Have you ever dreamed of stuffing your gear into the back of your car, ditching the inbox, and hitting the open road? That’s what we’ve done … well, sorta. We are Jess and Adam with Live Outside and Play, a seven-month tour we concocted with Blue Ridge Outdoors and Elevation Outdoors Magazines. From the highlands of Virginia to the craggy peaks of Colorado (and back again!), we’re on the hunt for the best adventures to share with our followers. As the title sponsor for the program, La Sportiva has supported the journey with their top-notch footwear and technical apparel. Check out our five favorite pieces of gear and where we’ve tested them below!
What we wore: Trango TRK GTX
Where we took it: Old Rag, Shenandoah National Park, Va.
For a Gore-Tex boot, the Trango TRK is surprisingly cool and lightweight on the feet, making it our top choice for year-round use. This spring, we put the Trango TRK to the test in the mountains of central Virginia, where frequent rainstorms plague the trails and turn trickling streams to swollen creeks. Our destination? Old Rag Mountain, an icon of Shenandoah National Park. At 3,284 feet, Old Rag certainly isn’t the tallest peak we’ve ever summited, but the steep and rocky trail is an unrelenting butt-buster. The 9.5-mile circuit begins under a shaded canopy where boggy trails receive little to no sunlight. After three miles of sloshing through mud, dirt meets rock, and the infamous scramble begins. The combination of the Trango TRK’s sticky Vibram sole, aggressive toe and edges, and solid heel gave us confidence as we leapt from boulder to boulder. Despite hiking in the heat of the day, our feet hardly broke a sweat.
What we wore: Synthesis Mid GTX
Where we took it: Summit Lake, Chicago Lake Basin, Colo.
As resident Southeasterners, the first thing we sought when we came to Colorado was a high alpine lake experience. Enter the Chicago Lakes, which sit at the base of Mount Evans and Mount Spalding. Knowing the trails here were extremely rocky and crossed multiple streams, we opted to take the Synthesis Mid GTX. The added ankle protection provided stability on the trail’s rugged and uneven surfaces. That honeycomb-like webbing that holds the shoe together isn’t just for looks (though it does look and feel super cool)—that’s La Sportiva’s Gore-Tex Surround Technology, which not only keeps your feet dry during those creek crossings but also lets the dogs breathe when you need it. After a quick dip in Summit Lake, descending the steep trail we had just climbed was a breeze thanks to the Impact Break System design on the durable Vibram sole. No matter the terrain or the season, this is the shoe for the job.
What we wore: Akasha
Where we took it: North Fruita Desert, Fruita, Colo.
The dry and sandy landscape in western Colorado can be harsh and unforgiving, but the scenery can also be otherworldly in its beauty. Long before we arrived in Fruita, we knew its reputation for rolling terrain and stellar singletrack. The North Fruita Desert is a Shangri-La for mountain bikers and trail runners alike. As the sun began to sink below the Bookcliff Range, we decided to hit the trail in our Akasha trail runners for an evening run. The shoe’s stout cushioning softened even the most technical blows. We might as well have been flying as we banked around turns and dodged stray juniper branches with quick-light steps. Even with the desert heat, we could practically feel the breeze passing through our shoes’ membrane.
What we wore: Hail Jacket
Where we took it: Colorado Trail, Ten Mile Range, Colo.
Colorado’s higher elevations are notorious for unpredictable weather patterns. As we set off along the Colorado Trail toward the Ten Mile Range, we were well aware that the comfortable weather at 8,000 feet was likely very different than that at 11,000 feet. The only layer we packed for the adventure? — La Sportiva’s Hail Jacket. Climbing 3,000 feet of elevation kept us warm while we moved, but as soon as we reached the Continental Divide, the breeze sapped the body heat we’d been working so hard to build. The Hail Jacket, which has an integrated stow pocket, is so lightweight we practically forgot we’d been carrying it along. Though we were sweaty and damp, the Hail’s nylon material felt nice against the skin (think soft tissue paper) while providing enough of a layer to block the wind and keep us warm. As we tried to outrun the setting sun back to the van, the ventilated armpits on the Hail kept our body temperatures manageable.
What we wore: Storm Fighter GTX Jacket
Where we took it: Cranberry Wilderness, West Virginia
West Virginia’s 47,815-acre Cranberry Wilderness is wild and wonderful—bogs, red spruce, hip-high ferns, mossy creekbeds, alpine balds. The flora and fauna here are something you might expect to see in the arctic-like ecosystems of Canada, not West Virginia. Couple that with an average annual rainfall of 65 inches, and temperatures that can drastically drop 20 degrees in a matter of hours, and you have the perfect ingredients for the Storm Fighter GTX. This Gore-Tex jacket might be light and packable, but there’s no storm too intense for this shell. The roomy hood is perfect for any sport, helmet or none, and allows plenty of breathability while the body is active.