Spring is a time of renewal, regeneration, and rebuilding. And while that traditionally means getting to work on shedding the layers of fat you might have acquired for your long winter of hibernation, it also extends to the spirit, too: Sometimes a new daypack or pair of sunnies is just what it takes to germinate the new you. —Steve Casimiro
Road Running Shoe
Photograph courtesy Adidas
Adidas Ultra Boost
The Adidas Ultra Boost road running shoe is among the best of spring’s new models—an extremely comfortable, extremely nuanced runner so perfectly engineered and built that you can pull it out of the box, slip it on, and bang off ten miles of training without an afterthought.
The main contributor to this comfort is the much heralded midsole, which is made of a Styrofoam-like material that’s cushier and springier than the EVA foam found in most running shoes—3,000 capsules of it, molded together. The soft upper, which embraces your foot, is woven—it feels like a sock and stretches as needed—but unlike the similar, ubiquitous Nike Free runners, the Ultra Boost has plastic ribs on either side of the foot to provide far better lateral support.
The Ultra Boost is soft in all the places you want it to be and firm where it’s needed. There’s a plastic heel counter than keeps the rear of your foot locked into place, but it has a generous cutout to prevent irritating your Achilles. For runners who need a little pronation control, i.e., most of us, there’s a small but effective wedge on the medial side of the heel. And finally, the web-like, low-profile outsole delivers just enough grip and feel for the road, without impeding the comfort of the springy midsole.
It all adds up to a fantastically comfortable, responsive shoe, and even if it isn’t a revolution, it’s one heck of a new way of gobbling up the miles.
Get It: $180; adidas.com
Photograph courtesy The North Face
The North Face FuseForm Dot Matrix
The North Face’s new FuseForm technology has set the hearts of fabric engineers racing because it enables the body of a jacket to be made from just one piece of fabric, which reduces seams, lowers weight, and increases durability. But what about the hearts of users like you and me? Can we tell the differences? They’re subtle, but yes, we can.
The FuseForm Dot Matrix looks and feels more streamlined than traditional heavy-use jackets primarily because the jacket’s shoulders, which are traditionally reinforced with heavier panels, are toughened by weaving more durable yarns into the upper part, with no additional seams.
The Dot Matrix is waterproof and breathable, made of 2.5-layer HyVent, and it’s seam-sealed, too, which helped keep me dry from a recent and long overdue rainstorm in coastal California. With hood, pit zips, and widely adjustable Velcro cuffs (and weighing 11 ounces), it can pull duty as a backpacking shell, spring skiing piece, or urban assault ride apparel.
Get It: $199; thenorthface.com
Photograph courtesy Topo Designs
Topo Designs X Woolrich Rover
Topo Designs collaborated with Woolrich to build its Rover knapsack out of an amazing, sustainable fabric—wool.
Pack makers—and consumers—have finally acknowledged that the demands on a daypack are relatively light, whether you’re using it for hiking, commuting, or just carrying your laptop, and that gives designers room to be more playful by using fabrics like wool or taking chances by collaborating with other brands.
The Rover has durable Cordura on the bottom of the pack for protection against rocks or damp, and the upper is that soft, fleecy contribution from Woolrich. At just under 1,000 cubic inches, the Rover can haul a day’s food and water, extra layers, and a guidebook or two, with room left over.
Get It: $189; topodesigns.com
Photograph courtesy Smith
Smith Lowdown XL
Smith’s Lowdown XL frames are one of several classic styles that the optical company supersized in this, their 50th anniversary year. Smith didn’t just make everything bigger, though; it adjusted the frames' geometry and lens to ensure that sight lines were still open and the optics in the carbonic lenses were still excellent (they use a 6-base lens curve, for you optical nerds following along at home).
Get It: $100; smithoptics.com
Photograph courtesy Suunto
Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR
Fitness trackers might be motivating to some people, but stacked up next to fully featured devices like Suunto’s Ambit3 Peak HR, they’re more like pencils in comparison to computers.
The Suunto is a GPS-based monster of metrics with connectivity that’s best in class. As with all GPS/altimeter watches, it quickly proves its utility in the field, offering basic navigation (but no map) and weather tracking. It really excels with the incorporation of fitness and performance functions. Like a team of trainers holding clipboards, the Ambit3 records your motion, distance, and location in several dozen sports—from trekking to open-water swimming—and then syncs it to Suunto’s MovesCount smartphone app and website, where it’s mapped and segmented.
What’s especially cool is that it will also send your route and performance to Strava.com. Although some smaller-brand watches already do this, the Suunto is the first of the major ones to incorporate syncing with the ultra-popular training site. It also separates itself from the pack when recording swimming, which, given the challenge of tracking distance and recording heart rate underwater, is a tough order. The chest strap can slip when you’re pushing off the wall in a pool, but being able finally to track effort in the water is a delight.
Get It: $550; suunto.com
Photograph courtesy Tracksmith
Self-conscious bicyclists have what’s known as the ten-foot rule: If you get more than ten feet from your bike, is what you’re wearing going to make you look like a dork? Running clothes aren’t quite as revealing as sausage-casing Lycra, but if you’ve ever lamented the gossamer wispiness of race shorts or the breezy billowing of training garb, Tracksmith could be your new best friend.
This fledgling brand from Boston is bringing classic—think prep school—styling to running apparel, but with modern fabrics, like those from Swiss brand Schoeller. The flagship of the Tracksmith line is the Longfellow short, a decidedly untraditional (by modern running standards, anyway) approach to covering your behind. The Longfellow is made of water-resistant four-way stretch and constructed with an athletic silhouette that’s neither too loose nor too tight. The cut is particularly flattering, and you might soon discover the Longfellows are your favorite shorts for hiking, the gym, or just hanging out.
Get It: $90; tracksmith.com.
Photograph courtesy Without Walls
Teeki Cloud Hot Pants
Tights aren’t going to do your running for you, but maybe they can lighten the burden a bit by buoying you with dreams of fitness to come. The psychedelic Teeki Cloud Hot Pants are a dazzling Impressionistic melange of the sky at its most fantastical. But for all their ethereal uplight, the Teeki tights are grounded in common sense—they’re made of 79 percent recycled materials and built right here in the United States.
Get It: $78; withoutwalls.com
Image courtesy Roxy/Quiksilver
Roxy Syncro 3/2
Roxy’s jewel-toned, high fashion wet suits get all the Pinterest and Instagram attention, but it’s traditional black neoprene models like the Syncro 3/2 that get the job done in spring’s chilly swells.
The body is made of 3-millimeter rubber and the sleeves are 2-millimeter, as you’d expect from the 3/2 designation, and the chest panel is lined with fleece for a little extra heart warming. The wrists and ankles have what Roxy calls flush lock seals (they’re basically tight) to keep cold rivers of water from surging into your suit in mid-paddle.
And what might be the best of all, the Syncro has an old-school, full-length back zipper, so getting in and out of the second skin is way easier than the contortionist wrestling matches you can have in a zipperless suit.
Get It: $145; roxy.com
Our new "Elements" gear guide and blog are curated by Steve Casimiro. Casimiro is the founder and editor of Adventure Journal and has been an editor with National Geographic Adventure since 1998. He's the former editor of Powder and the founding editor of Bike magazine, and he lives in Monarch Beach, California.
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