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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt

Western burbs of MN

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Andrew's Passions

Backpacking
Camping
Trail Running
Road Cycling

Andrew's Bio

I run, camp, backpack, disc, bike, and lurk the internets. I try to put good thought into reviews (and sometimes a bit of humor.) I would be a complete gear [person of loose morals] if allowed, but since the other half is CFO of the family it is very important to me to do as much research as possible before making purchases.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on July 3, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size

I've always wanted a soft shell jacket and I've always loved Icebreaker clothes. This jacket seems to have been created to target me! Fit wise I'm 6'1" 187 and the Large fits perfect. I can layer some merino underneath but nothing bulky. The arms though have volume and extend a bit further down the back of the hand vs the underside of the wrist. Slight mark off for not having velcro straps to lock down the wrists, but then again if it's getting nasty enough to need that the fact that my head is exposed is probably a greater issue. The jacket lifts up a bit when my arms are over my head but nothing too drastic. The zipper pulls and pockets are nice and lined with merino! The material overall is thick and currently a bit stiff though I expect it will soften up a bit with use.

Got it on a sale/deal as I do with most of my Icebreaker gear (its worth the price but that still doesn't mean I can afford full price.) Given the season I haven't put this through the paces yet, but I fully expect it to be my go to jacket all fall and really most of winter except for when it gets sub zero and I have to break out insulation.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on May 18, 2013

5 5

Bottom Line Up Front: Bare Access 2 provides the sweet spot for runners looking for light weight and zero drop but not wanting to go all the way to strips of rubber.
Positives:
+ Footbox is roomy and the upper is very airy mesh. Heel cup is very flexible.
+ Vibram rubber soles with uniform traction along the entire sole.
+ Enough cushion to keep feet from bruising, but still able to feel the road.
+ Zero drop to let those calves do the work and save your knees!
Keep in Mind:
- Though Vibram, the rubber is a thinner layer to keep light and will reduce overall durability a bit on all but the most light footed efficient runners.
- Lacing is normal, not Omni-Fit from the Trail Gloves--something they should really bring over to these shoes to make them perfect!
- As with all zero drop shoes transition from standard running shoes should be carefully monitored and gradual.

I jumped into minimalist shoes with a pair of Vibrams a few years back and strained a calf on my first run--knocked me out of the game for most of a summer. Backed off to Asics Blur-33 for the road and kept the Vibrams and a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves for the woods. Loved the Trail Gloves so much that I wanted a pair from the M-Connect line for another foray into roadwork. Felt the Road Gloves would be too much, gave the Bare Access 2 a shot. I'm totally hooked! 100+ miles on them and they have minor wear I'd expect for my 6'1" 190 body and less than perfect stride. I'm a 10.5 in my Asics and a 10 in Trail Gloves and now the Bare Access 2. Once you've worn something like this it's almost impossible to go back to more standard built up marshmallow running shoes. My long run in them is up to just over 8 miles, and I've no doubt they'll see a marathon before they're done.

Quite simply these just feel natural and FUN!

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on May 18, 2013

5 5

No matter the season there is a use for my UV Buff.
Hot Times:
+ I mainly sport it dew rag style (pirate) for hiking, discing and running.
+ Absorbs sweat like a champ.
+ Even though mine is printed black it keeps my head cool. I've got very short hair and that sun can be murder!
Cold Times:
+ Worn it as a neck gaiter or light ninja mask.
+ Worn as a beanie on it's own or because it's so low profile fit it under my bike helmet for winter riding!

UV Buff is nice in the winter, but an absolute MUST in the summer! Fold it down and stash it with even if you don't think you'll need it.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on July 18, 2011

2 5

My wife is 5'6" 125 lbs and not bulky in the neck shoulders at all. She got the shirt in Small, and the body of the shirt fit very well, but when she tried to zip it up it was very tight in the neck. Turns out when we examined it the neck of this shirt doesn't stretch at all. It's odd considering we have several other 1/4 zip shirts both mens and womens without that issue, but this looked to be part of the design as there was no "give" anywhere in the throat area, and not just a sewing defect. Had to return this shirt after scoring it on SAC because of the strange design of the 1/4 zip neck.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote an answer about on December 25, 2010

I'm a merino nut, but that being said it depends on the activity. Merino is excellent when you are moving at least a bit, and especially in these lighter weight products. You need loft to keep warm if you're sitting around, and fleece will do that (or full on insulation synthetic/down). If you are going to wear this or the fleece layer when you are moving at all I'd go with merino though I'd actually aim at a heavier layer like midweight or heavyweight if you are looking for equivalent warmth. The bonus to merino is the temp regulation which means--barring extremes--you can't really wear too much of it. I've had on a heavyweight over a midweight and gone from 40's at the base of a small mountain up to 80's when we hit peak about 1500 feet of climb (Arizona winter) and was a bit sweaty but the merino works that like a champ. There's also durability in washing as fleece will pill up and thin out where merino keeps going.

I've rambled on in generic terms, hopefully someone has tried the exact two products you're trying to compare.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote an answer about on December 25, 2010

Yup, check the description. I'm about 99% sure that everything Smartwool makes is Merino wool. Sometimes a bit of synthetic stretch material is woven in--like in socks--but other than that it's merino all the way. Smartwool in particular has very soft merino wool (I like my Icebreaker outer layers but Smartwool is king of next to skin.) I'm wearing an NTS crewneck shirt of theirs right now as I type!

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on November 29, 2010

5 5

I've had my Timbuk2 messenger bag since 2000 and it's still being used every day. Back then I used it simply as a book bag, lugging textbooks and the occasional 24 returnables. The waterproof lining means even in a downpour your books and/or laptop stay dry--just don't toss it in a river. Since college I've started using it on my bike and the cross-strap helps hold it in place. Just make sure you cinch the main strap as much as possible. I also now use it everyday for work as I find standard corporate Dell laptop bags to be oh so very lame. I have what at the time was size "Deedog" which I think now would be between a medium and a Large. I am able to fit a weekend worth of stuff in this bag, or for an alleycat a 12 pack, U-lock, blinky lights, tools, shirt, snack foods, markers, etc etc, so on and so forth. If you're on the fence get the bigger of the two sizes you're looking at--you don't need a man purse you need a messbag.

These bags start out stiff with that waterproof lining, but with use and age they soften up and conform to your back. I have very few items in my house still around that existed in 2000, and even fewer that are used daily.

There are plenty of messbags out there with more bells and whistles, but you can't beat Timbuk2 for straight up quality vs affordability. I repeat MY BAG IS OVER 10 YEARS OLD AND STILL KICKIN IT.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on November 28, 2010

5 5

Thought maybe my mine was the 2009 version, but I checked and it's 260 weight so I'll review here. Caught it on a sale up in northern MN this spring and I've been loving it ever since! I'm 6'1" about 190 and the Large fits perfect (though any little bit of padding is quite evident--this is a very athletic fitting piece!) I've used it in cool weather as an outer layer. Now that it's getting cold out it will go under my shell and over some additional merino layers and I'll be giving wind chill the finger during some winter alleycats as the scuba hood on this piece fits very nicely under my helmet along with a thin liner hat and a Buff for my face. There is additional venting under the arms to help with heat regulation as well.

The only feature that has me perplexed is the dual zipper. What am I going to do with that? They should have just saved the complication and put a normal zipper on this shirt.

Get this layer as an outer for cool weather over other bomber merino pieces or as an integral part of your merino armor for winter. Just know the hood will make you look like a ninja/stalker-creeper and your wife/girlio will ask that you leave it off except by necessity.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote an answer about on November 12, 2010

I ended up thumbs-upping woodenpickle because I had knee-jerk thumbs-downed it but can't just take it back and remain neutral. I would say woodenpickle is both correct and incorrect. Yes loft is the "dead air", but I think there is benefit to those air pockets being smaller rather than large. To take it to the extreme opposite of a wet bag that compresses all the loft out, if maximum loft vs insulation was best then we'd all just roll in inflatable sleeping bags (all air, no insulation). The Goatfolk must be referring to a sweet spot where the finer consistency of the goose down over the duck down allows for the loft and yet breaks that loft up in to smaller pockets of air that are insulated by the little walls of goos feathers.....something like that anyway.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote an answer about on October 23, 2010

Hopefully you will get several answers as this is quite a broad question. It really depends on your location and what kind of cold (wet or dry) you will be facing. These 3 in 1 jackets work just fine for standard winter living and some slight winteractivities. There are of course many specialized jackets out there (big puffy coats for cold dry, water proof shells that you layer insulation underneath for wet snow conditions). If you want to keep the bulk down it looks like this jacket doesn't have puffy insulation persay, but that also means it wouldn't be as warm when you're standing around as one that has a down or synthetic insulation layer. I'm in MN and most of last winter I was in a Stoic down jacket and every once and a while threw an REI shell over it that has a hood when it got stupid cold. Then again before that I had an old Columbia 3 in 1 I rocked for 10+ years.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on August 15, 2010

5 5

I've been riding this light both in the city and out on less lit roads for 2 years now and it has exceeded my expectations and the performance of the various other headlights that my friends ride. This light goes beyond simply providing notice to cars headed your way of your existence. On roads with no light at all I feel confident in the amount of road it illuminates to ride up to say 20mph. I wouldn't necessarily rely on it if the road you're riding is completely untrustworthy, but it works well for clean roads to roads with possibilities of random objects.

The 5 LED design is strong enough to cast light on the ground out 20-30 feet but isn't too spotlight-y so as to have a narrow beam. I'm using rechargeable AA's now in rotation but the light strength holds out very well on standard AA's as well. I'll add the mounting bracket has worked fine for me on multiple diameter bar tubes.

If you just want cars to see you buy some cheapo blinky light, if you want to see where your going but not have to drop $50+ then buy this light.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote an answer about on February 12, 2010

For stocking questions I've found the "Chat Now" button in the upper right corner of the page gets you good answers right away. As to the Copper color, on the the Arcteryx site there are no other pants in Copper. I see Slate (Gray), Coffee Bean (Brown), and Rawhide (Tan) on a few of the pants types closest to these Stingrays.

I see the color is noted as discontinued on Backcountry, but at Arcteryx it doesn't say anything like that. Hopefully the company rep that lurks on the Backcountry site can confirm on that.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote an answer about on February 10, 2010

Just to get a few more details: is the 45" Circ and 17" tall when you have it rolled up or compressed in a bag? So that'd put it at a cylinder about 14" in diameter? That's big for a down bag--is it a cold weather down bag or a synthetic? If it's a synthetic are you expecting a lot of moisture where you're packing it? Reason I ask is you could save a few $ if it's synthetic and you're not going to be dunking it in a lake by getting a non-drybag version of the compression sacks.

For sizing that 14"D by 17"H is going to be roughly 19.7L volume and that would put it at the Large though if it's not very compressable it could be a bear to get it in there. Others can feel free to double check the math or if there's a factor I'm missing here.

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Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt wrote a review of on January 19, 2010

5 5

These ski socks fit excellently! They stretch but hold their shape, the reinforced areas support the foot and add padding underneath and on the shin. I don't even use them to ski, but instead for winter hiking and biking. Being Smartwool there is no worry of scratchy knit bothering you during your activities and they are good for more than one wear between washes.

Recommended!

EDIT: "food" now "foot"

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