Patagonia’s H2No

by Louis

Buying a waterproof jacket that actually works can be a pretty daunting task. Many different brands are out there to pick from. Once you chose a brand do you go with Gore-Tex? Do you go with the companies proprietary waterproofing?

When I shop I look look for getting the most quality for the least money. Who doesn’t? I have owned a
Patagonia Nano Storm Jacket
since winter of 2011. This jacket has served me well and kept me dry. It uses their H2No waterproofing. I liked it so much that I went out and bought a Torrentshell Pullover that uses the same technology. Both have held up in downpours, snow, and misty wet air.


Going with their proprietary waterproofing over the Gore-Tex allows you to spend your money on other goodies. While Gore-Tex does have its place. I would give the H2No a serious look before making a choice. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Going Clipless on My MTB

by Louis

I’ve been avoiding clipless pedals on my mountain bike for a while now. The thought of having my front end wash out without being able to put my foot down scares me a bit! A friend I ride with often has broken his face and his arm before he got used to being attached to the bike by his feet. All in the name of efficiency. That’s dedication. He rides hard and he rides often. He swears by clipless. I decided I needed some more pain in my life so I began the research.  I asked around and I read some things.

I decided the Crank Brothers line of pedals looked the most simple and efficient design. Four way entry, so I don’t have to worry about what side the pedal is on when clipping in. Sheds mud and dirt like mad. No adjustments to screw with. Put them on the bike and you’re done. I had a time trial race at 7PM. I got out of work at 5PM and hit my LBS (local bike shop). I snagged a pair of Crank Brothers Acid 1 pedals. Snagged some Bontrager MTB shoes and got it all set up right before the race. Some of the guys noticed my new setup and asked how long I had been using it. When they found out that I would be using them for the first time during a race, I got some mixed responses. Some high fived me for ‘sacking up’. Some looked worried. Some laughed. But all thought it was nuts.

I won’t say there were no pucker moments due to not being able to pull my foot off the pedal like I used to. These pedals really shined by helping my feet stay planted on the pedals during rooty downhill sections and during hard braking. The added efficiency while pedaling doesn’t hurt either! I ended up replacing the cage pedals on my road bike. I won’t be going back to platform pedals in the foreseeable future. These things rock!

Why I like the Crank Brothers line. It’s simple to pick out which one to buy. They come in a few different models:

Egg Beater – No platform. Less weight. Simple. Comes in level 1,2,3,11/Titanium

Candy- Smallest platform. Egg beater in the middle. Same simple design with some support. Comes in levels 1,2,3,11/Titanium.

Acid – Discontinued for 2012 but the 2011 models are floating around for a deal. Slightly larger platform then the Candy. Came in levels 1,2,3. JensonUSA has the Acid3 for the same price you can snag an Acid1.

Mallet – Largest platform. Good for downhill or for riding while unclipped or riding with normal shoes. Comes in levels 1,2,3.

All come in a few, easy to understand, levels. Pick a model and then decide how crazy you want to get with the options. I personally like the 3 best for the ball bearings and being much cheaper than the titanium versions.

 

Mammut Smart Alpine Review

by Louis

One day I decided I needed to have a GriGri. I started looking into belay devices beyond your average tube style device. I ended up finding that there are more options for auto-locking devices than I thought! I found the Mammut Smart Alpine and decided it would be cool to try out. The fact it’s cheaper than a GriGri and the auto-locking feature is non-mechanical, meaning, in theory there is less to go wrong. Here are some situations I’ve used it in.

Gym Climbing/Top Roping – Works as smoothly as an ATC. Taking the rope through the device goes easily and effortlessly. The device’s auto locking feature is especially nice when your partner wants to hangdog their way up a route.

Lead Climbing – This device is great because it gives a little more of a dynamic catch than the GriGri does. Paying out slack is as easy as using an ATC. Much less of a learning curve than other auto locking devices.

Multi Pitch - The device can also be used like a Petzl Reverso or Black Diamond ATC Guide to belay up a second in auto locking mode. The place this device really shines is that you can use this with twin rope setups or a double rope rappel. Having an auto lock device to rappel with makes things a lot easier. Rapping can be a little jerky at first but it will smooth out with practice.

I would suggest getting a bigger carabiner for this since it is on the wide side. The carabiner I would recommend is the Mammut Bionic Mythos HMS Carabiner. More narrow carabiners won’t allow the device to do the job properly.

Update: It’s been about six months since I’ve gotten this device. I rarely use it. I find myself grabbing for the ATC. I find the device is just a bit awkward and bulky.  I like how simple and small an ATC is. In guide mode my ATC Guide will auto lock as well, so that is what I reach for on multi-pitch. When it comes to picking a nice tube style belay device, my favorite option is the Black Diamond ATC Guide. Get it and love it.

[Climbing] Finding a Partner in Crime

by Louis

I recently wrote a post about why a partner in crime is good to have. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a great way to submerge yourself into a sport or activity.  I’ve thrown together a little list of ways that I network with people who are into the things I’m into. With a little creativity, you can learn from these methods and use them to find partners in almost any hobby you decide to pursue.

mountainproject.com – A forum with tons of useful information. My favorite part about this forum is that they have a list of Indoor Gyms. I was first introduced to climbing through a gym. It’s a great place to hone your skills and get used to being on the wall. They also have a Partner Finder. It is very neat to see how many people are close by.

climbfind.com - A website entirely dedicated to finding a climbing partner.  This site has locations of climbing walls and will help you locate other like-minded individuals.

rockclimbing.com – Similar to mountainproject. It is another forum about climbing. I use both of these forums quite often. They,too, have a Partner Finder as well as a place to Find Routes to climb. Forums are an amazing way to network with other climbers and they have an existing wealth of information. Many new climbers like you and I have gone through the same challenges and had the exact same questions. Do some reading and you’ll find there are many answers to questions you have!

meetup.com - This one is a gem that is VERY easily overlooked. Meetup is an amazing tool to network with people who are into anything you could be looking for. I’ve found groups that go rock climbing together. There are also book clubs, skiers, mountain bikers, wine tasters, or anything you could ever look for. The beautiful part about meetup is this- If you can’t find an existing group that does the activity you’re looking for, create it!

The final tip I have for you is to just hit the gym or the crag. There’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned face-to-face communication. I’ve met many good people while in the gym. Climbers are usually very eager to throw some pointers your way.

Have fun in your journey through the world of climbing. If you have any other tips to network with climbers, I’d love to hear them!

[Video] Life Ascent does Moab

by Louis

Video I shot with my GoPro HD. Got some awesome footage. This is just a peek of what we did while in Moab, Utah!

Are we there yet?

by Louis

A trip can easily turn into a hectic routine of juggling time. Move too quickly and you won’t enjoy yourself. Move too slowly and you miss your schedule and have to cut the trip short. That’s when the pressure kicks in. I’ve found a couple guidelines to travel by that help me enjoy my trips a bit more. They’re not rocket science or a huge secret.

Pushing the extra couple hours to cover a few more miles can put you into sunset and make it difficult to set up camp in the ideal location or find the perfect room! for the right price. You always want to allow yourself extra time to set up home base for the night.  Setting up home base earlier can help reduce stress and make the trip more enjoyable. If you have to stretch yourself the entire time then revising your route might be ideal.

Slow travel is faster. Create realistic goals for yourself. Turn in early to find a room or set up camp. This allows you to save money by finding the deal and you save time by not searching for hours. You wake up earlier and hit the road earlier. Let me know what you’ve found works best to help make good time without caving in to the pressure.

-Lou

Above: A simple shot of camp in the Rockies.

Partner in Crime

by Louis

Sometimes it’s cool to have a partner in crime to go on adventures with. Somebody to help push you to the next level, swap tips with, and chat about the next big thing to accomplish can seriously help keep you motivated. One problem: Finding someone who is into the same things you are.

If someone asked you, “What is Lou’s biggest hobby?” they would, without a doubt, answer “Motorcycles!”. That is, until this past summer. After a huge trip (which I will certainly write about) done on a dual sport motorcycle, I was left a little burnt out. I needed a new hobby to fill my free time. Mountain bikes pulled me in. It only seemed natural. Same idea as motorcycles but without the engine. I quickly went out and bought myself a nice entry level bike.

A month or so went by and I realized it’d be nice to have more than one riding partner. Enter: Cameron. Cameron has been hounding me to try rock climbing with him. I decided to compromise with him. He rides with me. I climb with him. I knew in my head that climbing would suck and it wouldn’t be any fun. It’s not fast, and iIt certainly doesn’t sound like it will give you an adrenaline rush. I imagined crawling around on some rocks like a sloth. Slow and uneventful.

We went to the gym and rented some gear. The belay class went without a hitch. ‘Seems easy enough,’

I thought to myself. The man taught us the simple climbing verbiage.

Me: “Belay?”

Partner: “Belay on!”

Partner: “Climb on!”

Me: “Climbing!”

Perfect. Now I’m a professional. Ready for my endorsements and picture on the cereal box. My first climb was a pretty easy one. I shot right to the top, only grabbing onto ‘jugs.’ Jugs are holds that are super easy to hold onto. It was too easy. I scoffed at how easy it was and just chalked it up to me gaining a mountain bike partner since i tried it. I held up my end of the deal.

After a couple of climbs Cameron suggests I stick to a route. The wall is littered with tons of holds and some of them have a specific color of tape next to them to show a certain route up the wall. This can make things very interesting and way more difficult than just using all the holds available. After a couple of routes, I was humbled. I was quickly reminded that I was not a professional. This added challenge made things way more fun. I was hooked. Needless to say I am still into climbing. it is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a healthy, fun, and unique sport. I am glad Cameron pushed me to climb with him. On a side note. Cameron is enjoying mountain biking almost as much as I enjoy climbing.

You become who you surround yourself with. It’s called the circle of influence. The first thing anyone should do when they want to start a new hobby is to seek out those who are interested. Hit up message boards, ask friends, and best of all, hang out where it takes place.

(N)one of these days…

by Louis

Get up. Shower. Go to work. Come home. Do it over again tomorrow (if you’re lucky). That’s the boring routine most of us have wedged ourselves into. We always get caught up in the repetitive nature of modern life. Why wait until you’re on your death bed to live like you’re dying? The point is to have a story or two to tell when you get old.

We all read about people doing exciting things in books, magazines, and on the internet. Bucket Lists fill up with fun things to do before we die. Things like skydiving, exercising more, and bungee jumping sit on the list, waiting to be completed. “One of these days” means “none of these days”.

What, exactly, is it that we are waiting on? An invitation? I’ve gotten a few invitations from the local gym to come out and join them. I’ve even gotten a couple skydiving advertisements in the mail. Those are as good an invitation as any.

This blog is about how I turned ‘one of these days’ into today. I have every excuse to not do things. I have a kid. I work all the time. Money is tight. And I’m a little intimidated of failure. I’ve taken up a few hobbies that most people think I’m crazy for having. You can follow my successes (and failures) that I enjoy along the way.

I have just begun to cross things off of my Bucket List. I’m interested to find out more things that people want to do before they kick the bucket. Let me know what’s on your list!

-Lou