Monday, February 22, 2010

awesome + awesome = awesomer

I actually stole that title from a Superbowl commercial and wanted an excuse to use it, yet again, somewhere. But seriously...

I snagged this jacket, the Marmot Essence, from a sale rack in Colorado, and have worn it several times in town and in the field. It won't seem to stop raining in the Southeast, so I've certainly had ample opportunity to test it. Quick internet searching tells me it's only available as a closeout on several sites, as it's officially "last season" (I hate it when they do that) and I can't find one for women in 2010. So, lesson learned, snag it fast! I am curious to see if/when 2010's model for women will come out (so far, a only men's version is showing. LAME.)

Things I love:
  • It weighs 7 ounces, so I don't have to think twice about packing it for any of my trips. Even the salesdude in CO was a little blown away by that detail.
  • It does what it says it will.... repels the rain and keeps me dry, and so far doesn't have me sweating profusely on the inside making that icky, mucky, yucky moist feeling.
  • It has a pocket *perfectly* situated for backpacking. I've read some reviews where folks say it doesn't have pockets; it DOES have a pocket, just not on the sides where one might casually place hands on a city stroll. Pockets at the bottom on the sides would be inaccessible with a pack on, but the chest pocket on the front of this jacket is perfectly accessible when I'm on the trail and loaded down/belted in.
  • It has "wing vents" (under my arms) for days I might be particularly...working hard :-)
  • It nicely layers over my clothing. I've layered it over a thin down jacket (liner from my 3-in-1), and I've layered it over 2 base layers and my Marmot windstopper fleece (also thin, but still) and not felt the least bit claustrophobic or restricted. 
Things I don't love:
  • You're going to have to do a little searching to find it, now that it's considered out of season.
  • When I wear it in the city, I don't have a handy place for my hands (get it? har har).

I'll admit, it's the most expensive rain jacket I've ever owned. But so far I'm quite pleased and feel it was worth the investment for a quality piece of gear.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I. Give. Up.

My art teacher in high school had a rule for all critiques that sometimes proved more difficult than others: However much you struggle, find something nice to say about the piece in front of you before you start in on the negative. Often this helped to soften the blow, and make you think about what you were going to say in as constructive a way as possible.

So, here's my nice thing to say: Camelbak bladders are a pretty blue color. And they're lighter than some other hydration options on the market right now. And it sure is convenient to have a tube with water right by your mouth when you're in the middle of a long day on the trail and you don't want to lose momentum. See, 3 nice things.

And.........I'm done. No, really, I'M DONE. I believe that even might be part of what I screamed as I chucked one of my Camelbak bladders into my back yard Saturday morning with the hopes that I would hit something sharp and metallic.

I've been trying to use their products on backpacking trips and hikes for about 1.5 years now, so i think it's safe to say I speak with experience. We're way beyond the classic "3 strikes, you're out" game. I've had not-readily-evident puncture wounds in a BRAND NEW bladder, I've had to cut a hole in a brand new bite valve so I could use it, I've had slow leaks in the back of the car or down my legs as I hike, I've had gushing waterfalls...the only thing I've yet to experience is a frozen valve, but I'm sure that was coming soon as I've talked to many people who have. Add that to stories of broken bite valves, other varieties of slow leaks, and freezing issues *with* their cold weather accessories, and you'll find I'm not the only displeased consumer. I've talked to many folks who share my distaste, in fact.

I'm sorry, but there's nothing funny about an unreliable water reservoir on a multi-day (or even single day) trek. It is downright dangerous. This doesn't even touch the difficulty in keeping them clean; good times, coming back to find you've got a new science experiment even after you think you've done a great job of drying and hanging it for the next trip.

Grade: F for FAIL.