Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The curse is broken... Thank you, safety gear!

I am not a snowboarder. I am uncoordinated, and I generally hate snow, winter and the feeling of my feet dangling in the air as I hang from a cable. I grew up 45 minutes from two or more ski resorts, and I never set foot on a slope until last weekend.

Couple this with the knowledge that I know more people who have broken bones on the slopes than engaging in all of the other dangerous hobbies I know combined. In the last two seasons, two of my good friends obtained wrist fractures (including a fellow Adventure Woman). I knew when I decided to try snowboarding for the first time that extra precautions would be necessary...

While discussing the probability that I would be spending the majority of my day on my rear, a friend suggested wrist guards. Obtaining these was not unlike searching for the Holy Grail. I drove around Atlanta for two days hitting every outdoor and sporting goods store on the map, before finally caving and heading to the edge of the city to a specialty ski shop, Rocky Mountain Ski and Patio, where I picked up a $20.00 pair of Dakine wrist guards.

My ultra-cautious two-day quest for safety gear paid off in more ways than one. While I fell a total of somewhere between fifty and a thousand times, my wrists are completely intact, and were not even sore when I hit the climbing gym on Monday. My friends and I watched person after person (all with far greater skill than me - hell, they probably even left the bunny slope!) leave the mountain limping or otherwise damaged, but I was not one of them. The second benefit was unexpected but very welcome - they kept my hands warm! My borrowed gloves were completely saturated from about an hour into the day from all the falling, to the point that they dyed my hands blue, but my hands remained warm. My hands are never warm. This is a big thing.

Cons: They make it slightly harder to put your gloves on. Also, you're that dork among your friends that would rather wear extra safety gear than end up in a cast for 6 weeks. (Wait, that's not a con...)

Overall rating: A.

(Note: While Rocky Mountain did have the item I was looking for, at a price that was not outrageous, I have to point out the lack of knowledge of the staff. The saleswoman who assisted me, when I asked how the wrist guards worked, instructed me to put them on backwards, despite all common sense notions to the contrary. Please be advised, should you choose to wear wrist guards, which I suggest highly, that the plastic piece should be on the underside of your wrist...)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

high country in the not-so-high country (atlanta)

I often speak of my preference for smaller retailers (vs. the Big Box Guys), and try to make it a habit to support smaller companies whenever I can (especially when they happen to be stellar outdoors people). That said, I am admittedly long overdue in reviewing the folks over at High Country Outfitters.

They have, in my experience, exemplified every reason I tend to cite as my motivation for sticking with the locals:
• Great, fantastic, fabulous customer service
• Experienced and honest advice about gear and outdoor activities
• Supportive of, and involved in, the local community
• Solid products that they firmly stand behind

In a nutshell, I trust them to lead me down the right path. But I'm sure you want the long story of it:

I've now had multiple points of contact with High Country: I chatter with them on Twitter, I've shopped in their store, and I've attended their events both in store and elsewhere. I've always had a positive experience with them.

I just bought a chalk bag for my newest activity, climbing, and got tons of advice from two of the salespeople about which one to select. I asked "Why?" many times, and got well thought out, rock-solid advice about what I needed, as well as encouragement and information about where I should go play. When I purchased a locking biner for rigging a vertical cave a few months ago, I got out-of-the-box thinking about which would best suit my needs and I've been quite satisfied (Seriously, try asking for a drunk-redneck-proof biner and see what happens! Not your standard question by any stretch). 

They also tend to host and sponsor great events. (I recently attended their showing of the Reel Rock Tour and a fascinating lecture with Ken Kamler). Cheap yoga on Sunday mornings, gear rentals, trips & instruction, fundraisers...the list is endless.

No, they don't have the same return policy as REI but I've yet to find anyone else who does. Their policy is still what I would consider quite reasonable at 60 days and the suggestion to call them if you still want to talk about it. And, no, they don't carry every brand. I have a friend who was recently looking for a very low end brand of climbing shoe for her entry pair (and could not find it there). This all goes back to them stocking gear they really stand behind, which is what I expect from most boutique retailers. 

Thanks, guys and gals, for showing folks how it's done.

PS> For those folks not in ATL, you can order from them online.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

cozy and warm

Most folks in the Southeast (and elsewhere) are experiencing record lows and brutal temperatures these days. I ran this morning and can tell you it's the kind of cold you feel deep within your bones; I was glad I didn't check the Weather Channel's site until after the run (to find out it was something like 18, feels like 8). BRRRR.

That said, I found a nifty little companion on a recent trip, and after this morning's run I think it's my civic duty to spread the word. Namely, I picked up a "Turtle Fur Neck Gaiter" in a tiny, wonderful outdoors shop in Dillon, CO, admittedly because it was orange and soft. Also because, as mentioned in many other posts, I have a tendency to get and stay cold and I'm always looking for new tricks. (Yes, I also have the tendency to adore products with really strange names.)

That little "neck gaiter" you see pictured above rocks. A lot. The warmest part of my body this morning, by far, was my neck. And it's sooooooo soft. So fabulously, non-irritatingly soft. My sensitive skin was not at all unhappy. And, bonus, this is a cheap accessory. I think we're all glad when we get some relief in the budget department, yah?

I like especially that it's relatively small and lightweight (2.1oz!), and something I can easily take off when I actually get too warm but don't want to shed a full layer. And did I mention how soffffft it is? yeaaah...... :-)

Their company website is about as goofy as their name. You can also use Google Shopping to find these.