All posts in “Sports and Outdoors”

This is Where America’s Best Zombie-Fighting Knives, Swords and Axes Are Made

A version of this article originally appeared in the Craftsmanship issue of Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “Death Metal.” Subscribe today

Joey Arbour is appalled. Or maybe he’s feigning it, I can’t really tell. I’ve known him for only eight hours and we’ve been drinking beer for the last five. He’s staring at me, blue eyes wide, brow furrowed. For the first time all day, there’s an uninterrupted silence. It had seemed like a reasonable enough question to ask: If you’re going to have an artist create a portrait using only beer as the paint, why choose Nicola Tesla as the subject?

Why Tesla? “Because he’s fucking awesome!”

Joey lowers his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, nestled in a coozie reading “A Fist Full of Fuck Yeah,” to the arm of the second-dirtiest chair in all creation. The dirtiest is to his immediate right. Finally, he blurts an answer:

“Because he’s fucking awesome!”

About this there’s no disagreement from any of the five of Joey’s employees sitting around an enormous table stacked high with empty PBR cans and rapidly filling ashtrays. In fact, the group considers Joey’s opinion of the Serbian-American inventor to be manifestly true, along with the contention that Tesla’s rival, Thomas Edison, was kind of a dick.

Other things that the crew believe to be true: if you’re going to drink and smoke, your goal should be to do so until you sound like Tom Waits; physicists suck, David Bowie was great, Hunter Thompson was the best; and that, at more than 1,000 pages, Carl Sandburg’s only novel, Remembrance Rock, is a little tedious.

Oh, and they believe in beer. And in fine, sturdy, sharp swords and knives. But as far as I can tell, none of the 10 employees of Joey’s Missoula-based company, Zombie Tools, believes in zombies or the zombie apocalypse. This despite the fact that the company, in business now for 11 years, with a dedicated following and some 15,000 blades sold, once used the tagline “Accessories for the Apocalypse.”

Also, “zombie” is right there in the name.

Dan Griffin, Joey Arbour and Josh Eamon make up nearly a third of ZT’s crew. Their metalworking skills come from training. Their skills at posing come naturally.

Truth is, even 10-year-old Joey didn’t care about zombies. Instead, he was transfixed by the massive sword he saw in the hands of a fully-inflated Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian. Joey would pull up fence posts and swing them around in pitched, imaginary backyard battles.

Shortly afterward, he “fell in love with stabbing people” (his words). Luckily, that was still mostly in the realm of fantasy. He joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, a deeply nerdy national organization that splits up the U.S. into imaginary kingdoms — as depicted on a faux-medieval map with a fierce-looking sea monster destroying a ship off the coast of Oregon — and holds mock battles in full costume, with sword fights and such. It was at these SCA events that Joey discovered an interest in rapier fighting.

When he moved to Missoula in 1996 at 22 years old, he was a sword fighter with no one to sword fight. During the day he toiled away at the Missoulian newspaper. During  the course of his 10-year tenure, and without any formal training, he went from an entry-level gig at the paper to a position as a graphic designer, which he followed up with five years at a local print shop. But at night he listened to crust-core bands like Neurosis and frequented dive bars. It was at just such a dive, the Flipper bar and casino, back in the year 2000, where he met a like-minded and darkly creative fellow named Maxon “Max” McCarter.

“Man, we did a lot more drinking back then,” says Joey, drinking.

Together, the two formed what they called the Drunken Jedi Pirate Circus, which mostly amounted to Joey and Max going at each other with rubber-tipped swords and bamboo sticks while wearing fencing masks and some basic body padding. But the swords were expensive, so they decided to try to make their own.

Around 2005, Joey and Max held what they called the “Giving Up Heavy Metal for Sharp Steel” sale, where Joey sold his Peavey bass and bass amp. “I could only keep a rhythm for thirty seconds,” he says. The profit from that, plus whatever Max sold (Joey can’t quite remember, explaining that “the beer and the whacks to the nog have made those years a bit of a blur.”), was enough to buy a belt grinder and the basics for sword making.

The pair constructed the “world’s most dangerous forge” in Max’s carport: a half-barrel filled with blazing hot coals attached to a shop vac running in reverse, designed to stoke the device to terrifying temperatures. They managed to not burn down the carport, and also to not make very good swords. Joey still has his first blade. It’s inside a case in the shop office, buried under a pile of Aflac pamphlets (Zombie Tools recently started offering its employees health insurance).

The duo persevered, honing their skills. Ever the fan of jocular titles, they named their blade-making operation the Bloody Dick Armory, ostensibly named after Montana’s Bloody Dick River.

“We figured we should be wrong, but we should be Montana, too,” Joey says.

The ribald double meaning was lost on no one, and the company didn’t last more than a year. “The old-timers really didn’t like that,” Joey explains. Later, the name would be changed to Thanatic Swords, a reference to Thanatos, the ancient Greek personification of death.

A longtime player in the dark arts, Max produced some local live-action horror shows — performance art by way of blood and gore. At one such event, Joey’s girlfriend lay on a table surrounded by people wearing raven masks while Max pretended to pull her heart out. (The organ was actually a buffalo heart sourced from a local butcher.) Later, they were hired to build a horror set called the Wild West Zombie Brothel. “So we had zombies on the brain,” Joey says. This was in 2007, before AMC’s The Walking Dead turned the entire American populace into mindless, slavering fans of the undead.

Along the way, the pair picked up another friend, Chris Lombardi, a sword-curious photographer for a local online news outlet. At a party in October of that year, Joey, Max and Chris began planning their new blade-making company. They weren’t interested in making reproductions of historical weapons, or fantasy swords. In a moment of clarity, they decided that if they latched onto the zombie thing, it would allow them to indulge in the dark side to which they were so clearly drawn, while also treating the whole endeavor with their characteristic lack of reverence.

They would build weapons of whatever size and shape and style they liked. They would build solid, usable blades — not wall hangings. They would be, in the parlance of blades, “battle ready.” The three men would have fun doing it. And they would drink beer.

It was the resurgence of the zombie as an entertainment and cultural trope that inspired the company’s name. It also nearly led to the founding trio’s stardom. In 2011, in the midst of zombie mania, the three founders made a pact with the devil. They signed up to film a reality television program on The Science Channel called Surviving Zombies.

“It was a real education in reality TV, which isn’t reality,” says Joey. Instead of focusing on the shop and blade making, the producers wanted the trio to build an apocalypse bunker out in the hills, which the guys didn’t know or care about. With two episodes in the can and facing the reality of shutting down the shop in favor of shooting B-rate TV, the guys quit. Or as the Zombie Tools website puts it, they had to choose between being “jerk-offs on TV” or “continuing to be jerk-offs making blades and growing our business.”

Inside America’s Gnarliest, Hard-Drinking-est, Apocalypse-Readiest Blade Shop

A version of this article originally appeared in the Craftsmanship issue of Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “Death Metal.” Subscribe today

Joey Arbour is appalled. Or maybe he’s feigning it, I can’t really tell. I’ve known him for only eight hours and we’ve been drinking beer for the last five. He’s staring at me, blue eyes wide, brow furrowed. For the first time all day, there’s an uninterrupted silence. It had seemed like a reasonable enough question to ask: If you’re going to have an artist create a portrait using only beer as the paint, why choose Nicola Tesla as the subject?

Why Tesla? “Because he’s fucking awesome!”

Joey lowers his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, nestled in a coozie reading “A Fist Full of Fuck Yeah,” to the arm of the second-dirtiest chair in all creation. The dirtiest is to his immediate right. Finally, he blurts an answer:

“Because he’s fucking awesome!”

About this there’s no disagreement from any of the five of Joey’s employees sitting around an enormous table stacked high with empty PBR cans and rapidly filling ashtrays. In fact, the group considers Joey’s opinion of the Serbian-American inventor to be manifestly true, along with the contention that Tesla’s rival, Thomas Edison, was kind of a dick.

Other things that the crew believe to be true: if you’re going to drink and smoke, your goal should be to do so until you sound like Tom Waits; physicists suck, David Bowie was great, Hunter Thompson was the best; and that, at more than 1,000 pages, Carl Sandburg’s only novel, Remembrance Rock, is a little tedious.

Oh, and they believe in beer. And in fine, sturdy, sharp swords and knives. But as far as I can tell, none of the 10 employees of Joey’s Missoula-based company, Zombie Tools, believes in zombies or the zombie apocalypse. This despite the fact that the company, in business now for 11 years, with a dedicated following and some 15,000 blades sold, once used the tagline “Accessories for the Apocalypse.”

Also, “zombie” is right there in the name.

Dan Griffin, Joey Arbour and Josh Eamon make up nearly a third of ZT’s crew. Their metalworking skills come from training. Their skills at posing come naturally.

Truth is, even 10-year-old Joey didn’t care about zombies. Instead, he was transfixed by the massive sword he saw in the hands of a fully-inflated Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian. Joey would pull up fence posts and swing them around in pitched, imaginary backyard battles.

Shortly afterward, he “fell in love with stabbing people” (his words). Luckily, that was still mostly in the realm of fantasy. He joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, a deeply nerdy national organization that splits up the U.S. into imaginary kingdoms — as depicted on a faux-medieval map with a fierce-looking sea monster destroying a ship off the coast of Oregon — and holds mock battles in full costume, with sword fights and such. It was at these SCA events that Joey discovered an interest in rapier fighting.

When he moved to Missoula in 1996 at 22 years old, he was a sword fighter with no one to sword fight. During the day he toiled away at the Missoulian newspaper. During  the course of his 10-year tenure, and without any formal training, he went from an entry-level gig at the paper to a position as a graphic designer, which he followed up with five years at a local print shop. But at night he listened to crust-core bands like Neurosis and frequented dive bars. It was at just such a dive, the Flipper bar and casino, back in the year 2000, where he met a like-minded and darkly creative fellow named Maxon “Max” McCarter.

“Man, we did a lot more drinking back then,” says Joey, drinking.

Together, the two formed what they called the Drunken Jedi Pirate Circus, which mostly amounted to Joey and Max going at each other with rubber-tipped swords and bamboo sticks while wearing fencing masks and some basic body padding. But the swords were expensive, so they decided to try to make their own.

Around 2005, Joey and Max held what they called the “Giving Up Heavy Metal for Sharp Steel” sale, where Joey sold his Peavey bass and bass amp. “I could only keep a rhythm for thirty seconds,” he says. The profit from that, plus whatever Max sold (Joey can’t quite remember, explaining that “the beer and the whacks to the nog have made those years a bit of a blur.”), was enough to buy a belt grinder and the basics for sword making.

The pair constructed the “world’s most dangerous forge” in Max’s carport: a half-barrel filled with blazing hot coals attached to a shop vac running in reverse, designed to stoke the device to terrifying temperatures. They managed to not burn down the carport, and also to not make very good swords. Joey still has his first blade. It’s inside a case in the shop office, buried under a pile of Aflac pamphlets (Zombie Tools recently started offering its employees health insurance).

The duo persevered, honing their skills. Ever the fan of jocular titles, they named their blade-making operation the Bloody Dick Armory, ostensibly named after Montana’s Bloody Dick River.

“We figured we should be wrong, but we should be Montana, too,” Joey says.

The ribald double meaning was lost on no one, and the company didn’t last more than a year. “The old-timers really didn’t like that,” Joey explains. Later, the name would be changed to Thanatic Swords, a reference to Thanatos, the ancient Greek personification of death.

A longtime player in the dark arts, Max produced some local live-action horror shows — performance art by way of blood and gore. At one such event, Joey’s girlfriend lay on a table surrounded by people wearing raven masks while Max pretended to pull her heart out. (The organ was actually a buffalo heart sourced from a local butcher.) Later, they were hired to build a horror set called the Wild West Zombie Brothel. “So we had zombies on the brain,” Joey says. This was in 2007, before AMC’s The Walking Dead turned the entire American populace into mindless, slavering fans of the undead.

Along the way, the pair picked up another friend, Chris Lombardi, a sword-curious photographer for a local online news outlet. At a party in October of that year, Joey, Max and Chris began planning their new blade-making company. They weren’t interested in making reproductions of historical weapons, or fantasy swords. In a moment of clarity, they decided that if they latched onto the zombie thing, it would allow them to indulge in the dark side to which they were so clearly drawn, while also treating the whole endeavor with their characteristic lack of reverence.

They would build weapons of whatever size and shape and style they liked. They would build solid, usable blades — not wall hangings. They would be, in the parlance of blades, “battle ready.” The three men would have fun doing it. And they would drink beer.

It was the resurgence of the zombie as an entertainment and cultural trope that inspired the company’s name. It also nearly led to the founding trio’s stardom. In 2011, in the midst of zombie mania, the three founders made a pact with the devil. They signed up to film a reality television program on The Science Channel called Surviving Zombies.

“It was a real education in reality TV, which isn’t reality,” says Joey. Instead of focusing on the shop and blade making, the producers wanted the trio to build an apocalypse bunker out in the hills, which the guys didn’t know or care about. With two episodes in the can and facing the reality of shutting down the shop in favor of shooting B-rate TV, the guys quit. Or as the Zombie Tools website puts it, they had to choose between being “jerk-offs on TV” or “continuing to be jerk-offs making blades and growing our business.”

Under Armour and Virgin Galactic Unveil Space Gear for the Masses

For years we’ve been hearing about the dream of commercial space flight. And as Virgin Galactic creeps closer to making that dream a reality, it’s only natural to think about what well-heeled interstellar virgins might wear. Thanks to a partnership with Under Armour, it appears they have a chance to look and feel pretty fantastic.

That’s right: the two brands have teamed up to launch a “commercial spacewear system” incorporating all of UA’s most progressive fitness tech. The series consists of three main pieces: a base layer, a spacesuit and our favorite part… space boots.

What makes this gear so special? The base layer features UA Rush tech, designed to enhance performance and blood flow, as well as Intelliknit, a temperature regulation and sweat-wicking system to keep your cool when the rockets get hot.

Meanwhile, the stylish-looking spacesuit boasts UA Clone, a proprietary material that forms to your body for a seamless feel, plus HOVR cushioning in the shoulder pads and neck, areas that can be at risk during high G portions of space flight. The suit also features several cutting-edge fabrics intended to keep first-time astronauts cool and comfortable.

Last but not least, the space boots take inspiration from racecar drivers’ footwear and, paired with UA’s latest footwear tech, represent a big departure from the traditional astronaut’s bulky moon boot. The boots feature UA Clone tech, HOVR cushioning and a streamlined look. That means you can gracefully float through zero gravity, with no worry of snagging your feet as you contemplate the majesty of space.

Under Armour’s New Astronaut Suits and Boots Will Have You Dreaming of the Cosmos

For years we’ve been hearing about the dream of commercial space flight. And as Virgin Galactic creeps closer to making that dream a reality, it’s only natural to think about what well-heeled interstellar virgins might wear. Thanks to a partnership with Under Armour, it appears they have a chance to look and feel pretty fantastic.

That’s right: the two brands have teamed up to launch a “commercial spacewear system” incorporating all of UA’s most progressive fitness tech. The series consists of three main pieces: a base layer, a spacesuit and our favorite part… space boots.

What makes this gear so special? The base layer features UA Rush tech, designed to enhance performance and blood flow, as well as Intelliknit, a temperature regulation and sweat-wicking system to keep your cool when the rockets get hot.

Meanwhile, the stylish-looking spacesuit boasts UA Clone, a proprietary material that forms to your body for a seamless feel, plus HOVR cushioning in the shoulder pads and neck, areas that can be at risk during high G portions of space flight. The suit also features several cutting-edge fabrics intended to keep first-time astronauts cool and comfortable.

Last but not least, the space boots take inspiration from racecar drivers’ footwear and, paired with UA’s latest footwear tech, represent a big departure from the traditional astronaut’s bulky moon boot. The boots feature UA Clone tech, HOVR cushioning and a streamlined look. That means you can gracefully float through zero gravity, with no worry of snagging your feet as you contemplate the majesty of space.

Oh, and if you need something to tide you over until liftoff, you can always pick up a UA x Virgin Atlantic Graphic T-shirt and look sharp right here on Planet Earth.

Foul Weather Is No Match for Rapha’s New Gore-Tex Cycling Gear

When we imagine cycling clothing, our minds shift to Spandex and chamois. But despite that vision of barely-there, body-hugging apparel, cycling isn’t a fair-weather-only pursuit. Rain, snow and sub-freezing temperatures — in a word, seasons — are inevitable. Thankfully Rapha, a company renowned for its high-quality cycling garments, just teamed up with Gore-Tex, perhaps the biggest name in waterproof fabrics, to create a line of on-bike outerwear meant for the worst weather imaginable.

The product of the collaboration between the two companies is three foul-weather cycling jackets. There’s the Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover ($345), which Rapha designed with extra durability and a looser fit for multi-day adventures far from paved roads. The Pro Team Lightweight Gore-Tex Jacket ($295), on the other hand, fits more closely and uses Gore-Tex’s superlight Shakedry fabric.

And then there’s the Pro Team Gore-Tex Insulated Jacket ($430). It’s a piece that, with a balaclava-style hood and fuzzy Polartec Alpha insulation, feels more like an exposure suit than a jacket you’d wear while riding a bike. Its combination of waterproofing, warmth and breathability begs the question, if the weather is bad enough that you need to wear it, should you be riding at all? But then again, there’s that adage the hardcore often return to, in one form or another: there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. With this rule in mind and this jacket at hand, we’re not sure if any conditions could be considered inclement.

How Athletes Are Reaping the Benefits of Keto Without Actually Giving Up Carbs

You’ve definitely heard of the ketogenic diet — starving your body of carbs to force it to burn fat and produce the mind-clarifying, brain-healing compounds known as ketones. You may have even heard of people and athletes ingesting ketone salts or drinks to propel them into or keep them in a state of ketosis. And if you were paying close attention during the Tour de France this year, you may have spied Team Jumbo-Visma openly drinking ketones mid-race.

The funny thing is, these athletes are not on a ketogenic diet. They are not fat adapted.

“For the last three years or so, we’ve seen Tour athletes fueling with carbs and then supplementing with exogenous ketones to score a two to three percent boost in performance from dual-fueling,” says Matt Johnson, a former competitive cyclist and co-founder of The Feed, an online sports nutrition shop and leading supplier of exogenous ketones in the U.S. “June was insane with team’s placing $10,000 to $20,000 orders for ketone esters and rush shipping them to France. We could barely keep up with it.”

Elite athletes biohacking to score a tiny edge? Nothing new.

But this is: a study in the Journal of Physiology says everyday athletes who aren’t on a keto diet, who aren’t fat-adapted, may improve their recovery by a whopping 15 percent just from drinking exogenous ketones after intense training days. And the news is spreading.

“We have also had a huge spike in individual athletes ordering the product that seems to be only growing,” Johnson adds.

Now, will this approach work for you? Here’s everything you need to know.

Ketones, explained.

First, a quick biology lesson slash crash course in the trendiest diet of the twenty-teens: in an ideal world, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is then transported and used or stored as energy for your muscles, organs and, most importantly, your brain.

Your brain is at the top of the pecking order — it gobbles about 20 percent of your total energy expenditure, a lot for a single organ — and if it’s not fueled, everything else stops functioning. When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, your muscles can use fat for fuel, but your brain can’t. Instead, your body has a fail-safe to prevent total shutdown: the liver starts converting fat into a superfood designed to save your starving brain: ketones.

Ketones are essentially a fourth macronutrient — your blood sugar is stable, your body is burning fat and your brain has entered an almost elevated state of functionality. In ketosis —  the state you reach when adhering to a keto diet — your brain starts producing more mitochondria (the little powerhouses of energy in your body) and better regulating neurons. Staying in a state of ketosis has been shown to help clear the brain of proteins that can lead to and worsen Alzheimer’s disease, reduce seizures in about half of people with epilepsy and even extend the lifespan of mice.

In athletes, staying in ketosis via a ketogenic diet can increase fat utilization during exercise (great, considering your body can store way more fat for fuel than carbs), help reduce body fat and sometimes improve endurance time trials and sprint peak power.

The catch: it all rides on you steering clear of carbs — with no slip-ups. If you eat more than your allotted count — typically 50 grams, which is one cup of pasta or just two bananas — your body falls out of ketosis and you don’t get any of these benefits. And pretty much all nutritionists agree that even if your body can adapt to burning fat quickly to fuel long runs and rides, it would still prefer to burn carbs.

Which is why the notion of professional athletes downing exogenous ketone drinks without having to give up carbs is completely bonkers.

So what are exogenous ketones, exactly?

In the early 2000s, as part of a DARPA program to enhance U.S. soldier performance, Oxford professors Kieran Clarke and Richard Veech set out to distill the exact molecular structure of one of the ketones our body produces. The resulting ketone ester is a specific molecule, butanedial, that converts directly to beta hydroxybutyrate, the ketone our liver naturally produces in the ketogenic state, when you digest it, explains Geoffrey Woo, co-founder and CEO of HVMN.

HVMN is currently the only company to produce ketone esters, as they lease the patent to Clarke and Veech’s molecular structure.

Now, keto followers are probably familiar with other brands of keto drinks (usually based on MCT oil) and ketone salts. But esters are different than these aids. MCT oils don’t produce ketones; they help put your body in a state of ketosis so it can start producing its own — but since that requires carbohydrate starvation, that’s not an option for dual-fueling athletes, Johnson explains.

Ketone salts, meanwhile, use beta hydroxybutyrate as well, but by their nature, they’re bound to a mineral. “Because you have to take so much ketone to raise your blood levels enough to see an effect, you’re also gaining a lot of mineral load. This leads to a lot of GI issues in athletes,” explains Woo. That, plus the fact that the salts don’t raise your ketone levels that much, leaves a lot of room for a superior product. “There has been minimal testing on the aids but the HVMN esters have been tested and verified,” Johnson says.

“Ketone esters are a way to eat ketones directly that’s going to convert 100 percent to ketones in your body,” Woo adds.

Why athletes are fueling with both carbs and ketones

Woo says professional athletes drinking exogenous ketones during a race report about a two to three percent increase in performance. That matters in an event like the Tour — but the real benefit for athletes, especially everyone other than Egan Bernal or Geraint Thomas, seems to be in downing a bottle once the race is over.

The aforementioned Journal of Physiology study, conducted by seemingly impartial Belgian researchers, simulated a Tour with everyday athletes: 20 fit men trained twice a day (HIIT or intermittent endurance training in the morning, then 1.5- to 3-hour endurance sessions at night), six days a week for three weeks. Half drank a ketone ester after each workout while half drank a placebo.

After three weeks, the guys were shredded — everyone showed signs of cardiovascular, hormonal and perceptual overreaching. But those who had taken ketone esters regularly had significantly less damage in all these areas, and on a two-hour endurance test, they were able to ride at a higher sustainable pace and produce more power in the final 30 minutes compared to guys who recovered regularly. All in all, researchers estimated the ketone esters helped improve recovery by 15 percent.

Mainly, it’s providing your body with another option for fuel, says Jonathan Scott, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland who researches performance nutrition and dietary supplements.

Your brain is either going to use glycogen or ketones for power. If ketones are available, glycogen is spared and your muscles can instead use that energy to fuel fiber repair and metabolic cleanup. What’s more, now your body isn’t going to break down other structures like muscle fiber to get your brain the fuel, saving your body extra damage.

And, because ketones keep your blood glucose stable, your body is steadily producing insulin, which sweeps glucose into your cells, continuously topping off the pool of energy as it’s being used and at a much faster rate than you’re able to with food, Scott explains.

In addition to faster post-exercise glycogen replenishment, a 2018 Italian study inCurrent Sports Medicine Reportfound that exogenous ketones decrease proteolysis (the breakdown of proteins into amino acids) and act as metabolic modulators and signaling metabolites.

There’s also some chemistry research to suggest exogenous ketones may help realign your hormone production, adds Krista Austin, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., a sports scientist, exercise physiologist and nutritionist. “The anterior pituitary produces hormones that become dysregulated if you’re overtraining, don’t sleep well at night, have a poor heat tolerance, or experience something like a traumatic brain injury,” she explains. Exogenous ketones seem to help realign the production of susceptible hormones like prolactin, which can otherwise prevent proper sleep and recovery.

To top it off, it takes very minimal effort for athletes to earn all these gains: “You can still have your cake and eat it too — literally and figuratively,” Scott explains. “Athletes don’t need to be consuming a diet that’s extremely restrictive on food choices or energy sources during exercise and they can then consume exogenous ketones to introduce yet another fuel source the body can use.”

Johnson says it’s only a matter of time before major American sports stars pick up the training aid — and that we’ll definitely see it in the Olympics. “Basketball and hockey especially have some grueling schedules. Imagine the benefit in-season for back-to-back games on the road?”

So, should I try them?

Johnson estimates that roughly 80 percent of the interest in exogenous ketones on The Feed comes from Europe and about 60 percent of that is from non-elites.

For most amateur athletes, that 15 percent improvement in recovery means you’ll simply feel better after a grueling workout — you’ll have less muscle soreness and stiffness, more energy, better range of motion and sleep better, says Austin.

But that’s not necessarily the score it sounds like. “If you don’t feel terrible after a series of tough training days or a hard race, you’re much more likely to get back out, sooner,” Austin says. “But you might do more harm than good.” Until we understand better how exogenous ketones affect the body and recovery, numbing the alarm doesn’t change the need for rest.

And will they even work for you like they do for the pros? Jury’s still out. Everyday athletes are likely going to respond differently to exogenous ketones, considering just the impact of genetics and training on energy substrate metabolism (how well your body burns other fuel sources) alone, Scott says. And, as with all supplements or performance aids, there are very clearly responders and non-responders. It simply doesn’t work for everyone, he adds.

But most importantly, there are so many other aspects of performance that everyday athletes would be better served to focus on, Scott points out, including but not limited to sleep, diet composition, diet quality, nutrient timing, hydration, training program, rest days, stress management, meditation, visualization and even social relationship quality. “For elites, all these things are taken into consideration and already optimized,” he says. “But I would hate for an amateur athlete to start taking ketones to improve sleep for better recovery when it’s really their stress management that needs to be tweaked.”

The upside: as long as you monitor everything above, all our experts agree, there’s close to no risk in trying.

Where do I start?

Pretty much everyone agrees you shouldn’t be using exogenous ketones to enhance recovery after every hard workout or race. “This isn’t meant for a long weekend ride,” Johnson cautions. “Even if it was really hard and I came home completely bonked and exhausted, I don’t need a ketone ester to feel better at work the next few days.” Not only will drinking it post-ride regularly lead to overtraining, but, at $37 a bottle, a few bottles a week doesn’t make economic sense for most of us. The effects of exogenous ketones last roughly an hour after ingestion and you’re intended to drink a whole bottle immediately after moving for recovery.

But when marathon training gets serious and you’re logging 15K, 18K and 12K all within a few days? That’s when you want to take it. “Harder training weeks, multi-day endurance competitions, multi-stage races — I would absolutely be using it after every stage. That level of benefit is enormous,” Johnson adds.

Austin agrees, but adds she’ll also use it sparingly to disrupt recovery inhibitors. “If a client is having trouble sleeping, I’ll have them drink ketones before bed for just a few nights so their body can catch up on repairs,” she says. “But it’s important to address the underlying issues of why they’re not sleeping in the bigger picture.”

And while we have no studies on microdosing (which would be more approachable and more wallet-friendly), Austin says she’s seen some results. “If someone is new to training, that mid-morning fatigue can be debilitating in terms of getting work done, but taking 10 milliliters of ketones can give them an energy boost,” she explains.

Are exogenous ketones safe?

Everyone agrees, given the current state of research, exogenous ketones are generally safe. And the one high-quality product we have on the market now (HVMN) is good to go.

But it’s worth noting that exogenous ketones are currently sold as dietary supplements, which means there’s no oversight by the FDA. As ketones become more popular and more formulas come to market, we’ll inevitably see products packed with both other enhancements and other cost-cutting, potentially dangerous ingredients, Scott says. (The upside: the hefty price of formulas like HVMN will likely come down, too.)

We also don’t know the effects or risks of using it long term — is there a threshold after which exogenous ketones stop being as effective? If your body gets used to the aid in recovery, could it eventually stop being as efficient at rebuilding without it? Do you get any of the neuroprotective benefits of naturally going into ketosis? And, perhaps most importantly, if you’re an ultra-runner or frequent multi-day racer using exogenous ketones for recovery, what nuanced alarm bells are you overlooking?

There are definitely a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to exogenous ketones. But with minimal risk and serious potential gains, we wouldn’t knock anyone for giving a sip.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Feast Your Eyes on Nike’s Unreleased Running Shoe Used to Break the Two-Hour Marathon

Well, it’s official — even if it’s unofficial. With the help of a flat, optimized course, a crew of elite pacers and Maurten supplementation, Eliud Kipchoge did what was once considered impossible over the weekend: run a marathon in under two hours. Though it’s not an actual world record (thanks to the aforementioned factors), it’s still an incredible feat, one that’s left many people asking about one other key ingredient: Was it the shoes??

Ah yes, the shoes. Tackling this challenge in Vienna, Austria, Kipchoge — the current marathon world record holder and 2016 Olympic champ — laced up a pair of as-yet-unreleased Nike Next% running sneakers. While the brand continues to play it a bit close to the vest, thanks to some investigative work by Believe in the Run, we do know a few things about these mystical shoes. 

The blog uncovered a filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office that reveals the specifics of what may be this particular shoe, which may be called the alphaFLY. Short takeaway: this thing is funky, flexy and fast. What follows are some of the highlights. 

Carbon Fiber Is Critical

The sole consists of four cushioning pods, two layers of midsole foam and (wait for it) three carbon-fiber plates. That’s two more than any other shoe, and now we can’t help thinking of the Schick/Gillette razor race of yesteryear, when they just kept adding blades, to the point where an Onion article started as a joke and became reality. 

The Divided Midsole Has Many Layers

The midsole has four different levels, and it’s fully segmented between the heel and forefoot, with the rear section looking comically beefy but not all that different from past Vaporfly shoes. Meanwhile, the forefoot really showcases the plates and cushioning pods, which are either filled with fluid or foam. 

Energy Return Seems Inevitable

The plates and pods team up to prevent hotspots, nurture a more responsive ride and add extra stability, theorizes Believe in the Run’s Robbe Reddinger, who adds that there must be some energy return involved as well, considering what Kipchoge was able to accomplish.

We’ve Seen This Upper Before

The lightweight, meshlike upper appears consistent with material seen on track spikes at the recent World Championships in Doha, so it’s likely Nike strongly believes in this approach and that we will see it on a variety of shoes in the future.

Time will tell if consumers will be able to purchase these exact shoes or some sort of modified version. Meantime, the next best thing is the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% ($250), a pretty kickass shoe in its own right. 

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What You Need to Know About Eliud Kipchoge’s Sub-Two-Hour-Marathon Nikes

Well it’s official — even if it’s unofficial. With the help of a flat, optimized course, a crew of elite pacers and Maurten supplementation, Eliud Kipchoge did what was once considered impossible over the weekend: run a marathon in under two hours. Though it’s not an actual world record (thanks to the aforementioned factors), it’s still an incredible feat, one that’s left many people asking about one other key ingredient: Was it the shoes??

Ah yes, the shoes. Tackling this challenge in Vienna, Austria, Kipchoge laced up a pair of as-yet-unreleased Nike Next% running sneakers. While the brand continues to play it a bit close to the vest, thanks to some investigative work by Believe in the Run, we do know a few things about these mystical shoes. 

The blog uncovered a filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office that reveals the specifics of what may be this particular shoe, which may be called the alphaFLY. Short takeaway: this thing is funky, flexy and fast. What follows are some of the highlights. 

>> The sole consists of four cushioning pods, two layers of midsole foam and (wait for it) three carbon-fiber plates. That’s two more than any other shoe, and now we can’t help thinking of the Schick/Gillette razor race of yesteryear, when they just kept adding blades, to the point where an Onion article started as a joke and became reality. 

>> The midsole has four different levels, and it’s fully segmented between the heel and forefoot, with the rear section looking comically beefy but not all that different from past Vaporfly shoes. Meanwhile, the forefoot really showcases the plates and cushioning pods, which are either filled with fluid or foam. 

>> The plates and pods team up to prevent hotspots, nurture a more responsive ride and add extra stability, theorizes Believe in the Run’s Robbe Reddinger, who adds that there must be some energy return involved as well, considering what Kipchoge was able to accomplish.

Time will tell if consumers will be able to purchase these exact shoes or some sort of modified version. Meantime, the next best thing is the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% ($250), a pretty kickass shoe in its own right.

Oh, did we mention three carbon-fiber plates??

5 Things You Need to Run Your First Marathon

Eighth grade, third period. That’s when I first heard the story of Pheidippides (sometimes known as Philippides), the messenger who ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to proclaim the outnumbered Greek army’s victory over the Persians. Scholars argue over which telling of the account is true — in another version by Herodotus, the herald covered 140 miles from Athens to Sparta — but in the one I first learned, he ran the distance in his armor. The feat seemed impossible but birthed what might be running’s most famous distance race. And, of course, after completing his mission, the ancient runner died on the spot.

From that moment, I began relating modern Olympic marathon runners to Pheidippides; they became heroes in my mind (even as they wore ultralight polyester shorts and singlets and carried neither spear nor sword nor shield). And to run such a long distance became heroic and, accordingly, unachievable.

Tell eighth-grade me that a decade later he’d toe the line of the New York City Marathon, and he wouldn’t believe you. Tell him he’d shoot up those daunting bridges without faltering, that he’d hit a low point in the Bronx around mile 20 but would finish strong, with a smile on his face (and negative splits!), and he wouldn’t laugh in your face, but his insides and legs would tighten with self-doubt. After all, he was no hero of Greece, no Pheidippides.

Back in those days, I ran occasionally, mostly to feel like I was maintaining a certain standard of fitness between sports seasons, but I never took running seriously. (I even had to run extra hill sprints for being the last to finish a team 5k at the start of lacrosse season one year.) I never monitored my heart rate or measured my pace, I didn’t target intervals, and I didn’t know what a tempo run was. Those were the concerns of serious runners, a crowd whose entry required an exclusive membership card I’d never acquire.

It wasn’t until much later, 16 months before the NYC Marathon, that I ran anything farther than six miles. I had accepted an invite to the French Alps for a story and, a week before departure, received a trip itinerary that included seven- and nine-mile trail runs. Despite indulging heavily in fondue and French wine throughout my entire stay, I eked out both runs and felt good about them, too. That trip was proof to me that longer distances were within reach, and that the primary obstacle between them and me was the self-created notion that they were off-limits in the first place.

When I came home from the trip, I signed up for a half marathon (which I documented for Gear Patrol). Naturally, doubling that distance germinated in my mind while my quadriceps still quaked in the finish area.

But then, during my first run after that race, a heel injury flared up and refused to abate for weeks. Meanwhile, the New England days shortened significantly (dark by 4:30 PM) and the winter cold set in. I put my training regimen on hold. In the spring, not long after the vernal equinox’s passing, marathon aspirations began to creep up from my lower psyche like the daffodils in my backyard. By June they were in full bloom, with no time to spare if I were to have adequate time to train my stagnant legs up from zero to 26.2.

I quickly realized that marathon training called for more thought, planning and attention to detail, not excluding the small collection of items needed to get through it. In the absence of a proper training journal — which I do suggest keeping, even if it’s just a spreadsheet — they became the record of the entire endeavor. I used them as tools for carrying out an intended purpose, but they also took on an additional meaning that went beyond (another Athenian) Plato’s philosophical ideas of object and form.

1. Watch: Garmin Fenix 5

How I Used It: The Fenix 5 can record mileage (or kilometer-age), pace and heart rate, it can track you via GPS, it can measure splits, it can execute pre-programmed workouts and, when you’re finished with a run, it can give you a full summary of what you did. I paid the most attention to the first two metrics, but this watch can go as deep into training analytics you’d like. (Garmin also recently released the updated Fenix 6.)

What It Symbolized: Time. Specifically, how little of it there is. After working a full-time job, going to after-work events, grocery shopping, cooking, commuting, moving the car for the street swee[erfour times a week, traveling, binging shows on Netflix and sometimes, sleeping, it wasn’t easy to find time to run 30, 40, 50 miles per week. A sheer lack of time might’ve been a greater challenge to overcome than anything having to do with stride or pace. But nobody has time; you make it.

2. Fluids: Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5L Hydration Vest

How I Used It: Except on race days, there are no volunteers waiting cup-in-hand every few miles to replenish your fluids. That means that on long runs you have to bring your own. This vest comes with two half-liter flasks and has handy pockets for your credit card, ID, keys, phone and whatever else you might need as you extend your max distance.

What It Symbolized: Self-sufficiency. Running long miles can be a lonely pursuit, but embrace the matter of covering distances others might only attempt in a vehicle, and it becomes remarkably empowering. Or, join a run club.

3. Fuel: Nuun Hydration, Maurten Gels and Revere Cardio Recovery Mix

How I Used Them: Once you begin to exercise for longer than an hour at a time, biology will demand that you replace the fuel your body is burning. There are innumerable choices when it comes to hydration mixes, gels, chews and post-workout drinks; the combo I landed on is mostly plant-based and helped me get through long distances. Here’s a tip: try lots of different types of fuel during training to figure out what works for you (so that you don’t end up with an upset stomach on race day).

What They Symbolized: Science! So much of running is mental — maintaining the enthusiasm to train for weeks, focusing on things other than your aching muscles, fighting through the last few miles of a long run. These, for me, were the major challenges that I came up against. But a lot of it is physiological too. Demand more of your body and it will demand more of you.

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4. Shoes: Mizuno Wave Rider 22 and WaveKnit R2

How I Used Them: When we think of the things needed for running, shoes top the list. Finding the right shoe can be easy for some — I know runners who are comfortable wearing anything — and trickier for others. My job at Gear Patrol allowed me to test loads of shoes to find the best pair, and I ended up cycling through a few preferred ones during four months of training, depending on the run (I wore On Running’s Cloud X and Nike’s Zoom Fly Flyknit in addition to these two).

Mizuno’s flagship Wave Rider became my go-to for longer training runs, and once I discovered the WaveKnit, a similar but more comfortable option, I saved it for race day. Both of these shoes have lots of support in the heel cup and plenty of cushioning through the midsole. They were perfect for my style of running, but again, they might not work for everyone. My recommendation for finding a decent set of shoes is to do some research online (start with our guide to the best running shoes) and then head to a specialty running store where you can receive a gait analysis and try on lots of different pairs.

What They Symbolized: Everything? Shoes take on so much in running. They’re a runner’s primary tool, the link between body and ground, propelling one over the other. Running shoes become a stand-in for the sport itself — they can represent movement, flow, routine, comfort (and discomfort), control, connection and groundedness. As the miles pile up, they become so much more than rubber and fabric.

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5. Massage: Brazyn Morph Foam Roller

How I Used It: I began my training by going to physical therapy to address a persistent injury. There, I was told that I had an imbalance, that the muscles on one side of my body were more active (and stressed) than the other, which had a trickle-down that manifested as plantar fasciitis and a right calf in a semi-permanent deathlock. The solution? An adjustment in my running form, targeted stretching before physical activity and consistent self-massaging with a foam roller. The Morph became indispensable — I used it nearly every day, including while traveling, which was manageable because of a collapsible construction that made it easy to pack.

What It Symbolized: Self-care. One of the more revealing pieces of marathon training, I found, was that as I focused intensely on this single endeavor, I was forced to pay more attention to everything else happening in my life. With my physical state under the microscope of training, rest became as crucial as activity. The choices that I made when I wasn’t running — what to eat and drink, when to wake up and go to bed — carried consequences into the time that I was. Naturally, and almost subconsciously, these habits shifted to align with a new lifestyle.

That’s not to say that I gave up all vices and lived like a monk — I didn’t adopt a strict new diet or give anything up. But I did become more aware of how certain foods made me feel (or jostled around in my stomach), and what might’ve been five-beer nights turned into two-beer evenings. After all, I was determined not to end up like Pheidippides, crossing the finish line in Central Park only to collapse in a lifeless pile after collecting my medal.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Here’s How to Make Your Outdoor Gear Last Forever

Our warm-weather playground is closing for the season, which means that soon, you’ll be trading wheels for skis and waders for down jackets. We know — the winter stoke is real. But resist the urge to shove all your gear into the garage to be dealt with next spring; there’s work to be done.

Dirt and grime do a good job of hiding damage that’s accumulated over six months of fun. When it comes to something like a mountain bike, that buildup can impede the function of your drivetrain and other components. “Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to ride when the weather clears and getting stopped by surprise mechanical issues,” notes Nick Martin, founder of The Pro’s Closet, the largest e-retailer for pre-owned bikes and cycling gear.

And when it comes to a sport like climbing, poorly cared for gear can become a safety issue. “Taking a couple of hours in between seasons to go through all your gear is what sets you up for success — and safety — next season,” says Matt Hickethier, senior outdoor instructor for REI’s Denver location. Plus, you paid serious money for some of this stuff. “If you take care of high-quality hiking boots season after season, they can last you 20 years,” he adds.

Caring for your gear might not be as simple as leafing through the instruction manual (which you probably threw in the trash anyway). Below, you’ll find the best way to clean, dry, care for and store all your favorite summer gear so it’s ready for action at the first sign of a thaw next year.

Camping Gear

Sleeping Bags

Clean: You want to wash your sleeping bag as little as possible, especially if it’s down, since it makes the insulation clump and reduces its lifespan. (Hickethier likes to sleep with a liner and just washes that every few trips.) At the end of the season, place the bag in a front-load washing machine and use a mild detergent. The centralized spin on top-load machines can tear the stitching apart; if that’s all you have, lay your sleeping bag out and scrub it with an abrasive plastic brush and mild detergent. Then hose it off.

Dry: Hang to dry.

Care: If your bag came waterproof from its maker, use a spray (like Nikwax TX-Direct Spray-On) to restore that repellency.

Store: Once it’s completely dry, either hang the bag in your gear closet or put it in a mesh or breathable cotton bag that’s larger than the stuff sack you keep it in for trips. You want to keep the insulation as high a loft — that’s the fluffiness — as possible. Compression compromises the bag’s resilience, Hickethier says.

Cooking Equipment

Clean: Wipe down stoves and pots just like you would those in your kitchen, getting rid of any food particles that could breed bacteria or mold over the winter months. If you have a gas line, light the stove, then shut the gas off at the bottle rather than on the stove. According to Hickethier, this lets the gas flush through the line to the burner completely, and when it stops, you know the line is clear.

Dry: Let all components air dry. If the stove uses jet fuel, dry upside down so water isn’t pooling through the system.

Store: Your stove and cooking gear should be stored inside, away from the elements, which can erode the metal. Regulations for storing fuel vary by state and area, but if you have a flammables closet in your garage, that’s ideal. Otherwise, make sure it’s in an area that’s well ventilated, well contained and not going to overheat.

Tents

Clean: It’s important to get all the dirt off and out of your tent before storing it — any sand will act like sandpaper and degrade all your soft materials including stitching, Hickethier says. Turn the tent inside out, shake it, then scrub both it and the rainfly with a mild detergent (like Dawn) and a soft-bristled brush. Clean the ends of the poles that go into the ground and the stakes. Hose everything down.

Dry: Reassemble the entire tent and let it dry out somewhere indoors like in the garage, basement, even living room — UV rays actually wear down the materials over time, and since your tent obviously sits in the sun most of its erected life, you want to limit exposure as much as possible, Hickethier says.

Care: Put a UV treatment on the outside of the tent and the rainfly to extend its life. If there’s any peeling on the rainfly, treat with a waterproofing material like Nikwax. Check all your seams and cover any tape that’s peeling with silicone glue.

Store: Break down the poles and load them into the tent bag first. Never store poles under tension since they can start to wear out if taut over time, Hickethier says. Next, stuff the rainfly in the bag randomly, in a kind of circular pattern, followed by the body of the tent, then the footprint. Contrary to common sense organizational instincts, folding your tent is a no-no. “Every time you fold your tent, you’re creating constant wear on the same spots which will eventually break down the material, waterproofing and seams,” Hickethier explains.

Sleeping Pads

Clean: Inflate the pad, then hose it down, scrubbing with a mild detergent if it’s dirty.

Dry: Dry inside, out of UV light and inflated to ensure no water gets caught in creases.

Store: If it’s pillow style, pack the pad back down and store in its stuff sack. If it’s foam and self-inflatable, store the pad partially inflated with valves open to prevent the foam from breaking down under compression.

Hiking Gear

Hiking Boots

Clean: At the end of the season, do a thorough version of what you should do after every hike: Pull out the insoles, then give your boots a light wash with water, mild detergent or leather cleaner (if applicable) and a soft brush.

Dry: Hang boots upside down to allow air to flow in and excess moisture to drain out until they’re completely dry.

Care: Check all materials for degradation. If your boots are leather and puckering, turning a lighter color, or starting to look like dry skin, apply leather conditioner (Nikwax makes a good one) and let that set, then re-waterproof with a wax-based solution or silicone-based wax. Unlace your boots and check the strings’ conditions — if they’re fraying anywhere (it’ll likely be where they’re crossing a grommet) replace them. Check all metal components, like the hooks that help cinch the ankle cuff, and make sure there’s no damage or warping there. If the soles are separating anywhere, use a silicone glue (though if your soles are Vibram, contact the manufacturer because they should put a whole new one on for you).

Store: Keep boots in a dry, low-light spot, like the bottom of your closet or in a container in a low-humidity garage.

Backpacks

Clean: At the very least, empty your pack, turn it inside out and shake it to get all the small pieces of dirt and food out. If your pack has seen a lot of mud, turn it right side out and use a mild soap (like Dawn), a vinyl or plastic scrub brush and lukewarm water, scrubbing in a circular motion until all the dirt is gone. Make sure the water isn’t too hot, so it doesn’t shrink the material, Hickethier says. Check the straps and the buckle components for embedded mud or dirt.

Dry: Lay flat outside to dry.

Care: Check that the stitching isn’t fraying or peeling anywhere and that all hard components (i.e., plastic buckles) are still functioning correctly. Replace before storing.

Store: Don’t hang the bag — leaving the straps under tension, even lightly, will cause the material to stretch over time. Instead, compress the pack in a storage bin and store it somewhere with low moisture.

Water Reservoirs

Clean: A poorly cleaned, sealed reservoir is the perfect environment to breed mold and bacteria, Hickethier says. If your bladder had anything other than water in it (like an electrolyte drink) or there are signs of mineral buildup from hard water, use a dissolvable tablet, like Bottle Bright or CamelBak Cleaning Tablets, which create a bubble effect to scrub the inside of the reservoir. Run through the line, then rinse the whole thing out. (You can also use warm water, silicone-safe soap like Dawn and a soft brush, but the soap is harder to get out completely.)

Dry: Disconnect the line (if it has one), drain all the water, then hang vertically to dry (like over a hook). Some newer bladders will turn inside out, which is ideal. Otherwise, invest in a reservoir hanger (like this one from Camelbak) which is designed to keep the rubber and silicone components open so the bladder can drip dry completely.

Store: Keep the cap off, then fold the hose in half and tuck the bend into the mouth of the bladder to keep it open. Store it with the rest of your hiking gear. Some people also like to store the whole thing in their freezer to ensure no mildew develops.

Biking Gear

Road and Mountain Bikes

Clean: It’s definitely possible to wash a bike too much or too hard, says Martin. “Bikes are full of moving parts that are small and delicate,” he explains. “Overzealous washing can actually force crucial lubricants out of these parts and push dirt and grime in.” Be gentle: fill a spray bottle with warm water and a little mild dish soap (this, according to Martin, works just as well as bike-specific degreasers) and spray the whole thing down. Use a soft brush or cloth to agitate dirt and grime, especially on the chain and drivetrain. “A dirty or unlubricated drivetrain will cause a lot of premature wear, noise and shifting issues,” he adds. Rinse the frame and components with a hose or a bucket of clean water.

Dry: “Leaving your bike dripping wet is a recipe for corrosion,” Martin says. Take a small cloth and wipe down everything you can reach, including the chain and drivetrain. You can use a detailing spray (like Pedro’s Bike Lust) on the painted surfaces for an extra sheen and help in repelling dirt and dust during storage and on your next ride.

Care: Once dry, apply a chain lubricant to your drivetrain. “Only the chain needs lubrication and only on the rollers,” Martin warns. Use a rag to wipe away any excess lube that lands outside the chain or on the cassette, chainrings and derailleur pulleys. Run your shifter up and down through all the gears to make sure it doesn’t need any more tuning before you store. Then, take an inventory of what maintenance you can do during the off-season. For mountain bikes, you want to service the suspension once a year, either on your own or at a bike or suspension shop, Martin advises. On any bike, check all your consumable components like the chain, tire and brake pads for wear, and replace them if needed.

Store: Store your bike indoors — namely somewhere dry and shielded from the weather, because sun, wind, rain and snow will damage and shorten the lifespan of every component on your bike, Martin says. (If you have no choice but to keep it outside, get a waterproof cover and maintain it regularly.) You can keep it on the ground, but the most convenient way to store a bike is on a hook. For road, cyclocross or gravel bikes, hang them however you like (i.e., upside down or vertically from the ceiling or wall). Mountain bikes with suspension forks should be hung vertically — never upside down — with the front wheel up to keep the seals and foam rings in the fork from drying out.

Cycling Shoes

Clean: Pull out the insoles and wash with water, mild detergent or leather cleaner and a soft brush.

Dry: Stuff with newspaper and set in an airy space to let dry. Be sure they dry completely before storing.

Store: Keep shoes in a dry, shady spot, like a container in a low-humidity garage.

Helmets

Clean: Take a brush and clean with warm water and a gentle soap or shampoo, since you already know that won’t irritate your skin, Martin points out.

Dry: Hang to dry in a well-ventilated area.

Store: Store in a container in a low-humidity garage (out in the open risks dust and cobwebs).

Fishing Gear

Fly Lines

Clean: “Your line is exposed to dirt, sand, rocks and all kinds of funky stuff in the water that wants to decrease slickness and start breaking down the line,” observes Shawn Combs, Director of Product Development for Rod & Tackle at Orvis. Run the entire line through a Scientific Anglers cleaning pad — or a paper towel if you’re in a pinch.

Dry: Air dry.

Store: Re-spool your reel and store.

Rods

Clean: Wipe down with a clean, dry cloth. Wash reel in warm water with a soft cloth.

Dry: Air dry.

Store: Store in a rod tube.

Waders and Boots

Clean: River water should be rinsed off with a hose, and any mud on your boots scrubbed off with a soft brush and gentle dish soap.

Dry: Hang your waders to dry. Stuff boots with newspaper and leave in a well-ventilated area.

Store: Fold waders and store alongside boots in a container.

Climbing Gear

The most significant care aspect of climbing gear is to adhere to the manufacturer recommendations of life expectancy since your life depends on the reliability of these products. “Even if a rope was never used, it still has a life expectancy for how long that piece of gear is serviceable,” Hickethier explains. Info for harnesses, ropes and protective equipment can all be found on the manufacturer’s website.

Harnesses

Clean: You may still use your harness inside during the winter, but you want to clean all the dirt and grime from the outdoor season off. Always handwash it to prevent fraying and breaking, Hickethier says. Scrub the soft material and metal parts with warm, soapy water.

Dry: Hang inside to dry.

Care: Before you store it, as well as before each use, inspect the stitching, lacing and hard components of your harness. Fix anything immediately — if you forget and head out with a broken buckle, it’s hazardous, Hickethier points out.

Store: Pack flat, somewhere dry, so the material doesn’t stretch out.

Climbing Shoes

Clean: Since bouldering shoes get more dusty than dirty and have a particular grip to them, skip the soap and rinse with warm water until it runs clear.

Dry: Stuff with newspaper and set in a well-ventilated area to dry.

Store: Store alongside the rest of your climbing gear.

Ropes

Clean: Fill your bathtub or sink with warm water and add rope wash (like this one from Beal) and let it soak according to the package instructions. If the water is exceptionally dirty, drain and repeat until the water runs clear.

Dry: Set rope outside to dry.

Store: Wrapping a rope tightly can create kinks and degrade the fibers over time, Hickethier says. Instead, coil it loosely on the ground or hung on two supports (like nails). Store away from UV light.

Cams

Clean: If the metal parts have gunk built up inside, rinse with hot water and mild soap.

Dry: Wipe dry with a cloth.

Care: Lubricate the metal parts you washed, as well as any clean cams in need of some slickness (use a product like Metolius Cam Lube). Check the webbing to ensure it’s clean and not wearing down. If it’s degrading, most companies will re-sling it for you, Hickethier says.

Store: Attach to a carabiner to keep organized, then store with the rest of your climbing gear.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

How to Clean and Store All Your Summer Outdoor Gear

Our warm-weather playground is closing for the season, which means that soon, you’ll be trading wheels for skis and waders for down jackets. We know — the winter stoke is real. But resist the urge to shove all your gear into the garage to be dealt with next spring; there’s work to be done.

Dirt and grime do a good job of hiding damage that’s accumulated over six months of fun. When it comes to something like a mountain bike, that buildup can impede the function of your drivetrain and other components. “Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to ride when the weather clears and getting stopped by surprise mechanical issues,” notes Nick Martin, founder of The Pro’s Closet, the largest e-retailer for pre-owned bikes and cycling gear.

And when it comes to a sport like climbing, poorly cared for gear can become a safety issue. “Taking a couple of hours in between seasons to go through all your gear is what sets you up for success — and safety — next season,” says Matt Hickethier, senior outdoor instructor for REI’s Denver location. Plus, you paid serious money for some of this stuff. “If you take care of high-quality hiking boots season after season, they can last you 20 years,” he adds.

Caring for your gear might not be as simple as leafing through the instruction manual (which you probably threw in the trash anyway). Below, you’ll find the best way to clean, dry, care for and store all your favorite summer gear so it’s ready for action at the first sign of a thaw next year.

Camping Gear

Sleeping Bags

Clean: You want to wash your sleeping bag as little as possible, especially if it’s down, since it makes the insulation clump and reduces its lifespan. (Hickethier likes to sleep with a liner and just washes that every few trips.) At the end of the season, place the bag in a front-load washing machine and use a mild detergent. The centralized spin on top-load machines can tear the stitching apart; if that’s all you have, lay your sleeping bag out and scrub it with an abrasive plastic brush and mild detergent. Then hose it off.

Dry: Hang to dry.

Care: If your bag came waterproof from its maker, use a spray (like Nikwax TX-Direct Spray-On) to restore that repellency.

Store: Once it’s completely dry, either hang the bag in your gear closet or put it in a mesh or breathable cotton bag that’s larger than the stuff sack you keep it in for trips. You want to keep the insulation as high a loft — that’s the fluffiness — as possible. Compression compromises the bag’s resilience, Hickethier says.

Cooking Equipment

Clean: Wipe down stoves and pots just like you would those in your kitchen, getting rid of any food particles that could breed bacteria or mold over the winter months. If you have a gas line, light the stove, then shut the gas off at the bottle rather than on the stove. According to Hickethier, this lets the gas flush through the line to the burner completely, and when it stops, you know the line is clear.

Dry: Let all components air dry. If the stove uses jet fuel, dry upside down so water isn’t pooling through the system.

Store: Your stove and cooking gear should be stored inside, away from the elements, which can erode the metal. Regulations for storing fuel vary by state and area, but if you have a flammables closet in your garage, that’s ideal. Otherwise, make sure it’s in an area that’s well ventilated, well contained and not going to overheat.

Tents

Clean: It’s important to get all the dirt off and out of your tent before storing it — any sand will act like sandpaper and degrade all your soft materials including stitching, Hickethier says. Turn the tent inside out, shake it, then scrub both it and the rainfly with a mild detergent (like Dawn) and a soft-bristled brush. Clean the ends of the poles that go into the ground and the stakes. Hose everything down.

Dry: Reassemble the entire tent and let it dry out somewhere indoors like in the garage, basement, even living room — UV rays actually wear down the materials over time, and since your tent obviously sits in the sun most of its erected life, you want to limit exposure as much as possible, Hickethier says.

Care: Put a UV treatment on the outside of the tent and the rainfly to extend its life. If there’s any peeling on the rainfly, treat with a waterproofing material like Nikwax. Check all your seams and cover any tape that’s peeling with silicone glue.

Store: Break down the poles and load them into the tent bag first. Never store poles under tension since they can start to wear out if taut over time, Hickethier says. Next, stuff the rainfly in the bag randomly, in a kind of circular pattern, followed by the body of the tent, then the footprint. Contrary to common sense organizational instincts, folding your tent is a no-no. “Every time you fold your tent, you’re creating constant wear on the same spots which will eventually break down the material, waterproofing and seams,” Hickethier explains.

Sleeping Pads

Clean: Inflate the pad, then hose it down, scrubbing with a mild detergent if it’s dirty.

Dry: Dry inside, out of UV light and inflated to ensure no water gets caught in creases.

Store: If it’s pillow style, pack the pad back down and store in its stuff sack. If it’s foam and self-inflatable, store the pad partially inflated with valves open to prevent the foam from breaking down under compression.

Hiking Gear

Hiking Boots

Clean: At the end of the season, do a thorough version of what you should do after every hike: Pull out the insoles, then give your boots a light wash with water, mild detergent or leather cleaner (if applicable) and a soft brush.

Dry: Hang boots upside down to allow air to flow in and excess moisture to drain out until they’re completely dry.

Care: Check all materials for degradation. If your boots are leather and puckering, turning a lighter color, or starting to look like dry skin, apply leather conditioner (Nikwax makes a good one) and let that set, then re-waterproof with a wax-based solution or silicone-based wax. Unlace your boots and check the strings’ conditions — if they’re fraying anywhere (it’ll likely be where they’re crossing a grommet) replace them. Check all metal components, like the hooks that help cinch the ankle cuff, and make sure there’s no damage or warping there. If the soles are separating anywhere, use a silicone glue (though if your soles are Vibram, contact the manufacturer because they should put a whole new one on for you).

Store: Keep boots in a dry, low-light spot, like the bottom of your closet or in a container in a low-humidity garage.

Backpacks

Clean: At the very least, empty your pack, turn it inside out and shake it to get all the small pieces of dirt and food out. If your pack has seen a lot of mud, turn it right side out and use a mild soap (like Dawn), a vinyl or plastic scrub brush and lukewarm water, scrubbing in a circular motion until all the dirt is gone. Make sure the water isn’t too hot, so it doesn’t shrink the material, Hickethier says. Check the straps and the buckle components for embedded mud or dirt.

Dry: Lay flat outside to dry.

Care: Check that the stitching isn’t fraying or peeling anywhere and that all hard components (i.e., plastic buckles) are still functioning correctly. Replace before storing.

Store: Don’t hang the bag — leaving the straps under tension, even lightly, will cause the material to stretch over time. Instead, compress the pack in a storage bin and store it somewhere with low moisture.

Water Reservoirs

Clean: A poorly cleaned, sealed reservoir is the perfect environment to breed mold and bacteria, Hickethier says. If your bladder had anything other than water in it (like an electrolyte drink) or there are signs of mineral buildup from hard water, use a dissolvable tablet, like Bottle Bright or CamelBak Cleaning Tablets, which create a bubble effect to scrub the inside of the reservoir. Run through the line, then rinse the whole thing out. (You can also use warm water, silicone-safe soap like Dawn and a soft brush, but the soap is harder to get out completely.)

Dry: Disconnect the line (if it has one), drain all the water, then hang vertically to dry (like over a hook). Some newer bladders will turn inside out, which is ideal. Otherwise, invest in a reservoir hanger (like this one from Camelbak) which is designed to keep the rubber and silicone components open so the bladder can drip dry completely.

Store: Keep the cap off, then fold the hose in half and tuck the bend into the mouth of the bladder to keep it open. Store it with the rest of your hiking gear. Some people also like to store the whole thing in their freezer to ensure no mildew develops.

Biking Gear

Road and Mountain Bikes

Clean: It’s definitely possible to wash a bike too much or too hard, says Martin. “Bikes are full of moving parts that are small and delicate,” he explains. “Overzealous washing can actually force crucial lubricants out of these parts and push dirt and grime in.” Be gentle: fill a spray bottle with warm water and a little mild dish soap (this, according to Martin, works just as well as bike-specific degreasers) and spray the whole thing down. Use a soft brush or cloth to agitate dirt and grime, especially on the chain and drivetrain. “A dirty or unlubricated drivetrain will cause a lot of premature wear, noise and shifting issues,” he adds. Rinse the frame and components with a hose or a bucket of clean water.

Dry: “Leaving your bike dripping wet is a recipe for corrosion,” Martin says. Take a small cloth and wipe down everything you can reach, including the chain and drivetrain. You can use a detailing spray (like Pedro’s Bike Lust) on the painted surfaces for an extra sheen and help in repelling dirt and dust during storage and on your next ride.

Care: Once dry, apply a chain lubricant to your drivetrain. “Only the chain needs lubrication and only on the rollers,” Martin warns. Use a rag to wipe away any excess lube that lands outside the chain or on the cassette, chainrings and derailleur pulleys. Run your shifter up and down through all the gears to make sure it doesn’t need any more tuning before you store. Then, take an inventory of what maintenance you can do during the off-season. For mountain bikes, you want to service the suspension once a year, either on your own or at a bike or suspension shop, Martin advises. On any bike, check all your consumable components like the chain, tire and brake pads for wear, and replace them if needed.

Store: Store your bike indoors — namely somewhere dry and shielded from the weather, because sun, wind, rain and snow will damage and shorten the lifespan of every component on your bike, Martin says. (If you have no choice but to keep it outside, get a waterproof cover and maintain it regularly.) You can keep it on the ground, but the most convenient way to store a bike is on a hook. For road, cyclocross or gravel bikes, hang them however you like (i.e., upside down or vertically from the ceiling or wall). Mountain bikes with suspension forks should be hung vertically — never upside down — with the front wheel up to keep the seals and foam rings in the fork from drying out.

Cycling Shoes

Clean: Pull out the insoles and wash with water, mild detergent or leather cleaner and a soft brush.

Dry: Stuff with newspaper and set in an airy space to let dry. Be sure they dry completely before storing.

Store: Keep shoes in a dry, shady spot, like a container in a low-humidity garage.

Helmets

Clean: Take a brush and clean with warm water and a gentle soap or shampoo, since you already know that won’t irritate your skin, Martin points out.

Dry: Hang to dry in a well-ventilated area.

Store: Store in a container in a low-humidity garage (out in the open risks dust and cobwebs).

Fishing Gear

Fly Lines

Clean: “Your line is exposed to dirt, sand, rocks and all kinds of funky stuff in the water that wants to decrease slickness and start breaking down the line,” observes Shawn Combs, Director of Product Development for Rod & Tackle at Orvis. Run the entire line through a Scientific Anglers cleaning pad — or a paper towel if you’re in a pinch.

Dry: Air dry.

Store: Re-spool your reel and store.

Rods

Clean: Wipe down with a clean, dry cloth. Wash reel in warm water with a soft cloth.

Dry: Air dry.

Store: Store in a rod tube.

Waders and Boots

Clean: River water should be rinsed off with a hose, and any mud on your boots scrubbed off with a soft brush and gentle dish soap.

Dry: Hang your waders to dry. Stuff boots with newspaper and leave in a well-ventilated area.

Store: Fold waders and store alongside boots in a container.

Climbing Gear

The most significant care aspect of climbing gear is to adhere to the manufacturer recommendations of life expectancy since your life depends on the reliability of these products. “Even if a rope was never used, it still has a life expectancy for how long that piece of gear is serviceable,” Hickethier explains. Info for harnesses, ropes and protective equipment can all be found on the manufacturer’s website.

Harnesses

Clean: You may still use your harness inside during the winter, but you want to clean all the dirt and grime from the outdoor season off. Always handwash it to prevent fraying and breaking, Hickethier says. Scrub the soft material and metal parts with warm, soapy water.

Dry: Hang inside to dry.

Care: Before you store it, as well as before each use, inspect the stitching, lacing and hard components of your harness. Fix anything immediately — if you forget and head out with a broken buckle, it’s hazardous, Hickethier points out.

Store: Pack flat, somewhere dry, so the material doesn’t stretch out.

Climbing Shoes

Clean: Since bouldering shoes get more dusty than dirty and have a particular grip to them, skip the soap and rinse with warm water until it runs clear.

Dry: Stuff with newspaper and set in a well-ventilated area to dry.

Store: Store alongside the rest of your climbing gear.

Ropes

Clean: Fill your bathtub or sink with warm water and add rope wash (like this one from Beal) and let it soak according to the package instructions. If the water is exceptionally dirty, drain and repeat until the water runs clear.

Dry: Set rope outside to dry.

Store: Wrapping a rope tightly can create kinks and degrade the fibers over time, Hickethier says. Instead, coil it loosely on the ground or hung on two supports (like nails). Store away from UV light.

Cams

Clean: If the metal parts have gunk built up inside, rinse with hot water and mild soap.

Dry: Wipe dry with a cloth.

Care: Lubricate the metal parts you washed, as well as any clean cams in need of some slickness (use a product like Metolius Cam Lube). Check the webbing to ensure it’s clean and not wearing down. If it’s degrading, most companies will re-sling it for you, Hickethier says.

Store: Attach to a carabiner to keep organized, then store with the rest of your climbing gear.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

It’s Settled, This Is the Tastiest Trail Mix You’ll Ever Eat

Gorp or trail mix — whatever you call it, some variation of the nuts, fruits and oats mixture has been a mainstay in daypacks and thru-hiking packs since the early 1900s. One of the first recorded appearances of trail mix was published in Horace Kephart’s book, The Book of Camping and Woodcraft. Kephart, who was a traveller, outdoorsman, National Park advocate and writer for Field and Stream wrote: “A handful each of shelled nuts and raisins, with a cake of sweet chocolate, will carry a man far on the trail, or when he has lost it.” Kephart had it right: Trail mix provides the perfect combination of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and sugars to keep you energized between more formal meals on the trail.

Kephart’s recipe is functional, but basic. To get something that fits today’s elevated food standards, we tapped Jen Scism, co-founder and chef of Good To-Go, which makes gourmet dehydrated food for camping. Scism spent years in New York working as a chef in highly acclaimed French restaurants before starting her own highly praised New York restaurant, Annisa. Scism now runs Good To-Go in Kittery, Maine — and she gets out hiking as much as possible. She says trail mix is one of the mainstays in her pack, and she has developed her own recipe over the years.

“For me, it’s a combination of sweet and salty,” Scism said. “You need little things that balance each other out.” Despite Kephart’s chocolate recommendation, you won’t find any cacao in Scism’s recipe. “I don’t like anything that can melt. If you set your pack down in the sun, you’re going to find melted chocolate. So I like stuff that won’t be compromised by the weather,” she said. Scism starts with a base of a favorite granola recipe and then builds from there. In this recipe she uses a granola composed of almonds, pumpkin seeds and thick-cut oats tossed with honey and maple syrup. Then she builds on top of it, adding different dried fruits like pineapples or yogurt-covered raisins.

‘David’s Favorite Trail Mix’ by Jen Scism

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Ingredients for the granola base:
1/4 pound thick-cut rolled oats
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup halved pecans
1/2 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shelled, raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 ounce honey
2 ounce maple syrup
1 ounce grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup yogurt-covered raisins

Add-ins:
3/4 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup yogurt covered raisins

Optional additions:
Dried apricots
Dried pineapple
Dates

Preparation:
1. Toss all of the ingredients for the granola base together in a large bowl.

2. Put the mixture onto two cookie sheets with sides and bake at 300°F for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and move the mixture around so that it cooks evenly. Put them back in the oven, switching the top and bottom cookie sheet. Repeat this step twice, once every 10 minutes — or until the mixture is toasted but not brown.

4. Let the mixture cool, then add the dried fruit, mixing thoroughly. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator or cool, dry place.

Review: The Year’s Best Road Bike Is One You’ve Never Heard Of

No… it’s not a Venge. No, it’s not a SystemSix! No, damnit, it’s not a Timemachine either. All these aero bikes are starting to look the same. However, this Parlee RZ7 is different, I’m telling you. It’s the most comfortable aero bike I’ve ridden, hands down. Parlee Cycles is a relatively small brand based near Boston, but founder Bob Parlee has always made comfort his top priority when it comes to his carbon bikes, and the RZ7 continues this legacy.

What makes the RZ7 so great is the way it interacts with the road (mortar-bombed NYC thoroughfares included). It feels effortlessly fast, mostly due to how smoothly it manages to glide over pavement. With most aero bikes out there right now, “comfort” and “speed” can’t appear in the same sentence. But when the ride is this comfortable, you don’t want to stop riding. I’ve had the bike for less than a month and have already put several hundred miles in the saddle. It’s just so addicting to thrash through the war zone of New York City streets.

The Good

Almost everything is stellar on this bike, but maybe I am biased. I already own a Parlee, and I’m sad to say it is now the slower of the two. This bike isn’t a bucking stallion but more of a stable ballistic missile. It’s as simple as point and pedal. Pick a direction and the bike will cut through the air and take you there. It’s also surprisingly lightweight; the size 55 frame (medium) weighs in at about 17.8 pounds, very light for the most basic trim level. You could easily get that number down to pro peloton figures with some lighter components.

In the straights the Parlee RZ7 pulls like a train. I’ve had friends hop on my wheel and struggle to keep up. But what’s even more surprising is the bike’s ability to climb up the hills. The lightweight frame paired with the SRAM AXS 46-33T chainring and 10-33 rear cassette makes it an extremely capable climbing bike — so capable I broke a Strava Personal Record previously set by my lighter bike. I am surprised and also confused that an aero bike is faster than a climbing bike when it comes to, you know, actually climbing.

The RZ7 is the most advanced offering from Parlee yet, and the first to bring system integration to a bike. The aesthetics of the stem are marmite to some, but it allows all of the cables to be neatly internalized, adding to the contemporary, streamlined look. The stem also features a fully integrated GPS mount that slides into the front and sits rock solid. Thru axles are custom, and the outer thread is hidden. The bike also packs Parlee’s proprietary speed fairings, which purport to aerodynamically shield the disc brake calipers. Do they work? Probably. Can I tell? No, I can’t.

Because this is a future-bike, all RZ7s come with disc brakes and electronic shifting only, which might turn off some bicycling purists. “Discs are ugly, rims brakes are timeless!” “Shimano Di2 – No Battery No Go.” I was one of those skeptics before riding this bike. I was forced to embrace technology. I still think rim brakes look better, being a photographer and all. But disc brakes do stop better, which is, you know, kind of important.

Who It’s For

The RZ7 is for someone with good taste, maybe a little too much taste, who wants something a bit more… exotic. Parlee is a boutique brand, a bike you don’t see too often, and price tags reflect that reality. This bike is very black. It could not be any more black, except maybe if it was sprayed with Vantablack (in some smartphone photos I could not even see the bike.) If you like stealth bomber looks and ghosted branding, this bike is for you. If you value comfort, but also speed, this bike is for you. If you want to break all your previously held personal records, this bike is for you. If you just love Parlee and want to satisfy your N+1 itch, this bike is for you.

Watch Out For

Like I said, this bike is very black. In anything short of direct sunlight, you can’t even tell who makes the bike. To some, all black bikes are a dying trend. Many also find them boring. Luckily, Parlee offers a world-class custom paint service, but that of course means more money. Also, for such an advanced bike, I find the handlebars contradictory. They aren’t the flat top aero bars we are used to seeing on aero bikes from other manufacturers, and they look a bit out of place here. The bar ends are also oddly long, and I’ve hit my knees on them a few times. Additionally, I think the stock tires are a bit delicate for long and aggressive riding; I suffered a puncture after only a hundred miles.

Alternatives

This bike is kind of in a league of its own. There are other bikes out there just as aerodynamic (see first paragraph). But I sincerely doubt any of them offer the same ride quality as the RZ7.

Verdict

The “Aero is Everything” trend is here to stay. Reviewing this bike has me drinking the Kool-Aid, and if I could keep it, I surely would. The RZ7 blends all-day comfort with high-performing aerodynamics and climbing ability, a package every manufacturer claims to offer but often fails to deliver. It’s not cheap by any means, but if you can afford it, you will not regret your decision.

Key Specs (as tested)
Frame: Parlee Performance Road Geometry
Tubing: Parlee High Modulus Carbon Fiber, Recurve 2.0 Design
Paint: Matte Black with Ghosted Logos
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS
Chainset: 46-33T
Cassette: 10-33T 12 Speed
Bottom Bracket: SRAM Dub PF30
Wheelset: Reynolds AR41 Carbon
Tires: Vittoria Corsa Speed 2.0 (Tubeless Ready)
Stem: Parlee Carbon
Handlebars: Parlee Carbon
Seatpost: Parlee Carbon
Saddle: Ergon SR

Parlee provided this product for review.

The Best New Knives and EDC of October 2019

Now we can officially proclaim the arrival of fall. It’s heralded by chilly weather, pumpkin spice everything and, of course, gear: fleeces, down jackets, flannels and beanies. On the cue of the autumnal equinox, brands recently revealed the newest versions of these items in droves. But not all product launches are tied to seasonal changes — pocket knives and EDC tools are a great example.

The companies and individuals that make these things work year-round, and large-scale manufacturers might reveal as many as 50 new knives and multi-tools spread out over all 12 months. So, there’s something new to check out every week, and while we make it our mission to keep you up to speed in regards to all the new knives and tools, we also know that you might’ve missed a few. That’s why we’re rounding up our findings here in one concise, easy-to-scroll article.

Recently, The James Brand made its second pen, Leatherman updated one of its classics, Victorinox made its first fixed blade and more.

Benchmade 496 Vector

The 496 Vector uses Benchmade’s Axis lock, which debuted in 1998 and consists of a simple yet incredibly secure sliding switch design. What is new, however, is the knife’s combination of a compound grind with CPM-20CV steel. It makes for a tactical blade — it’s 3.6 inches long — that hides in a more understated handle made of G10 with an aluminum bolster.

The James Brand Stilwell

The Stilwell is the second writing utensil from The James Brand, and it’s the company’s version of the compact pen. The pen is 3.5 inches closed — that’s short enough to fit your pants coin pocket — but 5.4 inches open. Its cap locks in place over the butt of the pen with three built-in O-rings so it won’t slip during use. The pen uses an easy-to-find D1 ink cartridge and comes in three versions: a black or silver model made of aluminum and another made of titanium.

Leatherman Charge+ G10

The Charge isn’t a new multi-tool for Leatherman. It, and its 17 included implements, have been aiding outdoorsmen and DIYers for years — but never with G10 handles. G10, a high-pressure fiberglass composite, is durable and will never rust or soften, which makes it an ideal choice for a tool handle. Leatherman is issuing the Charge+ G10 in limited colors through its retailers; you can find a red handle at REI and an orange one at Cabela’s.

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Victorinox Outdoor Master

Believe it or not, the Outdoor Master is the first fixed-blade knife from the maker of the classic Swiss Army (not counting the brand’s kitchen knives). Victorinox is making the knife in two sizes: one with a 3.4-inch blade and another with a 2.8-inch blade. The knife employs a full-tang construction, Micarta handles and a drop-point blade made of 1.4116 stainless steel — the same stuff the company uses in its world-famous multi-knife.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

These New Lifestyle Clothes From Bike Brands Look Damn Good

Some sports lend themselves quite easily to lifestyle apparel. The baseball cap and the basketball shoe, for instance, are natural fits. Other sports, not so much. You can’t exactly wear crampons out to the club. And then some sports are kinda in between, like bicycling. And while you wouldn’t necessarily rock a chamois off the saddle, three of our favorite bicycling apparel brands recently launched lifestyle lines we love. Here’s what stands out about each collection, along with some exemplary pieces.

Pearl iZumi

Pearl iZumi’s BikeStyle line consists of 21 pieces — shirts, hoodies, jackets, vests, pants shorts and shoes — that combine casual good looks with the brand’s proven performance features, so you can sport them all the way from the trail to the bar and beyond. The Men’s Rove Long Sleeve Shirt ($80) boasts a moisture-wicking brushed polyester woven tail fabric, drop tail for on-bike coverage and reflective accents to keep you safe on evening rides.

Pas Normal

The Danish brand’s new Off-Race Casual collection is composed of six pieces — three jackets, two pants and a beanie — united by distinctive looks and highly technical fabrics that protect against the elements but are equally comfortable hanging around the house. Highlights of the Polartec 100 Off-Race Fleece Jacket ($220) include warm-but-breathable recycled, synthetic yarn, plus four zippered pockets, including a classic cycling style back pocket, to stash everything from Clif Bars to transit cards.

Rapha

Last but not least, Rapha’s Mechanics Collection consists of five built-to-last, shop-style pieces — a jacket, two shirts and two pants — designed in collaboration with a select group of passionate bicycle mechanics. The Mechanics Jacket ($150) is constructed of heavyweight cotton with a bit of stretch for this on the move, and it features big pockets for stashing tools, a ripstop cotton lining and quick-release cuffs that let you roll up your sleeves when it’s time to tinker with your brakes or replace a janky chain.

5 Vegan Protein Powders Top Fitness Trainers Swear By

Whey isolate (a dairy product) has long been the most popular type of protein powder. It has years and years of scientific research backing up its numerous recovery benefits. For those looking to refuel their body with proteins that will help build lean muscle, whey protein powder is usually the go-to option. Its relatively wide availability helps as well. Stop by Target, and there’s a good chance most of the protein products on the shelves are going to be derived from whey isolate. 

However, whey protein isn’t without its downsides, especially when it comes to the digestive system, which it’s particularly harsh on. Too much whey protein in your system can lead to nausea, digestive issues, acne and a whole slew of other unpleasant side effects. That’s not even getting into all of the issues that come with consuming dairy too frequently.

Luckily, there are other options — vegan options, actually. You may find yourself surprised by just how many different base ingredients can factor into protein powders. From rice to hemp to peas, there are plenty of clean alternatives to whey.

Vegan protein powders have a number of benefits beyond helping build muscle as any good protein powder should. They’re great for your digestive system and for cardiovascular health. Most also pack healthy doses of fiber, which can help boost fat burning as your body processes the fiber and protein.

But how do you choose among all the promising vegan options? We spoke with five personal trainers who swear by vegan products to learn which ones work best for them. Chances are they’ll do your body good, too. 

Lifetime Fitness Plant Powered Vegan Protein

“My favorite protein is Lifetime Fitness Plant Powered Vegan Protein,” says Sara Benjamin, a trainer and nutrition specialist located in Blacksburg, Virginia. Aside from the product containing a hefty dose of protein (24 grams, to be exact) per serving, she finds its versatility in the kitchen to be especially helpful. “It mixes really well into smoothies, coffee, plant-based milk and even water.” Sara says.

Bio Chem Vegan Protein Powder

Shauna Godwin, a personal trainer located in North Carolina, swears by Bio Chem Vegan Protein Powder. The supplement is 100 percent plant-derived, taking protein isolates from peas, hemp seeds and cranberries. Godwin likes that the hemp seed protein is a source of Omega 3-6-9 and that the cranberry protein means the powder is also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. “Plus, it tastes great,” she adds.

NorCal Organic Pea Protein

“I’ve noticed my body processes pea protein best,” says Robin Arzon, vice president of fitness programming and head instructor at Peloton. As such, one of her go-to powders is NorCal Organic Pea Protein. The 26-time ultramarathoner looks for clean ingredients and only uses products with natural flavoring. NorCal’s pea protein is free of added colors, flavors and sugars and also packs nearly 5 grams of BCAAs, which have their own array of benefits.

Vega

Vanessa Padula of SLT sticks with a widely accessible vegan protein brand: Vega. The brand offers a variety of flavors of protein powder and is pretty readily available both online and in brick-and-mortar locations (including Target). Padula notes that Vega protein, and vegan protein powder as a whole, is a lot more versatile in kitchen application than whey (which is limited due to dairy products affecting the chemistry of a recipe that requires cooking). “You can use it in shakes and smoothies or add it into your oatmeal and pancakes,” Padula notes. “You can even bake with it by replacing part of the recipe’s flour content with the protein powder.”

Orgain Organic Protein Powder

Mile High Run Club’s Valery Charles is a big fan of Orgain’s supplement lineup, specifically the brand’s Organic Protein Powder. “I like the vanilla-flavored mix,” she says. All six flavors include 21 grams of protein per serving. Orgain prides itself on cutting down the gritty texture that can so often come with vegan protein powders. The powder is also relatively low in calories, coming in at 120 per serving.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Maurten Just Updated Its Magic, Race-Winning Endurance Gel

When Geoffrey Kamworor recently set a new world record half marathon time of 58 minutes and 1 second, (that’s a pace of 4:25 per mile), he surprised commentators by refueling twice during the effort. They speculated ketone esters might’ve been splashing around inside his water bottles, but in reality, it was a hydrogel drink mix created by Maurten. Other elite athletes including Mo Farah, Eliud Kipchoge and Desiree Linden have used Maurten’s magic potion to climb onto podiums too. Its hydrogel formula also comes pre-mixed in gel packets, and now, for the first time, Maurten is including caffeine in the recipe.

So, what the hell are hydrogels? They’re water-based biopolymers; Maurten’s are a mix of alginate and pectin, and it uses them as a vehicle to deliver carbohydrates faster and in greater quantities than similar drinks and gels. It’s a precise recipe, and Maurten confirmed with Gear Patrol that it did have to make slight adjustments to work caffeine into the mix. Gel 100 Caf 100 is “a bit stiffer” than the original gel, according to Herman Reuterswärd, Head of Communication at Maurten, but the unique functioning of the hydrogel remains (and the caffeine taste is kept to a minimum). Each packet contains 100 milligrams of caffeine in addition to 25 grams of carbs.

Given the proven benefits that caffeine can supply during endurance efforts, it makes sense that Maurten would harness it in its also-proven hydrogel products. Kipchoge and Farah both used the new caffeine-enhanced hydrogel in preparations for this year’s London Marathon, and according to Reuterswärd, Farah is using it to train for Chicago as well. Given Maurten’s growing popularity amongst non-elite athletes too, chances are we’ll be seeing plenty of empty white packets littering the streets of Berlin, Chicago and New York in the coming weeks.

How Ultralight Backpacks Are Becoming Mainstream

When Michael and Melanie Tilton go into the wilderness, they each carry a backpack with a base weight of around seven pounds. That single-digit figure includes all of their gear — from sleeping necessities to clothing — but not consumables like water, fuel and food. It also lands them squarely in a weight-defined category called “ultralight.” A traditionally diehard set existing on the fringes of hiking culture, ultralighters are hikers who carry a base weight under 10 pounds, compared to more typical backpackers who might lug 20 pounds and up, plus consumables, into the wilderness.

“I’ve never been in a position where I needed something that I didn’t have,” Melanie says. “I think that ultralight backpacking makes you think about what you can live without or makes you do without certain things. You adapt.” One example of that mindset is the couple’s tendency to forgo what most folks view as backpacking necessities, like a stove, so they can stay light and hike big miles.

Michael explains further that huffing less weight puts less strain on the body, too. “It’s simply better from a health perspective, and for enjoyment,” he says.

Last year, the couple completed the Triple Crown — hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail — in a single calendar year for a total of almost 8,000 miles of walking. After stumbling upon the Instagram account for LiteAF, an ultralight gear company that was just emerging at the time, Michael reached out, and ended up carring a prototype backpack on parts of the CDT and AT.

“We were the first people to actually pay Chris Millard, the founder, for a pack,” Michael says. “After we used his pack from Rawlings, Wyoming, to the end of the CDT, there were some things we didn’t like before we got onto the AT.” The Tiltons sent Millard an email, letting him know what could be changed. Millard went back to the drawing board, and among other modifications, he altered the foam inside the shoulder straps and removed a V-strap from them.

With the altered bags in their hands, the Tiltons wrapped up their AT hike. “The backpack was perfect,” Michael says, adding that they’ll tote the same bags on future long-distance hiking trips — an affirmation of the durability of Millard’s design.

That pack, now called the Curve, is available in four different sizes and is part of LiteAF’s growing arsenal of gear that includes fanny packs and soon, shelters. Millard, a former project manager in the construction industry who makes everything by hand in Vincentown, New Jersey, recently added an updated style of the Curve called the Fast-Track. It’s designed specifically with thru-hikers in mind, weighing only one pound yet boasting up to 45 liters of space.

Millard achieves that featherweight by excluding features common to traditional backpacks: bulky zippers, compartments and external straps. He uses Dyneema Composite Fabric, formerly known as Cuben Fiber, which is a waterproof, incredibly durable yet lightweight fabric comprised of a variety of materials like fiber monofilaments, PVC and Polyethylene.

Michael says the quality of LiteAF packs is noticeable right away, with sturdy stitches, obvious attention to detail, and thoughtful designs you can only get with a handcrafted item. “There are 50 different companies doing it, and he’s doing it the best I’ve seen.”

Only a few years ago, it was challenging to find companies making ultralight gear. Those who wanted to lighten their load to the extremes existed on the DIY fringes — many resorted to making or modifying their gear and doing things like ripping straps off of backpacks or opting to hike with a tuna can and alcohol instead of a stove. Today, among the growing crowd of thru-hikers, UL packs have soared in popularity, with plenty of companies ready to meet the demand by exclusively focusing on UL products. Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Gossamer Gear and Zpacks are just a few.

While plenty of cottage companies still produce the bulk of UL gear, the hardcore sect of backpacking has recently begun to infiltrate the mainstream. Osprey made waves in 2018 when it released the Levity, an ultralight backpack weighing in at under two pounds in a 45-liter capacity. Additionally, Mountainsmith, which has for years produced conventional backpacking gear, leaped into ultralight this year with the release of the Zerk 40 backpack. It’s the culmination of two years of testing in the field over 5,000 miles with the help of pro hiker Tom Gathman, who is better known as the Real Hiking Viking.

Cody Durham, Lead Designer at Mountainsmith, says that Gathman had tried several ultralight packs but hadn’t found a good fit. “Tom told us there was a need for an ultralight backpack that was capable of doing 1,000-plus miles and not getting tossed in the garbage,” Durham says.

The team, eager to create a solution, found inspiration within the ultrarunning community and the vests that athletes commonly wear, which are made to fit more like apparel than a bag. Mountainsmiths’s designers decided not to use Dyneema in favor of 100-denier nylon and 200-denier Spectra double rip-stop fabric. At 25 ounces, it’s not the lightest pack on the market, but the designers tout its comfort and durability as something you won’t find with other brands. Plus, it’s backed by a well-established name in the gear world.

Mountainsmith’s marketing director Cameron Bumsted affirms that ultralight backpacking isn’t some new trend; it’s not going anywhere. If anything, he says it’s only growing, transitioning from a select group of core hikers into the weekend warrior and day hiking crowds. “The Zerk was designed for ultralight thru-hikers, but people have been using it on day hikes,” he says. “It validates what we set out to do with an ultralight pack, which was to create something really versatile and gets people thinking about ultralight design outside of the thru-hiking community.”

Fast-Track by LiteAF $300

Levity 45L by Osprey $250

Zerk 40 by Mountainsmith $220
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

8 Outdoor Products That Make Tailgating Awesome

Tailgate parties aren’t often associated with outdoor recreation. Sure, they take place out-of-doors, but typically in parking lots (vast, paved-over swaths of land) near gargantuan stadiums, not mountains. But take away the tent and sleeping bags, and car camping becomes tailgating (with a much different view). In that sense, all the other items you might pack for a weekend in the woods — from portable furniture to insulated food storage to rugged electronics — are also strategically suited to gameday gatherings.

Yeti Hondo Base Camp Chair



Lighter options are available, but you’re not backpacking, so why not opt for the burliest camp chair available? Yeti’s Hondo Base Camp Chair employs diehard cast joints, which are similar to those used for truck door hinges, and a comfortable fabric seat that can hold up to 500 pounds without losing its shape.

Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket



Camp blankets are the new breed of picnic blanket, and they’re better in every way; thanks to technical materials, they’re lighter, more durable and warmer too. And for these reasons, they’re an ideal extra to bring to cold weather outdoor outings.

BioLite FirePit



There are cheap, disposable grills that can be found at the grocery store, and there are even miniature charcoal grills that are portable enough, and then there’s BioLite’s FirePit. It’s as close to a campfire as you’ll get without a ring of stones, and in addition to having a rack for cooking, it’s equipped with an attached battery pack that can charge multiple devices.

UE Megablast Bluetooth Speaker



Rugged and portable Bluetooth speakers are abundant today but UE still leads the category, and its Megablast is the biggest and loudest of the bunch. It’s waterproof, drop-proof, Alexa-enabled and also quite affordable.

Orca Classic Cooler



Orca’s rotomolded coolers are well-made down to every last detail — including the whale tail-shaped rubber tabs that secure their lids closed. They’re as tough as coolers come, and won’t mind getting tossed around in the trunk at all.

RTIC Can



Neoprene koozies run free at every type of event, but they don’t extend the chill of a beverage beyond a few extra minutes. RTIC’s double-walled, vacuum-insulated version actually works (and it’ll help keep your hands from freezing too).

Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC Power Bank



The truly-prepared will bring a backup source of power, and Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100 is a beast of a battery that can power phones, cameras, laptops, speakers and more. Wireless charging is supported, and it’s airline friendly in the case of an away game.

Thule HideAway Awning



For diehard tailgaters: attach the HideAway to your roof rack, and you have a deploy-anywhere awning that turns any vehicle into a gameday base camp.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Run Faster Than Ever With the Shoes That Just Won the Fifth Avenue Mile

This weekend, New York Road Runners and New Balance put on the annual Fifth Avenue Mile. Runners start at 79th street and sprint the 20 blocks. This year, Jenny Simpson won her eighth-mile (seventh in a row) with a time of 4:16.1 in a pair of shoes that you, too, can purchase. The New Balance 5280 are designed to look and feel like track spikes, meaning they’re sleek and slim. Simpson wore these in 2018 to win, and the shoes launched just in time for the Fifth Avenue Mile this year.

At $200, they’re on the pricier end of running shoes, but if you’re looking to get a bit more daily wear out of the shoes, we recommend the FuelCell Rebel, which features the same foam as the 5280s, just in a slightly more wallet-friendly price.

We’ve been running in the FuelCell Rebel since May, and it’s safe to say these are one of our favorite running shoes of the year. They’re great for track days and short runs, plus comfortable enough to wear around all day long.

If you’re looking for other fast kicks, the men’s winner, Nick Willis, won in 3:51.7, wearing what looks to be a version of the Adidas Adizero sneakers, very similar to the Adizero Boston 7 shoes.