My Three Life-Changing Gear Brands of 2009
Despite the recession of the economic environment, 2009 introduced me to three brands that markedly changed the way I live my life. Drastic sounding I know, but from here forward I will be walking, dressing and carrying things differently and when you think about it–that’s a pretty big deal.
The reality of most modern shoes is that they just don’t fit the biological needs of human beings. Products such as the Vibram Fiver Fingers, and books such as Born to Run are teaching the public that a human foot isn’t built to walk on cushy, soft shoes and in doing so chronic damage can form on misaligned joints and ligaments.
Hailing from Seattle, SUPERfeet is a company that originally made custom orthotics until they realized that they were fixing the same one or two problems 10,000 different times. Commonalities obviously exist in the human foot and an insole could exist to offer support and prevent planar fasciitis and bunions before they start–the two most common foot conditions.
As someone who spends tons of time on his feet, I was intrigued by the idea of alleviated stress and as a “hereditary” knee pain sufferer, overall better weight distribution on my joints was music to my ears.
Regarding arch support, Superfeet uses the delightfully simple illustration that a suspension bridge is not supported in the middle of the arch, but by the sides–and the human foot is no different. Many people with flat feet and high arches look to solve their qualm by propping up the middle of that natural bridge, and that’s just not logical. The heel, the point where the body’s mass meets the pavement, is the origin of the arch and the point most needing support and control.
The problems plaguing the average pedestrian are so common that shortly after I was inducted into Superfeet lore my Dad reported that he had hurt his foot while hiking and had gone to the doctor. Within three questions over the phone I had diagnosed him with planar fasciitis and explained why it had happened through nearly the same verbiage as his doctor. Needless to say Christmas shopping for Dad was a no-brainer this past year.
I wear Superfeet every day and have done so for the past eight months. They’re nestled safely in every pair of shoes from my snowboard boots, to my leather lace-ups. I’ve even got plans for my ice skates in the days ahead. Standing on my feet for an entire day now bears inflicts fatigue when compared to my life before Superfeet. Even my girlfriend, who long-suffered with flat feet, happily sports the insoles in her shoes and they allow her to walk endless distances without battling discomfort. Needless to say that works out for me too!
In March 2009, I was walking with a friend in the temporary store of EMS on Mercer St. explaining to him that as far as I knew the apparel industry had little to offer hot-weather trekkers besides synthetic shirts and the painfully impractical cotton ones. No more than one month letter I endured my second revelation, that of the merino wool t-shirt (and other garments).
If you haven’t read my applause for them, Icebreaker and SmartWool both make clothing that is lightweight, breathable, packable and maybe more importantly antimicrobial–so you don’t have to wash it as frequently as cotton/synthetics. Being that wool doesn’t soak up water (i.e. sweat), I enjoyed a nice, dry back all summer and was in general much fresher feeling than years prior.
Insulation, regardless of wetness, is another added benefit of wool. While backpacking at Harriman State Park in August, I let the rain fall on me and my IceBreaker GT shirt and kept a comfortable temperature even at rest. My companion wearing cotton was forced to put on his heavy shell jacket during our lunch break and shivered with chills until he could start moving again.
As the season transitioned into winter, I loaded up on Icebreaker and SmartWool baselayers–allowing me to endure -16ºF temperatures at my season-opening snowboarding trip on Hunter Mountain. On my recent trip to Canada, I don’t think there was a single point that I wasn’t wearing a wool baselayer–and don’t tell my girlfriend but I still don’t think they need to be washed!
Thanks to the creativity of textile designers and the advancements in garment production, I now have durable, reliable and functional clothing that allows me to pack lighter and stay more comfortable be it on the trail or grinding away at the work-day.
Carrying Stuff: SealLine
My coworkers and friends laugh at how much I love this bag.
The brainchild of John Davison, the watertight SealLine bag has proven itself a great companion on summer travels and in the days since has been stellar at carrying massive amounts of groceries (e.g. 5 gallons of milk plus more things), challenged Santa’s gift sack at Christmas and even survived being frozen at the top of Hunter Mountain on that -16º day.
Just yesterday I was in Fishy’s Eddy, buying a flat of 1Q mason jars (12 on a flat). At the checkout I had the bag cinched up on my back and the cashier didn’t think that I’d be able to fit everything. It was almost like an infomercial as I should her how the bag expanded to fully envelope the flat of jars and the rest of the contents I already had in it. After a brief Q&A session about the bag with her and one of the other cashiers, I hauled the bag onto my back and walked out.
I usually don’t like to think about products that can “do everything and anything” but outside of a full-fledged backpacking bag, I think the SealLine Boundary Pack comes pretty close to it. Customers at EMS still don’t bite 100% on it, but lately I’ve been on a good run and we’ve been sold out. A few times people have come in, explained their travel plans and I’ve simply said “any other bag is a waste of your money.” Of course I love bringing a bit of drama into my daily work life, but for $70 for the 35L and $80 for the 70L you won’t find more function in a bag of that price and in a recession function is, or at least should be, king.
Gaining stride now in 2010, I am definitely a changed man. There’s a little more spring in my step, a bit more warmth in my heart and a little less weight on my back–and I’ve got these brands to thank for it. In a way I feel I’ve gained a few inanimate passengers on my life’s journey and I’m stoked to see what adventures 2010 will bring. I’ll be well equipped.