8, 2016

Gear Review: shoes, socks, hiking poles (Susan)

Susan shares some gear reviews before the PCT.

Review: Salomon Women's Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe (Amazon Link)

I like my shoes.  Love them, well no, but like them a bunch.

The pluses:
- They are cushioned.
- Once you have the laces adjusted, they are slip-ons.
- Nice assortment of colors.
- Good fit.

The minuses:
- The lace adjustment tends to malfunction.
- They wear quickly.
- They tend to be slippery on rocks.

I have worn Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes for a couple years now.  I have very high arches, and old joints --  knees that are wearing out.  The shoes come with an Ortholite footbed.  I put an insert under the Ortholite that helps keep foot pain away.   The cushion of the shoe makes it possible for me to hike 20+ miles a day.  Very nice.

The shoes have a sliding lace adjustment.  This is both good and bad.  On the good side if I get them perfectly adjusted, I never have to mess with it again.  Just, slip my foot in and out.  Very nice.  Getting them perfectly adjusted can be a bit fiddly.  To do this I first put them on and try to get them in the neighborhood of tight enough, but not too tight.  Too loose and they fall off.  Too tight and they cause tendentious on the tops of my feet.  Once I have them where I like them, I have to tie all the individual lace crosses in place, to keep them from bunching up by my ankles.  When it works, it is awesome.  The rest of the time, not so much.  The big problem is that slide adjustment will jam and no amount of tugging will get it to move. 

The color selection is amazing.  Usually, 6-10 choices.  I am currently hiking in what I term God awful orange.  Hey, they were half the price of the other color choices and after hiking 20 miles, all my shoes turn brown anyway.  Around town I wear a nice purple, blue, and lime green combo.

I can typically get about 500 hiking miles out of the shoes before the lugs on the bottom wear.  This is a gradual thing, but one day I will suddenly think, what happened to that amazing cushioning?  Lo and behold, the lugs on the bottom will be almost gone.  It is easy to know when to replace them.

Performance for on and off trail hiking is very good.  Nice combination of cushioning, light weight, and ruggedness.  On steep granite rocks where my husband will stand up straight and walk down, I tend to crab crawl down.  No upright posture for me as the shoes don’t have great grip and I will start to slide.  This might be the price I’m paying for good cushioning.

All in all a good shoe, but if I was allowed to improve a few things, I would.

Review: Bridgedale Women's CoolFusion Multisport Sock (Amazon Link)

I love my socks. 

Yep, you’re probably saying a review about socks, but socks can make your feet very happy, or not so much.

I’ve worn these socks for many years, although I thought they had been discontinued, and tried other socks for a while.  More on that below.

Why do I love these socks?

- They fit
-  I don’t get blisters
 - I don’t break out
- Long wearing

Let’s examine these one by one. 

They fit.  I know, what a concept.  Socks made to fit women’s feet.  Back in the bad old days, I would steal one of my husband’s pairs of hiking socks.  They would bunch up by my toes.  I would be unhappy, especially my little toes.  My husband would eventually wear them, and stretch them way out.  I would be very unhappy.  He doesn’t even attempt to wear these as they are pink.  O joy.

I don’t get blisters.  Yes, that says it all.

I don’t break out.  So, this one probably needs some explaining.  I tend to break out when I get hot, so high merino wool content socks would turn my ankles into a mass of hive looking things.  Nasty.  I also can’t wear just coolmax, as again I break out.  For some reason only known to alchemists, the Bridgedale CoolFusion Multisport Socks really minimize this.  For those of you who like specs the web says these socks are made from 42% Nylon/ 28% Merino Wool/ 28% Endurofil/ 2% Lycra.

These socks are long wearing.  They don’t get holes in them from backpacking wear.  Yes, I’ve have several pairs with hundreds of miles on them, and no holes.  Overtime, think years here, the “fluffiness” of these socks tends to get less and less, but they are still completely wearable.  They also hold up well over multi-day backpacking trips.  By this I mean, seven days without washing them, and they still don’t give me blisters, and they don’t smell so bad they have to be burned.

Now, why was there a time when I was wearing other socks?  Well, I have worn Bridgedale hiking socks for many years.  They were originally called something like X-Hale Diva, or some such thing.  Then some marketing genius, decided to re-name them and they came out with a new color.  This confused me and caused me to try many, many, many new hiking socks.  I now have a drawer full of socks I don’t like.  Eventually, I contacted Bridgedale and was able to sort out what had happened to “my” socks so that I could buy some more.  They are the same socks I originally loved, with a new name, and a new color choice.

Note:  Bridgedale did supply me with a free pair along the way.  Further note, I have purchased with my own money many more pairs.

Review: Locus Gear CP3 Trekking Poles (Manufacturer Link)

I own a couple of different sets of trekking poles, or as I call them hiking sticks.  Let me start off with a general overview of the concept and then discuss specifics of the two different sticks.  Many years ago my friends started using hiking sticks.  They said --  it helps me go downhill, it helps protect my knees, it helps my balance, etc etc etc.  I said I am young, big lie there, and don’t need them.  Turns out that I was always borrowing someone’s sticks at some point every hike.  I still said I didn’t need them.  My husband bought me a pair for Christmas anyway, and I have never gone hiking without them since.

All those things my friends said are true.  Hiking sticks help improve your performance and help prevent injury.

Leki metal poles, not sure what the model is – these were my first pair of hiking sticks.  Their big disadvantage was changing the length.  They expected me with my minimal mechanical ability to be able to change the height by unscrewing them, re-setting the length, and then screwing them back together.  Or, at least I think that was what I was supposed to do, as I could never figure it out.  If I needed the length changed, my husband had to do it.  What a pain.  Give me a break.  The other negative is they were relatively heavy.  On the plus side, they worked.  They were fairly indestructible.  They had nice hand grips with solid knob tops and sturdy wrist straps making them easy to grip the tops on steep downhills.

Then my gear loving husband found these Locus Gear CP3 hiking sticks.  He bought himself a pair.  He loved them.  He tried to convince me I needed them.  I ignored him.  He bought me a set for Christmas anyway.  Did I need them?  Well, no, my Leki’s worked.  Do they have some big advantages over the Leki’s, yep.  The Locus Gear’s big advantage is it is REALLY easy to change the length.  Just grab the lever, open it, and re-set the length.  Just like that.  No trying to remember righty tighy lefty loosy. 

The other advantage is they are really light weight.  While that doesn’t matter on a short hike, it does add up over a long day or week. 

Are these the perfect hiking sticks?  Well, there are a couple things that you need to keep in mind. There is a set screw kinda thing on the flip locks, and if you don’t make sure it is tight enough the length of the pole will magically get much shorter, usually in the middle of a tricky bit of hiking.  I learned this the hard way.  It is easy to keep adjusted correctly but you need to check it every day.  You also need to check the straps on the hand grips every day.  If you don’t keep them adjusted properly the strap pulls through.  Yes, I learned this the hard way too.  Also, my husband has managed to break a carbide tip on one of his (possible on all hiking poles with carbide tips).  He was able to replace it at home, but in the backcountry that would be a pain.

One last thing, if I was going to make these the perfect sticks, I would make a more substantial place to put your hand on steep downhills, but then this would make them weight more.

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