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2013 Sierra Denali, best in class hauling machine

The 2013 Sierra Denali Crew Cab has a comfort range stretching from a city construction site to the countryside. This beast could most likely pull a tree out of the ground, but I thought it was in my best interest not to try while GMC provided me the truck for a week to review. It can, though, easily pull 12,000 plus pounds.  What I did try was taking my young family on an excursion to way upstate New York to a place called Black Lake…A body of water that freshwater fishermen come from far and wide for some of the best fishing in the state. Sierra lake side Sierra in town The interior of the vehicle was super spacious for my wife and two young girls plus their car seats. It was also extremely refined and included a heated steering wheel. Of course I tried it, although it was 65 degrees out. Other key features in the Sierra Denali model: 12-way power front seats wrapped in premium perforated leather, heated and ventilated front seats (can’t get over how great the ventilated seats are), woodgrain cabin trim, and Bose surround-sound audio system. I really like the USB port in the main storage console. On the outside, the Sierra Denali is equipped with additional chrome trim, heated power retractable side mirrors, side steps, and chrome wheels. Sierra The power plant of an engine offered for the Denali is a 6.6L Duramax diesel rated at 397 horsepower. The engine is B20 biodiesel capable with an Allison 1000 6-speed automatic transmission. It includes a Tow/Haul Mode as well as engine exhaust braking to better control speed on hills, and also to reduce brake wear. The standard 36-gallon fuel tank and engine efficiency moved us up to 640 miles between fill-ups. Upon breaking in the engine further on this brand new truck, I suspect it will get closer to 680 miles between fill ups. The Technology stack is pretty impressive as well. I was first sold on the USB port located in the center console and that was just the start. One killer option that was not active was the GMC WIFI. The truck has slick touchscreen for OnStar Navigation and Connection (1st 6 months no cost), Rearview camera, Sirius/XM and Bluetooth (a favorite for hands free calling and access to iTunes).

The confidence inspired driving this All Wheel Driven rig is superior to all trucks in it’s class and light years ahead of these guys…Upstate NY Amish

Chaco Rex and Fantasia keeping a low profile

Chaco sandals have gone on a diet with their lightweight offerings this summer.  The Chaco Rex for Men and the Fantasia for Women.

I have been wearing the latest and greatest Chaco sandal, The Rex, for three weeks now. I have had them on pretty much everyday since I received both pairs (Thank you, Chaco). The Rex has a low profile sole unlike other variations of Chacos. While I still like the durability and stability of the larger Z soled Chacos, the Rex is now my go to. Comfort right away but you will need to find the feel of the webbing. The webbing isn’t quite like the Chaco of old. The heel strap was maxed out for a looser feel and my foot volume is not out of the ordinary. My wife, Leigh, cut off the end of her straps as they were way too long when cinched down

The Rex is a slimmed down version of the great Z soles that will find the heart of many. With that said, the Z soles are still the weapon of choice for burlier activities.

His & Her Chaco's Leigh, on her perspective on the Fantasia:

First off, I have to say that I like these shoes. I say that because I didn’t expect to. My first and only pair of Chacos are probably 3 years old, and I always thought they were a bit… clunky. Heavy, almost. These are much better! They still have the telltale toe strap, but the shoebed is much lighter than my previous pair. In addition, they have a really cute color design – soft green and brownish/grey – that seems to match everything. I have worn these around the city for day long excursions, and have been pleased with their performance. The only downside to these, I found, are the somewhat high arch. It’s not uncomfortable, but you do notice it. It took a couple of wears for me to get used to it. I found the arch a little distracting in the beginning. But once I was used to the natural feel, the high-ish arch doesn’t bother me anymore. That’s the only thing I don’t absolutely love about these.

I’d recommend these as an active shoe, when you plan on doing a fair amount of walking/outdoor summer activities.  They still have a rugged feel, but being a lighter version, they can look even cute with a casual skirt or summer dress.  All around a good pick.

Wearing these feels like a flip flop with way more support. If you haven’t tried Chaco products your missing out some great boots, shoes, sandals, and flops.

Exposed Seam solution for bike commuters

Exposed Seam is a Boston based company that makes the StaySharp Commuter Cuff . Made in the USA for bike commuters or anyone hopping on their bike around town.

Easy to use protection from the chain. It has a reflective strip down the back. A small feature that goes a long way.  I love any additional reflective elements anywhere possible when riding anywhere day or night.

cuffs_linear (1)

You see all types of solutions that are far more cumbersome then using the cuff. Do yourself a favor and pick one up. Always nice to use a product made for cyclists by cyclists. Jonathan and Jen will be at the Boston Cycling and Health Expo this weekend.

You can find them on Facebook and Twitter

Thank you to Jonathan and Jen for providing me the product for review.

Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody and Patagonia Merino Wool

All Fall 2012 including reviewed pieces on sale now (up to 60% off) at Patagonia.com

Blaze orange and loving it. While this jacket is specifically made for ice climbers, I have found it to be a fantastic jacket to layer underneath as needed for dropping temperatures and at the same time a great shell in virtually every season.

Mixed Guide Hoody-PaintbrushRed

What I love about this piece:

The hybrid soft shell material and Patagonia H2No® Performance 3-layer nylon ripstop fabric with a waterproof, breathable barrier, bright color, lightweight, and range of use and range of temperatures. The soft-shell areas are made of highly breathable, wind resistant Polartec® Power Shield® keeping you cool at all times.

The hood itself is large enough to slide over a ski helmet as needed and the draw cords are well done.  the best thing about the hood is your vision is not impacted in the slightest. It moves with your moves…a rare but stellar attribute in a hood. A great pick up for year round utility.

What to wear under this shell? Fear not Patagonia has an impressive lineup of Merino Wool to keep you regulated no matter your activity.

Here is my go to baselayer on a cold day: Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Zip-Neck Shirt – Wool…great for any multi sport activity of just under a sweater at the office.

Merino 2Pataagonia Merino 3 MidWeight Zip Neck

Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Crew Shirt – Wool…another excellent base layer that is great to wear alone next to your skin. Patagonia Merino 1 SW Crew – Long-Sleeve – a wonderful lightweight merino shirt that welcomes any training session.

While Patagonia has become a leading outdoor brand they have also become a leader in world wide conservation efforts. The companies commitment to sustainability is not only window dressing but common practice for employees and devout followers of the brand. This is demonstrated by the Uncommon Threads Initiative  partnership with eBay to make buying their brand more sustainable. Have you taken the pledge yet? 

Merrell’s Avalon jacket for women…warm, waterproof, and pretty

Guest editor, Leigh Curtis, providing her insight of the Merrell Avalon jacket:

This is an impressive jacket.  I would qualify it as a cold weather winter coat vs. a piece one might choose for a somewhat crisp fall day.  I tested this out during a recent autumn Nor’ Easter that brought driving rain, wind and very chilly temperatures.  It performed extremely well during this 2 day weather event, and kept me cozy when I braved the outside nastiness while walking the dog.  While my legs were wet and cold, my upper body was undeterred by the storm raging around me.
What I especially like is the detachable hood- so easy to zip on or off, depending on the day.  Today, for example, is sunny and cold, so I removed it and wore it as a parka.  However, in rain or snow or very cold temps, the hood is much appreciated to keep your head (and neck!) warm and dry.


Other features include zip up pockets – nice for people like me who tend to ‘drop’ (i.e. lose) keys, etc., as well as pit zips, for when you feel the need to cool down/air out a little.  The arm cuffs also cinch down with adjustable velcro, and there is a snowskirt giving this coat a ski jacket feel.
Finally, for it’s outward appearance.  I am a huge fan of the 4 feminine snap closures over the zipper, as this feature makes this piece really stand out among other standard cold weather parkas.  That, combined with the very subtle herringbone pattern, elevate this jacket to pretty.  And that’s not an easy feat because – make no mistake – this is a performer.  It’s warm and waterproof meant for serious weather, almost ‘burly’.  But those feminine features soften it and make me feel as though I can wear it on an icky winter day with jeans and boots or to a dressy holiday party with heels.
Well done, Merrell.

Smith Helmets save lives!

“We Make The Great Days Better” ….Great motto but it should be more like,  “We make everyday better,  even the bad days”. If you’re not wearing a ski helmet, no matter your level of ability, you shouldn’t be skiing. A helmet will save your life if given the opportunity. I had an accident heading off an unmarked 30 foot cliff (knowing they were in the area) and then pinballed my way through trees on my chest, finally becoming concealed in a chute with my elbow sticking out of the snow (bonus bright yellow jacket).  My Smith helmet is one of the major contributing factors to me being alive today. I was also blessed enough that one woman (an angel) who happened to be a former EMT saw my fall and came to my aid as I was unconscious, upside down and buried in a snowy grave. I have worn a helmet for the last ten or so seasons and want to emphasize the importance of protecting your head first and foremost. While I survived, I did incur a mild traumatic brain injury that took quite a bit of time to recover from, on top of many other broken bones. If not for the helmet I would have been dead or – at a minimum – learning how to walk and talk again. I hope my personal story will encourage others no matter the terrain you ski or board to protect your most important asset…your brain. Many skiers and boarders who sustain a serious head injury consider themselves to be advanced skiers, if not expert. These injuries are usually inflicted at high speeds on intermediate trails, not on the steep stuff. Wearing a ski helmet is a recognized and proven way to reduce the risk of a head injury, or to reduce the severity of an injury in the event of an impact – and I am a perfect example of the latter. Below is picture of my Smith Variant (Broken) Brim helmet post accident, with just the brim broken off on the side of my face that was injured. The newer models of Smith helmets including the Smith Variant Brim that I was wearing are much lower profile now eliminating the bowling ball look of the early days of ski helmet adoption. Keep in mind that helmets do need replacing after taking any hits or years of use.  Check out Smith’s hot new lineup here. If my Smith Vantage wasn’t nearly brand new, I would grab the new lime green colored Vantage. Bright colors should be utilized more often, in both soft and hardgoods alike, for overall safety on hill. If you ever question whether you should wear a helmet, please use my incident as reminder for the need to wear one regardless of skill level. The new line up of Smith helmets have the BOA adjustment system that cinch the helmet down on head with ease and comfort. I really like the improved snap for your goggles as the actual snap has been replaced with a mini bungee cord that keeps the goggles integrated perfectly. The dual regulator might be my favorite feature especially on the warmer days or other days when having to earn the turns…not a gimmick but an amazingly useful air flow that keeps you cool and fog free. The ear pieces allow for easy zip in and out audio with Skullcandy drop in audio kit or a bluetooth setup. The Smith Vantage is easily the most lightweight, low bulk, and breathable helmet I have worn. I would be hard pressed to find anything better- nor do I want to as I will never wear anything except Smith.

Chaco multi-sport Balmer shoe

As a longtime Chaco fan, I was happy to receive one of their new multi-sport shoes without exactly knowing their range of use. I easily found that range and it withstood like a hiking shoe, with the comfort of a sandal. The Balmer is very lightweight and flexible while offering a super stable foot bed.  I don’t recommend using this shoe for a long hike while carrying a pack, but it’s great for a relaxed hike of a 2-3 miles. Think of it as a regular Chaco sandal with better foot protection and more cushioning. Normally I am one to switch out insoles immediately- but these insoles are fantastic and also help absorb the additional weight of a daypack, child on your back or rock hopping a dried up stream bed.

My Achilles tendon sat comfortable in the rear of the shoe with an almost wrap-around feel from the upper. The lightweight quality comes from the mesh that is reinforced by leather just above the sole of the shoe.  Speaking of the sole, Chaco uses it’s ever popular EcoTread outsole featuring 25% recycled rubber. I’m a fan of the use of orange for the sole and laces. This shoe doesn’t scream “Take me for a hike” but more like “Go ahead and wear me on casual Friday.”

The breathability of the mesh lining is wonderful and a relief from some of the low cut hikers with Gore-Tex that tend to clam up. I have never been keen on low cut with Gore-Tex, because if you encounter any water over the ankle you’re soaked anyway. The breathability gives this shoe a true three-season use for going to a friend’s BBQ, short hikes, cruising around the urban landscape and wherever you may venture.

Thumbs up to the ever expanding line of Chaco shoes.

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