The thru hiker uniform

Clothing for a hike doesn’t need to be expensive. Bargain hunters can comb through thrift stores and find nearly everything they need for pennies on the dollar. A synthetic button-up shirt and running shorts are usually pretty easy to find at Goodwill, and as long as you’re not grossed out by the thought of wearing used clothing, I suggest going that route.

I do all my hiking in a pair of black running shorts (black doesn’t show dirt/sweat stains) and prefer inseam lengths that leave little to the imagination. Having fabric restrict the movement of my legs, even a tiny bit, drives me nuts. That’s why I tend to wear short shorts. They look goofy as hell, but I’m not out there to win any fashion awards. Besides, my legs are my most attractive feature, and I don’t mind showing some stem. I worked hard for these muscles! Many running shorts have a small zippered key pocket at the rear of the waistband, but I cut that off before starting a hike. Having a little pocket seems like a good idea (you could put tater tots in there!) but the placement of the zipper can abrade your backpack and cause a hole.

Collared button-up shirts have been my go-to torso covering for over a decade. Being able to unbutton the front and maximize airflow is a blessing on a hot summer day, and the loose fit of these shirts is the most comfortable option I’ve found. A t-shirt just kinda sticks to your body and feels gross. Another positive aspect of the button-up shirt is how it makes you appear in town. When you’re a 200lb heavily tattooed meathead, a collared shirt (in a nice bright color) helps alleviate peoples fear that I may be an ax murderer.

“Surely a criminal deviant wouldn’t be sporting a nice blue plaid button-up shirt! Why, he looks like someone who goes to my church!”

Unfortunately for anyone picking me up on a hitchhike into town to resupply, my pleasant outward appearance is quickly forgotten when they get a whiff of that shirt. To the laundromat, please!

Why did I write this little piece on hiker clothing? Well, I’m starting to experiment with Amazon affiliate links. The way that works is when people use these links, I receive a tiny percentage of the sale. YOU pay the same amount, but Amazon kicks down pennies to me as a way to incentivize my writing about things they sell. Since I use Amazon a lot, I have a large list of hiking gear from them that I use all the time. I’m not sure this even works, but click on the blue links to the shirt and shorts I got from Amazon before my last hike.

 

 

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Frogg Toggs review

Some pieces of gear are so timeless, a review of them seems unnecessary. They’ve been around so long, I figure everyone already knows about them…so why bother informing others of its existence? Living in my little ultralight bubble, Frogg Toggs jackets are so commonplace I assumed everyone knows about them. What UL hiker hasn’t experimented with the cheap $20 rain jacket that weighs less than pretty much every other offering from competitors…even though they’re 10x the price?! Well, apparently I need to pull my head out of my own bubble, because a discussion of Frogg Toggs came up at an online forum and I was shocked that people had no clue what they were. It inspired me so much that I even made a ridiculous YouTube video on these neat little jackets.

 

 

 

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Descend on Bend

I’ve had this website up for years. When it first launched, it’s main purpose was to simply have a place for my gear list to be posted, since that was the main question I received from folks interested in ultralight thru hiking. It was a kind of buffer. Sending out the same email listing what I carried to hundreds of interested people got old, especially since I’m not very tech savvy and didn’t realize I could simply cut-n-paste that list. Having everything listed here allowed me to avoid emails…and spend more time on the trails.

If you’ve been reading content here, you’ve probably been curious why there weren’t many new posts. Fact is, I don’t fancy myself much of a writer. There are way more people out there who enjoy generating content and are far superior writers than I. Even now, I’m not editing this post at all…I’m just drinking coffee and typing out stream of consciousness nonsense. Figured I’d scribble (damn, this isn’t even scribbling…it’s typing. I’m a dinosaur) since I paid for a coffee and the rain outside is keeping my enthusiasm low for the run I had planned today.

Last month I wrote a little blog for my friends at Next Adventure about a trip I took in my van. Check it out below;

https://nextadventure.net/blog/trip-report-descend-on-bend-van-dwellers-unite/

I’m still figuring out what I want this website to be. Do I do gear reviews of products I use on my hikes? Do I offer advice for folks new to hiking? Do I randomly sit in coffeeshops and bang out whatever pops into my head while I wait for blue skies?

 

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YouTube

Did you know I started a YouTube account? I’ve been learning how to film and edit videos on my phone, so they’re all pretty rudimentary, but I’ll keep pumping out gear reviews as long as folks like them. I have a lot of gear to go over, and have started with a few of my favorite products. Here’s a link to check it out;

https://www.youtube.com/linthikes

I plan to mainly focus on ultralight backpacking gear, since while there are many others reviewing the same products, they only have a fraction of the experience I do on the long trails. Being that I’ve accumulated nearly 30,000 miles of thru hiking miles alone, I’m hoping to bring a unique voice to an oversaturated platform. Or not. Maybe my reviews are simply adding to the clutter of YouTube, which seems to be full of all kinds of ‘experts’ these days! I’ve noticed the most popular gear review channels are run by newcomers to the long distance hiking world, who may have the skills necessary to film and edit a slick video, but lack the experience to offer much beyond that. I seem to be on the other end of that spectrum…I have all the experience hiking, but no experience when it comes to making a catchy video!

Folks have been offering up requests for a host of different videos, and I aim to eventually cover more subjects, but am currently working on other projects that are taking up much of my time. I can’t feed myself with the pennies that come in from affiliate links through Amazon (although this certainly helps, and many thanks to those who make their Amazon purchases through those links) so in the mean time I’ll have to continue earning my keep by building van conversions.

 

 

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MontBell UL Stretch Wind Parka review

I’ve never had much luck with wind jackets. I’ve tested several different models, each claiming to be the latest and greatest, but nothing I tried ever struck me as useful enough to own. I know a few ultralight die-hard hikers swear by their wind jacket/umbrella combination for staying dry, but all the wind jackets I’ve tried either weighed the same as a rain jacket, or were so wispy and delicate that they shed zero precipitation. Good for blocking wind, but useless in the slightest mist. I want something to bring with me on training runs in the mountains. I’ll hike all day with an umbrella, but running with one is awkward. While poking around the Boulder MontBell store last week, I spotted the new Stretch Wind Parka.  It debuted in stores recently, and lately I’ve found myself thinking about giving wind jackets another shot.

The UL Stretch Wind Parka fills a gap in the MontBell outerwear line. Straddling the line between a delicate wind jacket and full-on rain protection, my size large mens model weighs 4.29 ounces. It’s beefier and more water resistant than their popular Tachyon wind jacket (2 ounces for a mens size medium), but lighter and easier to pack than the Torrent Flyer and Versalite rain shells (8.6 & 6.7 ounces mens size medium, respectively). Right there in the middle is the Stretch Wind Parka…small enough to disappear in a running vest pocket, but without sacrificing light water-shedding capacity.  Perfect for the wind, rain, and snow that I’ve been encountering regularly lately while running Colorado mountain trail in the springtime.

So, I brought one home with me.  Stuffing it into my hydration vest, it disappeared among my snacks and maps, and I headed out for 15 mile trail run.

It wasn’t long before the warmth of the springtime sun was sapped by chilly gusts as I huffed up Bear Mountain. Breaking through the trees and zippering up my chest, I was glad to have a thin, nylon shell to thwart warmth-stealing wind. As I continued to grind upward, I started to perspire.  I barely got sweaty, as the breathable fabric did a great job of releasing water vapor. This surprised me–I’m a raging inferno of heat on climbs, and I’m not accustomed to a wind shell breathing quickly enough to keep me from getting clammy.  At the summit I put up the hood for maximum protection, and appreciated the swatch of soft brushed nylon around the neck. It’s the little things, ya know? The winds up top were really blustery, so I even got to use the hood drawcord–easy to use with cold hands. I regretted not bringing wind pants, as my tiny running shorts left my bare legs exposed. At least my upper body was warm. Zippered hand pockets allowed me to warm my chilly fingers, which is why they are one of the main features I look for in a shell. I dislike suffering through cold hands, and am happy to exchange an additional few grams for the warm, cozy nest of hand pockets.

Heading down the mountain I broke into a jog, and this was where the stretch and mobility of the construction really shone. MontBell cuts the fabric for this jacket “on a bias”, which gives the garment just a little stretch.  It flexed and moved freely as I pumped my arms. It stayed snug against my body, but stretched with me as I shifted direction, zigging and zagging along the trail. Pretty sweet!  Moving back into the trees however, the snow in the branches had begun to melt, and I was showered with water from high above. MontBell treats their shells with something called POLKATEX, which not only sounds like a New Wave accordion band, but also effectively beads up moisture to keep the jacket from “wetting out”. I’m happy to report I stayed dry.  A wind shell that actually repels water for more than 5 minutes–great!

This will definitely be a mainstay shell in my collection. A sub-5 ounce jacket on my runs is good insurance for inclement weather, but won’t weigh me down. I’d even bring this on a long distance thru hike if weather conditions weren’t expected to be exceptionally harsh. In conjunction with an umbrella, I’d choose this for a Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail thru hike during the warmer months. For spring or fall on the AT/PCT, or extended travel above tree line like one encounters on the Continental Divide Trail, I’d try a Torrent Flyer, since conditions on that trail fluctuate for the worst way too often. I’m glad I gave wind jackets another chance, because this one exceeded my expectations. If you’re in the market for one, I give this jacket a solid recommendation.

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Florida Trail

I’d been aware of the Florida Trail for many years, but hadn’t really put much thought into thru hiking it. Like the Alaskan tundra–I was happy to know it was there, but had no desire to actually venture out and immerse myself in that terrain. When planning a pedestrian adventure, I focus on a pretty narrow list of desirable traits. Alaska and Florida don’t get my pulse thumping the same way other areas do.

I had heard a few stories. Friends who had set out to hike the trail from end to end didn’t have very high praises to sing. There were complaints of long, paved road walk sections. Endless miles of trudging through mucky swamps. An elevation profile devoid of any apparent physical challenge.

During my 2017 thru hike of the FT, I found many of the warnings to be true. I also discovered many of the gems that Florida has to offer.

Being that Florida doesn’t have public lands the same way they do out west, a thru hiker is often forced to reroute along highways to avoid private property. These road walks aren’t the two-track dirt roads of the Continental Divide Trail, either…these roads have semi truck traffic.

I can’t remember where, but I once heard someone say that a thru hike is like a pearl necklace. Each trail is composed of a number of beautiful pearls, but they’re connected by unremarkable lengths of string. To reach the pearls, one has to endure the string…and just like a necklace, each route is unique in the distance between each pearl. The Appalachian Trail has smaller pearls, but they’re all packed tight together. The Pacific Crest Trail has larger pearls, with short sections of string to connect the dots. The Continental Divide Trail has HUGE pearls but also longer strings. Each necklace is beautiful, and one artists design isn’t necessarily better than other…they’re just different. With the Florida Trail, the pearls may not be as grand as the Sierra mountains or the Wind River Range, but they’re gorgeous just the same. It’s just the damn strings between them are so long!

What really made me fall in love with the Florida Trail is different than my love affair with Americas other trails. Being able to set out on a thru hike in January, when the rest of the country is draped in snow, was what initially won my heart. While everyone else was planning their spring/summer hikes in the depths of winter, I was able to venture out in short shorts and a tank top shirt to enjoy Florida’s mild climate. The unique ecosystems also piqued my interest, since I’d never traveled through swamps before. The only alligator I’d ever seen was in a zoo, and who wants a metal fence separating them the toothy jaws of a prehistoric relic? I wanted to get the crap scared out of me with close encounters of SWAMP MONSTERS!

My main objective for this years winter was AVOIDING THE COLD! Something snapped in me this year, and the thought of another dreary Northwest winter sent spurts of ice through my veins. I didn’t want to wear a rain jacket and insulating layers while I escaped the city. I had no desire to tromp around in snowshoes and a parka, bicycle while getting sprayed with slush, or run circles on pavement while the mountains above where socked in with feet of snow. I WANTED TO BE WARM IN THE SUN! The plan was to drive south. Farther south. Like, Mexico south. My partner and I found ourselves on the sandy beaches of the Baja Peninsula, eating cheap tacos where land meets sea, and doing our best to communicate with our limited Spanish. Here we enjoyed a respite from the cold, but gas strikes across the peninsula made fuel. Being in an RV, we were dependent on combustible fossil fuels. We decided that this was the universe gently pushing us back north, so after a week or so we drove back across the border. Back in the United States, we filled up our tank and scratched our heads in frustration. Now what? Mexico was a bust, so where else could we hide from winters icy grip?

That’s when the Florida Trail popped into my head. I had all my thru hiking gear with me, and Florida NEVER has snow! I had really been looking forward to a steady diet of questionable Mexican street food and long runs on the beach, but the timing was perfect for a thru hike in Florida. So off we went, first towards Gainesville to purchase some maps from the Florida Trail Association and then down to the Everglades to start walking north. Nothing like zero preparation before a 1,100 mile journey to up the adventure factor!

The official start of the FT is at the Oasis Visitors Center in the Big Cypress Everglades, but I had heard from my buddy Jupiter that I really needed to extend my hike and begin 8 miles south of there for a true Florida swamp experience. Getting dropped off on some dirt road 8 miles from the official beginning of this hike didn’t seem like much, but holy cats, that section was an eye opener. Within a couple of miles the trail became submerged in water, and the friggin’ snakes started popping up all around me in numbers I couldn’t believe. These weren’t the polite rattlesnakes we have out west, who give a friendly warning rattle when you get too close…these vipers were dead quiet and gave no indication that they were pissed at your presence. Every ten minutes I spotted a gaping white mouth, opened wide in defense and aggression. I even had one fatty SWIM TOWARDS ME! Nothing quite like frantically locating a stick to scoop up and launch a vicious snake to get your blood pumping. Teaching snakes how to fly…this was my introduction to the Florida Trail. I don’t even wanna talk about the river crossing with the alligator snout poking up near the only reasonable route across.

With Big Cypress Snake Breeding Reserve and Killer Gator Sanctuary behind me, the rest of my time on the FT was much more tame. This was a supported hike, as my lovely partner followed me along and met me at road crossings in our vehicle. Not only did this allow me to spend quality time with a loved one, I was treated to hot meals on a campstove, cold drinks from a mini fridge, and the occasional solar shower. I’m afraid if I brag about getting access to clean clothes and cartoons on my laptop every night, my status as a thru hiker will be diminished in the eyes of my hardcore hiker friends. Rest assured, I still was thru hiking, albeit with the pampering and support anyone would enjoy given the opportunity.

I’ll spare you any more details of this 42 day trip. There are a host of better authors out there who were actually journaling as they trekked north (check out dirtybowl.wordpress.com), and their descriptions of this route do a much better job than my simple brain can recall, weeks after completing the trip. (I wasn’t even going to write anything for this site, but I’ve been getting vague death threats from hikers who are SICK of me neglecting this page, so I’ve decided to finally start smashing my keyboard and hoping it’s worth reading.)

What I will say is that the Florida Trail is not to be missed, and hikers looking for a unique challenge during the winter months should consider a journey on this National Scenic Trail. The flora and fauna are incredible, weather is pleasant, and the community of trail maintainers I met are second to none. My path led through muddy swamps of cyprus trees, coniferous forests that towered above my head, and volunteers who put a lot of effort into maintaining this route.

Don’t let the swamps and road walks scare you! Encountering alligators and cottonmouth snakes builds character. Drinking swamp water rich in tannins keeps your immune system strong. Tromping along a paved road walk reminds us how important public lands really are, and how vigilant we need to be to their preservation. As thru hiking continues to grow in popularity, the communities along the way will see how setting aside public space increases revenue for their town and allows visitors to fully appreciate the special places they call home.

I’ll be back to hike the Florida Trail again, for certain. If you’d like to find me on trail, just look for the big tattooed dork in shorts that are borderline inappropriate and a blaze orange hat.

 

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Altra Lone Peak 3.0 review

So, just to be perfectly clear about something—being an ambassador for a company doesn’t mean I’m going to blow a bunch of smoke your way, or give a thumbs up to a product that I don’t fully endorse. The relationships I have with gear companies are dictated quite simply by my desire to employ what works most effectively. I’ll never sing the praises of an item that I wouldn’t actually use, just because I got it for free or at a discount. I am not a salesman, and the only reason I write these reviews is to assist other thru hikers in the universal task of weeding through the ever-thickening gear jungle. I WISH I had access to reviews like this back in 2003 when I first began my love affair with long distance backpacking. I had to rely on REI sales people!…which is how I ended up sporting leather GoreTex boots on my first thru hike. Ouch.

I am often shamefully lax in reviewing footwear in a timely manner, thanks to the rather astonishing rate at which companies like Altra innovate and refine their products. By the time I’ve spent the summer thrashing a current model, a new and improved edition has hit the shelves. While there are fewer people clamoring to read a review for last year’s shoe, I sure ain’t gonna write up my opinion until I put it through the wringer to see how it truly performs. That said, lately I’ve been exploring more ultra running adventures than backpacking ones, and am now equipped to review on footwear in the fall/winter seasons. Which is handy for those of you preparing for an upcoming backpacking adventure, since it’s a good idea to have the footwear for your hike selected long before you actually set foot on trail.

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Last year’s review of the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 gives an idea of why I love the design characteristics of this brand. A foot shaped toebox (shoes designed to be foot shaped…crazy, right?!) and a zero drop platform set Altra apart from everyone else. Most people have an “Ah-ha!” moment wearing them for the first time. Everything else on the market feels like a narrow little rock climbing shoe after you get comfortable in Altra, and wearing something that isn’t zero drop seriously feels like walking in high heels.

The main gripe I’ve had with previous editions of the Altra Lone Peak has been durability. The mesh along the outside edge had a tendency to wear out, creating tiny holes, and the tread would be seriously compromised after 300-400 miles. Not a deal breaker, but there was room for improvement.

The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 is the newest model to hit the shelves, and bears significant upgrades. The tread pattern is much more aggressive than last years model. Which, by the way, never struck me as insufficient—but now that I’ve been tearing up and down the trails at a runner’s pace, I’ve noticed the difference. The durability of the sole is much higher. My current pair clocks in at over 300 miles of trail running, and they still look and feel great. The tread is still solid! How they did this while making the shoe a half ounce LIGHTER is beyond me, but I’m stoked to be cutting weight anywhere I can, especially in my footwear. There is some overall wear after 300 miles, but it looks to be mainly cosmetic (slight fraying of fabric and slightly rounded lugs). From a thru hiker’s perspective, these shoes are just getting broken in.

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My favorite improvement by far is the toebox overlay. A synthetic leather material wraps around the front, rendering a once-weak point super beefy. I can’t imagine my pinkie toes ever wearing through these shoes. This overlay material does make the toebox feel a bit more constricted, but that’s only because previous models were constructed of mere mesh, which stretched out and felt roomier. If I had to nit-pick the 3.0, this is the only area I wish was different. Even though the manufacturers last is the same as the 2.5 model, the 3.0 could have been made slightly wider to give my toes more room to splay. I’ve been wearing Altras since 2012, so my feet are probably more used to splaying than most.

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Note: the lacing pattern I use alleviates this issue, and I encourage others to experiment with how they run their laces. Skipping the holes up towards the toes allows the shoe to really stretch out. Subvert the dominant lacing paradigm!

Anyway, after a week, I didn’t even notice the difference, and am very happy to have more durability up front.

Those of you who wear gaiters will be stoked to see that Altra still incorporates built-in velcro on the heel, and now even has a little metal ring up near the forefoot to clip your gaiter hook! Pretty neat. Sizing is similar to the 2.5, which I found to run “true to size”, although I tend to wear a half size larger than necessary out of habit. In fact, I tie my laces a little loose so I can slip my shoes on and off without untying them. I like to be able to dump out rocks and dirt quickly, and being able to pull them off like a slipper suits me fine. Maybe I should start wearing gaiters…

Only a few months of thru hiking will truly test a shoe, but I’m exceptionally pleased with this model, and have been wearing it for all my training runs. It’ll be my choice of footwear for my next hike, for sure.

https://www.altrarunning.com/men/lone-peak-30https://www.altrarunning.com/men/lone-peak-30

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Contact page malfunction!

Unfortunately there was a problem with the “contact” link here on my website for a couple weeks. If you tried to reach me via that, I never received your email! Sorry about that, and please know if was because of a computer glitch, and not me ignoring you. I’d explain in more detail what exactly happened, but I’m embarrassed by my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to anything electronic.

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Injinji love

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(Shera and I with matching pink socks in 2006. https://sherahikes.wordpress.com/ )

Spring is right around the corner! But you, dear reader, are trapped inside while winter’s fury swaddles your favorite trail in snow. No better time to read about one of the most underrated aspects of a backpacker’s gear list–SOCKS!

I remember the first time I tried Injinjis (or “those weird toe socks”). I was thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006, and seeking a routine replacement for my beat up generic socks. While browsing the selection at a small outfitter somewhere in southern California, I came across a pair of Injinjis…in pink. I’m a sucker for fun bright colors, and while I will admit I bought them on that selling point alone, those fantastic looking socks were far too thin for extended backpacking. I wore through them rather quickly before writing them off as a novelty (albeit an extremely comfortable one) and returned to wearing “normal” socks.

Fast-forward to 2013, and untold numbers of blisters later…I hear rumors about Injinji issuing a beefier version of the sock I had tried to love years prior. I was skeptical at first, but damn am I ever glad I gave them a second shot! The Trail 2.0 version was the cat’s pajamas! These things were tough, and I was able to get a couple hundred miles out of a pair before developing holes (an inevitability with any sock, to be fair). However, unlike every other sock on the market, the Injinji put fabric between my toes, which prevented blisters from forming. When I combined them with my Altra Lone Peaks, I had a comfortable, blister-free combination that kept my feet (and therefore me!) happy, which is paramount on a journey that lasts thousands of miles. Eliminating toe friction can be done with goop like BodyGlide or Vaseline, but when you’re out in the woods for 1-2 weeks between showers, why not just choose a sock that does that for you?

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Altra Lone Peak 2.0 review

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Altra footwear. Some might even call me borderline “obsessed”. However, rest assured–it’s a fanaticism built upon thousands of consecutive miles in what are simply the best shoes I’ve found to date. Cranking out 3000+ miles a year (and a subsequent 4-6 pairs of footwear in the process) allows one to become very familiar with any downsides of a particular brand or style, and until recently I’d been disappointed in one way or another with manufacturers across the board. Every shoe felt like a compromise.
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After having discovered Altra’s Lone Peak (model 1.0) in 2012, I’ve become a diehard fan. I fretted so much over the uncertainty of this small new company’s future that I ended up buying 15 pairs of the original 1.0 model. You know, for backup. I didn’t want to risk the possibility of showing up to, say, a zombie apocalypse in less-than-sufficient footwear. I mean, what if those fools could RUN?!

Fifteen pair of shoes might sound like a lot, but I burn through ’em pretty quick. The Lone Peak 1.5 has come and gone, succeeded by the 2.0–the subject of this review–which I’ve been doing my best to put through the wringer to see if they stand up to the original that I fell in love with.

First thing I noticed was the new upper material. It’s wicked soft and even more comfortable than the original. Feet have a tendency to swell in the beginnings of a thru hike (especially if temperatures are high) but these puppies won’t cramp your style since there is room to spare! The deliciously functional anatomical shape that Altra is known for really shines in the 2.0, and gives my toes plenty of space to breathe, wiggle, and splay, which I’ve found to be key in the quest to remain blister free. Rock these babies with a pair of Injinji toe-socks and you have the kind of winning combination that makes lifelong converts.

As with all of Altra’s offerings, this model is designed as a “zero drop” shoe, which means there is no difference in height of the sole between the forefoot and heel. Chances are the shoes you’re wearing right now have at least a 2:1 ratio, the heel being twice as thick as under the forefoot. Having a big squishy heel might sound like a good idea in theory, but I and many others have found it to encourage a very unnatural walking stride. There are countless arguments online regarding the merits of both schools of thought, but I urge you to experiment and see if a zero drop platform works for you. Personally, I found it to be liberating, and now I feel like I’m wearing ridiculously high heeled shoes if I wear anything that isn’t zero drop.

The 2.0 has more cushion underfoot than previous models, and my feet appreciate it when the trail gets rocky. If you thought the previous models were comfortable, be ready for your plush-o-meter to spike into the MEGA COMFORT ZONE. This is by no means a minimalist shoe, despite what some might think after hearing the words “zero drop”. The Lone Peak offers substantial material underfoot without feeling overbuilt or clunky, and casually soaks up the gnar on the roughest routes I’ve been able to throw myself at. Peep the tread under that A-Bound EVA midsole–you’ll see a tread pattern aggressive enough to keep me upright as I flail down insanely steep trail, arms flapping wildly in a futile attempt to look like I meant to do that.

There are a few other minor upgrades only shoe nerds like me (and you, dear reader) will truly appreciate. On the heel is a handy velcro strip is already built into the heel for those who like to rock gaiters. DirtyGirl gaiter users are gonna LOVE this feature. The tongue has also been redesigned for a more comfortable fit, and the rear “rudder” has shrunk in size. I’ve always cut that guy off in a nitpicky attempt to save weight, but then again, I cut the handle off my toothbrush (that’s how nutty I am about ultralight practices!).10700264_950876478271485_4112333650252098849_o

Thru hikers ask a lot of their feet. Pounding out ultramarathon distances daily for months at a time can be grueling punishment if you’re wearing uncomfortable (or even simply less than ideal) footwear. I am the first to admit that there is no “magic bullet” shoe that will work for everyone, but I cannot say enough good things about these shoes. Since 2012, there has been a HUGE surge in numbers of thru hikers switching to Altra, and it’s for good reason. These things are the most functional footwear available and I implore you to try them yourself and see what you’ve (probably) been missing.

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