Vasque Erikkson GTX Boots
Uh-oh… The new boots from Vasque arrived the day before we were heading out on our gear testing trip, a three-day backpack in the North Cascades. No time for break-in. As it turned out, no need. The brand new Vasque Erikkson GTX boots set the bar for comfort. Combining rigidity to support long hikes over rough terrain with a heavy load and cushy foot-friendly fit, these boots deliver superb performance and light weight at only 3 lbs., 3 oz. A full-grain leather upper, a GORE-TEX® liner, Vibram® Summit sole and polyurethane internal foam around the ankle combine to make the Erikkson GTX an excellent choice for backpacking. And of course, they’re breathable and waterproof. Vasque has a well-deserved reputation for manufacturing the kind of boots that hikers fall in love with. With the Erikkson GTX, they’ve achieved a new pinnacle of performance.
More info: vasque.com
Brenthaven BX2 Focus Convertible SC Camera Bag
As a backpacker who carries a significant amount of camera gear, I have used many systems to manage the double load. Over the years, a variety of camera bags have made my life miserable. Until now. The Brenthaven BX2 Focus Convertible SC bag is the best camera bag that I have encountered. Even without deploying the external lens case, it’s big enough for my DSLR with two lenses and accoutrements and is well padded all the way around. This ruggedly-built bag is surprisingly light (2.2 pounds) considering the protection it offers and with both a waist and shoulder strap, it’s versatile. While carrying a backpack, I wore the BX2 on my waist with the shoulder strap slung over my neck to distribute the weight. The rain cover – packed in one of three external pockets – was bomb-proof in various downpours although the contents are difficult to access when the cover is on. I guess the thinking is that you won’t want to access the camera in the rain, which – for me – isn’t always true. But this small quibble aside, I love this bag! And in terms of quality of construction, the BX2 Focus Convertible SC – like everything that Brenthaven manufactures – is made to last a lifetime.
More info: brenthaven.com
Sasquatch and Yeti Bars from Avenue Bread
I have eaten a lot of energy bars in my life. Few have been consumed with enthusiasm. Energy bars tend to be a necessary evil, a mostly joyless way to throw some fuel on the internal fire. No more.
Bellingham-based bakery Avenue Bread has introduced a pair of snack bars that are so good I find myself eating them at home. The Sasquatch Bar (so named, according to Avenue, to honor the fact that Whatcom County is an official Sasquatch Refuge Area) and the Yeti Bar are now available at select locations around Whatcom County. Created with local recreationalists in mind, these scrumptious treats debuted at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, where they sold like hotcakes. And no wonder. These babies are made by hand out of rice, oats, fruit, seeds, nuts and peanut butter. Brown rice syrup is used instead of corn syrup and brown sugar replaces white. And they’re packed with protein – the Sasquatch has 12 grams and the Yeti has 13 grams.
According to Avenue, these bars were created for “anybody who wants an elevated experience for the mind, body, and soul.” Sound like hyperbole? Wait until you taste them.
More info: avenuebread.com
Benro Travel Angel II Tripod
Tripods are a contradiction in terms. When you’re carrying them you want them to be light as a feather and when you’re using them you want them to be rock solid. Benro’s carbon fiber Travel Angel II C1682TV1 does a masterful job of uniting these opposites. Benro sells this as a package – legs and ball head – and it weighs only 3.45 pounds and folds up to less than 18 inches long. It’s a joy to carry. Carbon fiber construction makes it light – and does a better job of eliminating vibrations than metal. And in the field – with the wind blowing – it anchored my Canon DSLR and 300 mm lens, no small feat. It also converts to a monopod/walking stick and has a built-in bubble level. The ball head is user-friendly, with an adjustment to regulate the tension, a nice touch.
More info: benrousa.com