End-of-summer gear ideas
Special to the Tribune
Labor Day — which falls on Monday, Sept. 7 — unofficially marks the beginning of fall, and a slower way of life in South Lake Tahoe. Autumn in the Sierra Nevada also means fun for gear hounds, as they begin sniffing out deals and planning end-of-season adventures.
Check out these gear ideas before heading on your the next paddling, running, biking or hiking trip.
Ride Like a Girl
Liv/Giant Lust Advanced (www.liv-cycling.com)
Giant now has a women’s specific brand — Liv — and the Lust is its cross-country race rig that does it all. With 650 cc wheels, a carbon frame, 100 mm of travel on a Fox fork and a slick paint job that manages to look pretty and badass at the same time, the Lust is an eye-pleaser. I tried the Advanced 2 ($3,600), a step down in components and carbon grade from the top-of-the-line Advanced 0 ($8,500).
This bike is quick and agile, rolling over rocks and skimming around switchbacks with ease. For a trail bike, it climbs well thanks to the light frame, but the relaxed geometry certainly keeps it from being put in the mountain goat category.
The verdict: A great all-around women’s bike in the 650 cc category. Hardcore cross-country riders might consider a few pricier post-purchase upgrades, but most riders will love this ride. It’s a lot of bike for your buck, but we did wish that Liv had provided an option somewhere between $3,600 and $8,500.
— Melanie Wong
A river board for the mountains
Jackson Kayak SUPerCharger SUP (www.jacksonkayak.com)
With the explosive growth of stand-up paddleboarding, many are starting to ask, “What type of board should I get?” And just as there are so many places to paddle, there are an equal number of choices when it comes to boards — not only in design but also materials. There are inflatables, composite and plastic as well as a handful of new materials that are beginning to be used in the industry. For river running, I use a Jackson Kayak SUPerCharger. It’s perfect for a variety of different uses.
For starters, the SUPerCharger is designed to be stable, durable, versatile and affordable. The extra width and thickness of the board provides stability and flotation in aerated whitewater. In addition, the deck of the board is designed to shed water and resurface quickly. This translates into less wobble and easier paddling. The durability of the SUPerCharger comes from its rotomolded construction. It is built out of the same material as whitewater kayaks, which can take a beating.
The verdict: SUP is growing quickly and for obvious reasons. Try the SUPercharger, and you will be bitten by the stand-up paddleboard bug as well.
— Ken Hoeve
Love for your feet
Wigwam socks (www.wigwam.com)
According to Wigwam, its socks contain both hydrophobic and hydrophilic fibers, resulting in a material combination that pulls moisture out of the bed of the sock and releases it out of the top of the sock. The seamless toe closure promises a blister free experience.
The socks are made in the USA and have a very impressive two-year warranty.
I especially like the cool colors these socks come in for women, such as fuchsia and vibrant purple. I put two of these socks to the test over various mountain bike rides, ice climbing on glaciers and all-weekend (read: with one pair of socks) camping trips.
The Snow Whisper Pros ($16) are great for those chillier mountain nights, for those that want to keep warm in their tent or hiking on a cool day.
My favorites were the Ultra Cool-Lites ($14), which despite being a thicker sock, didn’t make me overheat in 90-degree weather. However, they did come up to mid-calf, causing some minor ankle bunching, and I prefer my riding and running socks to be a little lower for that reason.
The verdict: The sock’s wicking capabilities live up to the hype, although I’d reserve these for cooler weather as opposed to a blazing hot summer day. Also, they provide high quality for a very reasonable price.
— Melanie Wong
Motorola Talkabout two-way radios / Olympia external battery with dual solar charger panels (www.motorolasolutions.com / http://www.olympiaproducts.com)
Two words: “Come back.” In a world of a thousand ways to send a message, it seems pretty easy. But I recently encountered some scenarios where a two-way radio was the only way to do it — in areas where cell phones don’t work.
The Motorola Talkabout T460 ($89.99) was perfect for use on a float. It boasts a range of 6 miles on open water and that’s plenty for most floats. The radio’s IP54 weatherproof design was more than enough for the splashing of the whitewater, and the clip and hands-free function worked great for the high action of my stand-up paddleboard, which required two hands.
On another occasion, we were camping and biking for a full weekend, and throughout the trip, we didn’t run out of batteries. But we were preparing nonetheless back at our campsite, where our Olympia external battery with dual solar charger panels ($59.95) was charging in the sun. That is, until it started hailing. We returned to the campsite to find no sun whatsoever, but the Olympia had handled the weather just fine and even managed to get one bar charged in the sun before the clouds rolled in.
The verdict: The extra bells and whistles — NOAA radio service at all times, a built-in flashlight and customizable call tones that sound like actual bells and whistles — make the Motorola Talkabout T460s as an absolute must-have item for adventuring mountains. The Olympia solar charging external battery has a built-in micro USB cable as part of the device, which just happens to be exactly the port the T460s need to charge. Having the two together gives you a great feeling of security in the wilderness.
— John LaConte
For fly fishing purists
“Simple Fly Fishing, Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel” (www.patagonia.com)
In an age when hundreds of companies are touting products that help you to travel the extreme reaches of the Earth, it seems Patagonia has demonstrated a real connection to the planet they’re helping you explore.
This year, Patagonia is encouraging you to get back to the basics of fly fishing with their new book, “Simple Fly Fishing, Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel” ($24.95).
It stresses the point that the more you know, the less you need, and reminds anglers that the sport is about your connection to earth, water and fish, and not “high-tech gear, a confusing array of flies and terminal tackle, accompanied by high-priced fishing guides.”
It gives a lot of meaningful instruction, but what I enjoyed most about the book were the stories interwoven into all that instruction and how they related to the overall theme. The book often points out what we can learn from the observations of children. Craig Mathews tells us of experienced anglers learning proper dry fly tenkara technique from a 6 year old, and Mauro Mazzo brings us back to his childhood days in Italy, when he came upon the realization that fly fishing must be a simple sport if he could do it with poor casts and a fly he picked out because he liked its color.
The verdict: While fly fishing books are a dime a dozen these days (plus $2.99 shipping), this one calls out everything that is wrong with the sport while offering a path back to the purity of man and fish. I would definitely recommend it as a great coffee table book for anyone interested in the sport.
— John LaConte
Designed for action
Garmin XE action camera (virb.garmin.com)
Ever want to know how fast you’re rolling? Well, amid a dozen other really cool gauges, Garmin’s action camera also has a built-in speedometer.
I’ve used it frequently, and have found its mounts easy to fasten to anything along with a rugged camera that doesn’t require an external case. For reporting from the field, I’m really looking forward to using Garmin’s newest camera, the VIRB XE ($399.99), with its improved audio capabilities. The new VIRB X and XE action cameras boast a new microphone for extremely clear audio — even underwater — and Bluetooth Audio connectivity for Bluetooth-enabled headsets or microphones.
These cameras will be great for moto users out on the trails as the VIRB X and XE utilize internal sensors like the high-sensitivity GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope to track movements in real time and are compatible with Bluetooth-enabled on-board diagnostic tools to capture true vehicle data like speed, RPM and throttle position.
The camera is also waterproof up to 50 meters and doesn’t require an external case for underwater shooting.
The verdict: This camera is touted as being “designed for action” and indeed it does have an impressive array of capabilities to live up to that claim.
— John LaConte