Monday, November 25, 2013

Choose The Right Outerwear For You - Top 5 Hiking Jackets of 2013

It’s that time of year when lists are drawn up for the best performances from products to help give everyone a decent idea of what is best suited to them and with the Blackleaf list of Top 5 Hiking Jackets for 2013 it aims to do the same so come rain or shine you’ll know which is better suited to your favorite walks and treks, or even if you just want a decent jacket to last through your everyday routine.

There are a number of different factors to consider in choosing the right outdoor hiking jacket as some are better suited to winter conditions, some are more insulated and waterproof as opposed to lighter shell jackets that offer water resistance instead and are ideally suited to summery weather. However it can’t always be easy to tell at first glance.  Many have technical features that remain hidden yet manage to help your performance and give extra protection and comfort in certain cases. To find out which is best for you, check out the Top 5:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ready for any trail – the Top 5 Hiking Boots of 2013

You may be looking for the best possible hiking boots as either due to needing a new pair after your favorite old pair has finally worn out or maybe this year the call of exploring the outdoors has led you to buying a first pair but aren’t sure exactly where to start.  It can be tricky navigating through all the brands and models to find the footwear that is most suited to your needs due to certain types being preferable for particular environments and types of trails so Nightgear has put this list together to show the best of this year’s Top 5 Hiking Boots to help you choose the perfect pair.

Columbia Bugaboot Original Omni Heat Boots

These have all the favored style of the classic Bugaboots but have been packed full of technical features making them a decent pair of winter hiking boots in every respect.  The Columbia Omni-Heat technology is comprised of a thermal reflective liner and 100g of insulation which works to effectively keep heat inside so your feet stay nice and warm while the oiled full-grain leather shell, suede upper and pigskin collar and tongue stops any water and works to prevent colder temperatures from getting inside.  Each of the Columbia Bugaboot Original Omni Heat Boots outsole is made from Omni-Grip high traction rubber so even the worst trails won’t stop you thanks to their grip, while the moulded EVA midsole provides all day long comfort so if the weather and the route ahead is tough then these are ideal.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gear Review: Dorcy Headlamp

A while back I was contact by Dorcy to review their L.E.D. Headlamp. Of course being an outdoorsy sort and avid trail runner, I said, "sure, I'd love to give the headlamp a test spin, I'm always looking for a good solution to running trails in the dark". A few weeks later a small pack arrived in the mail and in it was the headlamp and a fresh pack of AAA batteries.

It didn't take long before I had the torch out of the package to fiddle with it. I found it to be very simple to operate. It has a single button with 3 press operation for it's different modes. One press full high power flood, 2 presses provides you with a low power flood and three presses you get a high powered strobe light, perfect for disco dancing.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Race Report: Norris Dam Hard Trail Race 50K - Sept. 1, 2013

The Norris Dam Hard Trail Race 50K was a goal of mine when I sat down earlier in the year and made a list of trail races that I wanted to do. Included in that list was the Dark Hollow Wallow at Big Ridge, and The Panther Creek Challenge. Of course as the year has progressed I've thrown a couple other races into the mix. I guess you can say I've become somewhat of a nut when it comes to trail running, and the further the distance the better.

After taking a week or so off from Panther Creek, I developed my training plan and for 14 weeks leading up to the race, I was running 3 days a week, one of which was my long run which started at 8 miles and crescendo-ed at around 24 miles two full weeks prior to the event. Long and arduous were those long runs, but in the end they definitely paid off.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Gear Needs of a Trail Runner

The needs of a trail runner are few. Namely, shoes, socks, shirt (optional), and underwear. Another optional gear item includes gaiters. They keep all major debris out of your shoes and are a blessing in disguise. However, some trail runs require a bit more logistical planning. My typical weekday morning trail runs are usually no longer than 5 – 6 miles long and really doesn’t require much more than the list above. My long runs however require a bit more thought as they can range anywhere from 10 – 30 miles. We’re talking water, fuel (food, gel, etc.), rain-gear (if you prefer to stay somewhat dry on your run), headlamp(s) (if you plan on running in the dark), etc.

 Here in East Tennessee, we have the blessing of all four seasons. Sometimes spring can be just a couple of weeks, and others it could be a full season complete with warm and cold temperatures. Fall can be the same way here too. Regardless, a trail runner’s needs in each season can and will change.

In the early spring it is still cold as the winter chill lingers in the air. Usually I wear long sleeve running shirts, shorts or sometimes running tights or base layer bottoms (such as Terramar Smart Silk), wool quarter crew socks, and good trail running shoes (currently Brooks Cascadia). Additionally, depending on how cold it is, I might wear a beanie and possibly even gloves but it’s rare as we all know, running generates heat. It’s also important to regulate that heat by dressing in layers because you never know when you might get stuck out there and you want to mitigate the risks of hypothermia.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gear Review: LED Lenser SEO5 Headlamp

When it comes to LED lights, most of the time, they are usually really bright but don't shine or illuminate for very far distances. Most of the LED flashlights we own have this problem and they have somewhere between 3 - 9 LED bulbs in them. The same goes for some headlamps we own. However, I have to say that the LED Lenser SEO5 headlamps is more than just hype. It's LED Illumination at the best I've yet to see.

When I received the SEO5 Headlamp, I was excited to get it out and play with it. After all who doesn't love to play with flash lights? Unfortunately it was the middle of the day and our Wee Little One was up and about. So I was only able to get it out of the package and get quickly familiar with its one button operational modes, how to focus and spray the light, and how to swivel the head of the light up and down (really that was a no-brainer).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Trip Report: A Birthday Hike to Oscar Blevin's Farm

This past Saturday, I celebrated another year of life. In honor of that, I decided that I wanted to go hiking with my girls. The night previous, we hadn't a clue as to where to go. We wanted to make sure that where ever we ended up going, there was a destination for Bug to get down and explore, so that hiking becomes a "Fun" activity for her and something that she'll want to continue to do.

The next morning, we awoke and hung out around the house doing the usual morning routine and overall we were just being lazy. After a little while though, we started to get things ready and packed into the car so that we could head out to go hiking.

The weather was perfect. Mostly sunny and in the mid 70's. We finally hit the road just after noon and decided that we would head up to The Big South Fork NRRA. We had a couple different trails going through our heads, and finally decided that we would hike the Oscar Blevin's Farm Loop. This was a relatively easy to moderate trail that we hadn't done since Kiddo was about 5 or 6. That happened to be the year that we beat a nasty storm front off the trail and watched an amazing light show put on by mother nature. What we didn't realize at the time, was that the light show was a precursor to the destruction that hit the area we had been hiking in later that evening.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gear Review: Osprey Poco Plus Kid Carrier Backpack

Before our Dinah Bug came along, we were hiking mad. We almost covered 100 miles the year before Bug was born. While Robin was pregnant, we covered some good miles up until the third trimester. After she was born, our time on the trail was practically non-existent. How do you hike with an infant. Our answer was, you don't, especially in the winter. After the six month mark though we were getting the itch to get back on the trail. To be honest, we had the itch for much longer, but we didn't want anything happening to Bug and we didn't have a real good carrier to take her on the trail with.

Enter the Osprey Poco Plus kid carrier pack. This was the answer we were looking for to get us back on the trails even though it we knew it would be at our former intensity. We knew 6+ miles were out of the question for now. Neither of us had ever hiked with a wee little one in tote. You may be asking, what about Kiddo? Well I didn't have her out on the trail until she was 3 and that was very shortly after I started to get into hiking, and before I met Robin, so needless to say I was very green, but I digress.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Race Report/Camping Fail: 2013 Panther Creek Challenge

It was the weekend before Memorial Day, and KTC's Treadin' Trodden Trails series was making a stop atPanther Creek State Park for it's annual 10 mile Panther Creek Challenge. This was one of the original 3 trail races I had planned on running this year (To date I've run in 6 and I've still yet to run the last of the original 3 I planned on running and who knows how many more before the year is out). With the Challenge approaching I had the hair brained idea that we could turn it into a weekend of camping, fun right?

Since it was at Panther Creek State Park which was a 2 hour drive from home, it would be awesome to already be at the park on race morning and then have the rest of the weekend to camp with the family. On paper, most of our crazy ideas sound great. However, we've quickly learned that with toddler, those ideas don't always work out the way we plan. Race weekend had finally arrived and I had taken a 1/2 day on that Friday. When I got home, Robin had some stuff ready (another change since our Little Bug came along, Robin would have already had the car loaded and ready to go), so I got straight to helping with the final packing and then loading of the car. After all was said and done, we were packed, out the door, and pulling into our campsite by around 5pm or so.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trip Report: Eleventh Anniversary Hike - Interpretive Trail Loop FHSP

Robin and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary back in April. We didn't get each other anything fancy or what-not, but what we did do, was all the better. Considering I had been out of work for over a month while Robin was recovering from back surgery, our finances were looking a bit thin and well we really couldn't afford to do much of anything. So with the lemons we had we made lemonade by spending the day with our girls, outside.

We decided that since it had been almost a month since Robin's surgery, and she hadn't set foot on a trail since late January, we would head to one of our favorite State Parks and give the mostly pain free feelings a test drive for Robin. We got everything ready including all of Bug's stuff (diapers, bottles, etc.) and loaded up in the vehicle and headed out for Frozen Head State Park to hike the Interpretive Loop Trail or as Kiddo has dubbed it, the Interpretive Dance Loop Trail. Teenagers can be so funny sometimes.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gear Review: Terramar Body-Sensor Helix Shirts

Some of you may know that I am a proud member of the Terramar Tribe. For those of you who don't, well now you do. What's the Terramar Tribe you ask? That's the brand ambassador program for Terramar Sports. Terramar Sports is the maker of wonderful base-layers that help to fuel our adventures by keeping us warm in the winter and cool in the hot summer. Regardless of the fact that I'm a member of the Tribe, I have to say that I'm in total love with all of my Terramar gear. It's yet to have let me down.

Anyway, so shortly after becoming a member of the "Tribe", I was sent two of the Men's Helix Mountain Tee Body-Sensors t-shirt, a long sleeve and a short sleeve. Having recently converted to being a trail runner, as opposed to a road runner (insert looney tune pic here), I can honestly say that both of these shirts have become my go-to shirts for training and racing alike. Not only are they functional, they are also rather stylish as I've had absolutely no problem wearing them out to town. They also serve their original function of being a base layer quite well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Race Report: War at Windrock Stage 2: 10K

As many of you know, especially if you read the last post, that I recently completed two trail races in one day thanks to the War at Windrock Trail Running Festival hosted by Dirty Bird Events. After successfully completing Stage 1 of War at Windrock Move Fast 4 miler, it was time to rest up and get myself ready to run Stage 2: Get High 10K.  Honestly, I had no clue what lied ahead of me in the afternoon, all I knew was that it was a 10K and there was over 2000 feet of elevation gain.

So after stage one, I walked back to the events area of Windrock OHV Park where the race weekend was staged from and proceeded to the vehicle in order to start recovering and getting ready for stage 2. I had packed my self a couple of PB&J sandwiches, a banana, and a couple of granola bars. After getting my wet shoes and socks of me from the few run off spots of the previous race and changing shirts, I sat in the tailgate of our SUV and started to chow down on some food. It was around 11 am and I still had 4 hours before the next race.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: 2Toms Stink Free Sports Detergent - Part 2

So, if you didn't catch Part 1, 2Toms Stink Free Sports Detergent got the stink out of Tim's running socks. It was a HUGE accomplishment really. I was ready to throw them in the trash after them having sat lonesome in one of Tim's pair of running shoes for a week.

That got me thinking... I wondered if 2Toms was up to the challenge of getting the STINK out of our shoes - namely Tim's Vasque Mindbenders, Tim's Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves, and my Merrell Barefoot Pace Gloves. --- Those barefoot shoes - I don't care who you are or what kind of anti-microbial it's treated with - STINK to high heaven after about 6 wears. 

I threw them in the wash - hot cycle, cold rinse - with half the 2 oz package of 2Toms. And what'd ya know??

They came out clean. Both Merrell's smelled great - fresh even - almost like new shoes. But Tim's Vasques... there's no hope for those. Unless maybe I soak them in a bucket of 2Toms. 

There's just some things better left stinky.

Read about the 2Toms Stink Free Sports Detergent Specs on Part 1 of this review.

And if you have some stink you need to get out...

Happy Trails!

Robin & Tim

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Race Report: War at Windrock Stage 1: 4 Miler

I took about 2 weeks off following the Dark Hollow Wallow trail race I ran back in February. One reason for this was it was the longest race I've run in a very long time. The other reason, and main reason, was because Robin was having back surgery two days after the race and I was on tap to take care of her and Dinah Bug.  Little did I know at the time, that not only was I taking 2 weeks off from running, but I was also going to be off from work for about a month and a half. At Robin's 2 week follow-up appointment, her doctor put her on a lifting restriction of no more than 10 pounds for 4 weeks.

It was during this 4 week stretch that I got back to training, and this time my sights were set on the Panther Creek Challenge trail race, an 11 mile trail race at Panther Creek State Park (another in the Treadin' Troddin' Trails series by the Knoxville Track Club). Of course with Robin's restriction, I was limited to doing my training runs when Bug was napping, or when the teenager was home to help Robin with Bug. That would allow me to get my long runs in.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Finding Solace in Tragedy

It's hard to know what to say on days like today. As I sat watching some horrific details unfold on the television while my almost 16-month-old played at my feet, so many thoughts went through my head. What was I going to say to our teenager when she asked me what was going on? Who would do such a thing? How is this going to affect Tim? What has this world - that our babies are growing up in - come to? All cliche thoughts, moments of selfishness, moments of personal dread. Then the other thoughts rolled in... How many people were injured? Dead? Who's daughters, sisters, mothers, brothers, sons, fathers were out there? Who was unaccounted for? Who didn't have a place to go? How could we help?

The problem is, I didn't have answers. No one had them at that moment in time. And I wasn't going to be able to deliver answers, or reassure my children - myself - that everything was safe, that we were safe.

It wasn't long after that I realized I knew enough to teach my girls to find solace in tragedy (or ... at least one of my girls. The other is still too small to understand, so we used her magnet letters to spell "good" words like pray, heal, peace, love, etc.).

So after picking up my teen from school this afternoon, of course, the first thing out of her mouth was about the Boston Marathon (okay, I'm lying - it was about a boy, but we'll forgive her that since she is 16) --

So I tried to explain that it was too early for any details to have emerged BUT that she needed to remember a few simple things:

1) Not everyone in this world is bad. Generally most people are good, but tragedy does happen and it happened today.

2) And when a tragedy like this strikes, it only causes all the rest of us to grow closer together - to lean on one another - because that's what God intended us to do.

3) (As morbid or macabre as this may seem to you) We never know when it's our time to go - so be nice to people, love yourself, love others, be respectful, never leave an argument unresolved, and always, always uphold God.

4) Last, I reminded her (as if I needed to) to pray for those affected.

So with that, with prayer, and in quiet reverence,

May you see God's light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone.

Robin & Tim

Friday, April 12, 2013

Be a Summit Sampler, Get $500!!!

Photo Courtesy: Post®
Want to get paid to hike a mountain? Who wouldn't right? That would be the dream indeed. Well here's a chance to make a bit of "cheese" just for hiking a mountain in your area:

"In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent up Mt. Everest, Post® Grape-Nuts® is recruiting modern-day adventurers of all ages and abilities to ascend a nearby peak of their choice and distribute samples of the new Grape-Nuts® Fit cereal to any and all they meet along the way (whether it be one hiker or several dozen).  And don't worry...the selected local mountain need not be Everest-like in height or fame!

Review: 2Toms Stink Free Sports Detergent - Part 1

There's one thing about living with a runner that I loathe - his laundry. Typically, I try to wash his running clothes the same day he goes running, because if you don't - well, your nose will pay the price.

More times than not, he'll come home muddy and sweaty, throw his running shoes in the laundry room, and then shower. I'll grab up his clothes that he's placed wherever (it's a hunt every time), and either strategically place them in an area where they can air out or wash them immediately.

Well, this past week my 6-year-old LG front loader decided it was going to quit spinning. Long story short, laundry piled up... and piled up... and piled up while we waited over a week for the part to get here.

At one point, laundry had gotten so out of hand that I took some loads over to my mom's house to wash. That was when I found THE SOCKS.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Race Report: Dark Hollow Wallow - 2/17/2013

Last year the Knoxville Track Club added a couple new trail races to their Treadin' Trodden Trail series. Of these races, one was in our own backyard, figuratively speaking. I remember having wanted to do the Dark Hollow Wallow last year, but I was in no way ready or in shape for it. Fast forward to the end of November and it dawned on me that the race was coming up again in February and if I was going to represent, I had better get on the ball with training.

I had been running off and on since July of last year but now I was ready to commit and begin training. Besides I had been running on the roads and was ready for a change. I just had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that trail running would be so much better for me and way more adventurous. For three months, well almost three months, I was logging miles at least 3 days a week. Unfortunately, two of those days were on the roads as I was running those two days during the week and before work. Why roads at that time? Well it was too dark in the mornings so I opted for the safe route as I didn't have any experience running trails in the dark. Needless to say, I looked forward to my weekend long runs. I started out with 3 mile long runs and worked my self to about 7 miles as my longest run before race day got here. I wasn't sure going into it if it was enough, but nevertheless, I persevered and went with it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Dutch Oven - Cast-Iron Cooking Over an Open Fire by Carsten Bothe

I love cooking over the campfire. I've adapted so many household recipes that I've seriously considered writing my own book. I don't usually use my Dutch oven, but I have one. Sadly, it looked like this previous to this review (not too bad, really, but it needed some love):

Obviously, I didn't have a clue as to how to take care of it. I was treating it like a household skillet. It takes more than cold water and a small wipe down with oil every once in a blue moon to take care of something that you use over the open fire (and burn things in constantly). I have had such a sad experience with my Dutch oven that I've punished it by sentencing it to near solitary confinement in the darkness of the back of the cabinet. (It is kept company by my unused Foreman grill.) I would occasionally take it camping and burn biscuits and applesauce-gingerbread cake. I've successfully baked biscuits (from a can) maybe once.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


While we aren't RV'ers by any stretch of the imagination, Thousand Trails, home to some of the most beautiful and natural campgrounds and RV resorts across the U.S., is giving outdoor enthusiasts a chance to get out and camp with the Gear Up and Camp sweepstakes.  One lucky camper will win a free week of camping and a camping gear package, with a combined value of $1100.  Sweepstakes entrants will also be entered for a chance to win one of four second place prize packages, and one of 30 third place prize packages daily.

The sweepstakes grand prize includes a week-long camping trip for the winner at any participating Thousand Trails or Encore RV resort campground.  In addition, the winner will receive a package of camping gear, including the following: Rand McNally’s RV-specific GPS device - the  RVND™ 7720 LM; $100 gas card; Strongback Chair; Coghlan's Camper's S'mores Grill and Corn Popper; Coleman Lantern; $50 gift certificate; Thousand Trails sweatshirt, umbrella, window cling, backpack, blanket and travel mug; and a Duck Harbor Cool Weather Sleeping bag.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Trail Race Report: Wanderer's Trail Race 1/20/2013

I've been a road runner for most of my running life. That was until this year. Actually, back in late November of last year I started my training to run the Dark Hollow Wallow (an 11 mile trail race) at our "home" park Big Ridge State Park. The Dark Hollow Wallow is put on by The Knoxville Track Club and is part of their Treadin' Trodden' Trail series. Last year was the first year of the race and I would have loved to run it then but was in no shape to run 11 miles on tough trails. So I made it my goal to run it this year.

As mentioned, I started my training towards the end of November. I had run a couple trails prior to this point but I didn't dare call myself a trail runner as it wasn't my normal mode of running. Of course if you run and run on a trail then you're a trail runner. Up until this point I usually ran on the roads and on tracks to train for 5k's, 10k's and a couple of half marathons. During my training, I thought it would be a good idea to get some trail racing experience prior to the Dark Hollow Wallow before I bit off more than I could chew. The Treadin' Trodden' Trail series starts off every year with the Wanderer's Trail Race on the Maryville College campus. It's a 4 mile trail race and I thought with where my training was already, this would be the perfect opportunity to find out what it's like to run in a trail race.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Living Under a Rock?

We're pretty certain most of you have given up on us and figured we've caved in and took solace under a rock with having a new member of the family. That really couldn't be further from the truth. While taxing, raising our wee-little one hasn't completely kept us from getting out and about. It has however, really limited us from having any quality "sit down in front of a computer to get something done other than bills" time. Also considering work, regular run of the mill household tasks and upkeep, and a nagging an all out painful back issue, we have been somewhat limited in what we've been able to do in the out of doors arena.

So what have we been up to other than wrangling babies, playing taxi driver, and battling a fiery hip/back/leg due to a herniated disk impinging on a nerve? Long story short, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We've been on some walks, playing on playgrounds here and there when the weather permits it, a short hike, plenty of scenic drives, and for Tim, quite a bit of running including two trail races as he converts from a road runner to a trail runner. There's also been a couple impromptu trips to Mississippi to visit Tim's father in the hospital. He's suffered a couple heart attacks back in February and Cardiac arrest while in the hospital. We ask that y'all keep his dad and family in your prayers.

So as time rolls and my goodness does it, we can't believe that March is already almost half way over, you can look forward to more posts of what we've done in the past few months. We have some gear reviews that are long over due, a couple of race reports, a failed hike and lesson in risk management on the trail, among several others. What's more is Tim is now also a proud member of the Terramar Tribe so you can be certain to see some reviews on some Terramar gear. Tim can honestly say that the base layers he currently has from Terramar are awesome. He's in love with them.