James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid

San Francisco, CA

James's Passions

Hiking & Camping
Running
Snowshoeing
Skiing
James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 29, 2009

4 5

Just wore these for a snow camping trip. They might not be as warm as a felt-lined boot but the 400 grams of Thinsulate were plenty warm for me, with night temperatures down into the low 20s. They're sized generously enough for a couple pairs of Expedition weight socks plus a thin liner/vapor barrier, which made up the difference in warmth. I'll take wearing an extra pair of socks vs the clunkiness of snowshoeing in a removable felt liner style boot. Clunky there boots are not. They'd make great regular hiking boots if they weren't so warm. They fit comfortably in my Atlas 1030 size Snowshoe, and they stayed dry, dry, dry, despite the persistently falling wet Sierra snow. Now in sub-zero temps where you're not moving around a lot (at night while snow camping, say) you'd probably want to wear a boot with a thicker lining. Even with the extra socks, I think I was pushing this boot to near its limit with 20 degree lows. Snowshoeing though, they're probably as warm as you'll ever need, unless your talking about the kind of temperatures humans shouldn't be outside in anyways.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

5 5

I've always had a problem with sore heels after being on my feet for a long time in any kind of shoes. These solved that problem. These are a pretty big $$$ investment, but they are worth it. I've only ever tried the orange because they're rated for maximum support, and I love them. I wish I could afford a pair to slide in every pair of shoes I own, but right now I just wear them in my hiking boots and trail-running shoes (I wear 13s in those but 11.5 to 12 in regular shoes, so I can't swap them). They do feel odd at first under the arch, but the manual included tells me that is because they are properly supporting my arch, where other insoles are not. They must be right, because it feels fine after getting used to, and my heels no longer ache.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

4 5

I picked up this for when the Patagonia 3 zip top is too warm; say above ~60 while active. I'd rather wear this in warmer weather than a short sleeve tee for the versatility. The zip-neck allows venting when exertion warms me up, and zips up to hold in the body heat when I stop and cool down. The elastic wrists hold their snugness while sliding up and down my forearms depending on the temperature. It's not merino, but it doesn't stink too bad after heavy use and it dries faster. Paired with a wind-shell it's one of my favorite spring/fall weather backpacking combinations.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

4 5

I had the opportunity to test this jacket in some sub-zero Chicago temps over the holidays. It was good down to about 15-20 degrees standing still and close to zero active (chopping ice off the walk and shoveling snow). I felt that the thing that really held the jacket back was the lack of a waist hem drawcord. The elastic waist just didn't do the job in windy conditions in keeping cold air from making its way in and chilling me. I know this would add a little weight, but it would increase the jacket's utility. Either that or increase the length by an inch or so. Or well a shell jacket, I guess. The rear hem is not dropped, so I got some exposure when bending over the snow shovel. The fit is really snug. The large fits me well (5'10", 170) but as I said, it could be a bit longer. Arm length was fine and the neck fit snugly enough minus a drawcord that I didn't feel like any body heat was escaping that way. Around town, (I got several compliments on the appearance) the shell fabric is durable enough, but I wouldn't wear it w/o a shell anyplace it might encounter a stray branch or rub against some abrasive rock. It's somewhat water resistant, but really just enough to give you time to get a shell jacket over it. I wouldn't expose it to wet snow for very long if you want to stay warm. Light and compressible, it's a great layer to bring for instant warmth in cold weather camping/hiking/snowshoeing et al.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

3 5

These kept me dry when I needed them to; on a rain-filled 3 day backpack in Yosemite. They do seem rather fragile though. I got a small tear near the left cuff, about a 1/4 inch in size. I guess that's why you wear gaiters. I'd be careful where I kneeled and sat as well. They fended off snow while snowshoeing and survived a couple falls while xc skiing. As long as you don't abuse them, these should be fine. Pack 'em and forget 'em light. Great rain pants for people who know they need to buy rain pants but don't really want to.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

4 5

I've put over 100 road miles, 40 trail miles and 10 rain/snow miles on these snow far, and they've performed to expectations. There are lighter shoes out there, there are more breathable shoes, there are beefier shoes, but these beat all when it comes to all-around use. These make good shoes for road running, great shoes for trail running in any conditions, and are a solid pair of day hikers. The Gore-tex insert combined with low-gaiters kept my feet dry for 45 minutes of following my nephew around in shin deep snow. The only dampness I've noticed in wet/snowy weather has likely come from my own sweaty feet, and it's never been cold/uncomfortable. These aren't ideal hot weather shoes with the Gore-tex, but I live in San Francisco and don't often deal with temps over 75. They're on the heavy side (~34 oz/pair in my size 13), but I appreciate that solid build on rocky trails. The stock insoles are okay, but I switched them for Orange Superfeet after feeling the sharp, baby fist-sized rocks a little too acutely on some of the trails I hike/run. The inserts added .5 oz in weight but solved that issue. Buy several pairs of specialized shoes if that's your wont, but if you just want one pair for many uses, I think you'd be happy with these.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

4 5

It works. I've used it on 4 trips so far and probably pumped 12-15 liters with it. No maintenance other than cleaning it when I get home. Pumps efficiently enough so I don't get bored, water comes out clear, tastes fine and I haven't gotten sick. Sure, the hoses can be a pain to deal with, but it beats the sediment and taste that comes with drops or tablets. What else can you say about a water filter?

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 7, 2009

4 5

I have this in the large. It fits my frame well (5'10", 170) and the suspension system has worked for me so far(4 trips. 12 to 22 total miles), and it rides pretty stable once I get all the straps adjusted and locked down. The light weight is nice, and it has just enough volume for someone who is still working on the minimalist, ultra-light ideal. (Carrying ~35 lbs for 1-2 nights. Where I camp bear cannisters are required/strongly recommended so that doesn't help) The included rain cover came in handy on a rainy trip in Yosemite. The zip closure side pouches hold quite a bit. I'm sure there are more comfortable, lighter packs out there, but for the price, I couldn't ask for more.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 5, 2009

5 5

Exceptional layering piece. Lightweight fabric isn't bulky but insulates well. The balaclava-style hood is perfect, and I can leave the hat/balaclava/neck gaitor combos out of my pack. The monkey thumbs allow for a lighter, more dextrous pair of gloves. With the hood deployed and zipped, the stretchy/slim fit of this feels like wearing a super hero costume. I wore this in combination with an REI Polarmax tee, Montbell thermawrap vest and rain shell while snowshoeing and xc skiing in the mid-30s with wet snow and 20-30 mph gusts and stayed warm even when not moving. I wore it running with the same combination in -4F and stayed warm. The deep zip allows for all the venting you could want when you heat up. The chest pocket is big enough to hold a map folded in half. I wear the medium (5'10", 170) and it fits spot on. I like the length, as it doesn't expose my waist when bending or stretching. As a previous review noted, paired with a wind shell I'll probably stay warm in anything down to 40 degrees

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 5, 2009

5 5

I was never a vest person. I didn't see the point of having cold arms. Then I tried a heavy fleece vest once and was sold. I didn't realize the extent to which keeping your core warm kept the rest of you warm. But the fleece was heavy. The thermawrap is decidedly not, and is just about as warm as that 300 weight fleece. It insulates well and is windproof. Worn with a midweight baselayer, it was enough to keep me comfy in the mid-30s while xc skiing. (My arms were chilly from the breeze when I was moving, but that was an acceptable trade-off for not being drenched in sweat, as happened when I tried wearing a softshell. A wind shell over the vest should do the trick next time). When not moving, throwing a light softshell over it kept me plenty warm. I debated between the down vest and the thermawrap, the usual pro/con of the superior warmth/weight ratio of down vs the peace of mind knowing the synthetic will keep me warm when wet, and am glad I decided on the latter. I get sweaty when active, and always end up with the vest pretty soaked especially when under a shell in the snow/rain. Being synthetic, it still keeps me warm. I doubt the down would hold up as well. All I would add is a zip chest pocket for things too valuable to risk falling out of the zip-less hand pockets.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 5, 2009

4 5

The 3 is the ideal weight. and the zip makes it comfortably adjustable for anything but the hottest or coldest weather. My comfort range in it is probably ~75 down to ~45. It fits well, (slim but not snug), holds off the stink long enough, dries fast enough and looks nice enough so you don't have to change immediately after wearing. Made well-enough that you'll only need one for a long time.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on January 5, 2009

4 5

I didn't want to buy a heavy pair of boots for backpacking, a lighter pair for day-hiking, a Gore-tex pair for wet weather, and a breathable pair for warm weather. The Asolo fugitive make a great compromise. They've held up to 22 mile backpack with a 40 lb pack(still working on the ultra-light thing). For dayhiking a lighter boot would be nice, but they aren't so heavy that they hold me back on a 15 mile day-hike. The soles are solid, holding up to the abuse that comes with hiking on the abrasive granite of the Sierra, and the uppers don't require too much break-in (~20 miles in my case) while still being stiff enough to provide pretty good ankle support. Waterproofness has been excellent in rain, dewey grass, and snowshoeing in fresh Sierra cement. The Gore-tex breathes decently but feet will heat up in warmer weather. My feet sweat regardless so it's a matter of degree to me and not a big deal. The Gore-tex contributes to the fact that while they're not insulated winter boots, I didn't get cold feet while snowshoeing in mid-30s temps, wearing a merino liner sock and expedition-weight merino hiking sock. They can be purchased in a wide, which was important to me. I swapped out the insoles for an aftermarket pair, but that's just my preference. The factory insoles aren't awful. Now, if you have the money, or you specialize, I'd buy a pair of activity-specific footwear. But for a generalist like myself, who can live with an affordable boot that is pretty good at a lot of things but doesn't excel at any one thing, the Asolo Fugitive is made to order.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on September 25, 2008

4 5

Perfect weight for fall temps. (40s-50s). Under a wind shell a great combination for hiking, maybe a little warm for running. Icebreaker merino is super soft. Doesn't hold odor. Wicks well and dries fast and doesn't feel clammy even when drenched in sweat. Cut is very athletic, as in skin tight, so if you like something looser, go with Smart Wool. It's stretchy though, so not uncomfortably tight. I just wouldn't wear it around town. A little too revealing for that. Slim is good work working out though. The collar height is nice, not so high that the zipper rubs under the chin. I like the raglan sleeves too (i.e. no seams, flat or not, on shoulders to chafe under pack straps). The zip could be maybe and inch or two deeper for more venting.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on September 25, 2008

5 5

Got this jacket for my girlfriend and she loves it. Not an outdoorswoman by nature, she goes hiking and occasionally camping with me. This jacket keeps her warm enough, but not too hot and is just wind proof enough, Stylish enough to wear around town so we get out money's worth. (That's The North Face's thing, though, isn't it?) Great cut and fit. Loves the monkey thumbs.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on September 25, 2008

4 5

As water shoes, these work great. They drain and dry well, and give good traction, and maintain comfort when wet. Good toe-protection against stumbling over sharp underwater rocks. Nice adjustability with the heal strap and lace-pull system. The collapsible heal allows them to double nicely as camp shoes. The mesh does let in sand and small pebbles easier than it lets them out. I was deciding between these and the Tech Amphibians, and went with these because they felt like they offered more lateral support. However, they are narrower shoes, especially in the toe box area. As a somewhat wide-footed person, I decided to size up a half-size in trade for what felt like better stability to me. The fit felt good enough for what I'd be wearing them for - stream crossings, rafting, and kayaking.

I bought these shoes 2 days before hiking to Tiltill Valley in Yosemite. I knew there would be a stream crossing and a soggy meadow crossing that I didn't want to do in my sandals. As it turned out, it rained for 36 hours straight, and the the end of the 2nd day, my hiking boots were so wet and heavy, I dread the idea of walking 9 miles back to the trailhead in them. I decided to give it a go in the Salomon's. I walked the first mile (stream crossing, trail, ankle deep water in the meadow) in them barefoot, with a 40 lb pack, then put on my liners and a double pair of merino hiking socks. The trail was pretty well maintained, only rocky in parts. My feet were completely fine for the first 5 miles, until the trail got too rocky and the soles were not protecting the bottom of my feet enough. These are water shoes, not like hikers, but in a pinch they performed beyond what I could have expected, and saved my weekend.

I've also been wearing them as work-out shoes since they obviously breathe well.

All-around, some versatile footwear.

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James MacDiarmid

James MacDiarmid wrote a review of on September 25, 2008

4 5

I like this tent a lot. If you want to go light, but don't want to use a bivy, I think this tent is where it's at. It's been out 10 nights so far and no major complaints. Kept the water out completely for 2 consecutive nights of moderate rain. The mesh hasn't snagged or developed any runs in all those times going up and down and in and out of the stuff sack. Can be guyed out tight enough that wind isn't a huge issue, though it might rustle gently. No more than I'd expect though in 20 mph gusts. One person set up, fast and easy (no more than 10 minutes once you get the hang of it) and comes down the same. I like that in the rain I could put up the rain fly first and then put up the mesh body underneath, avoiding getting the inside wet. I sleep solo but went with the SL2 for the extra gear space, and I like to go light but I'm not an extremist. The SL1 had my sleeping bag touching the sides. If I camped with a partner, I'd go with the SL3. Vestibule space is just adequate for a backpack laying flat and a pair of hiking boots. I wish the vestibule door zipped on both sides, and so I could use trekking poles to make it an awning. Then I could've cooked under it in the rain. As it was, I could've, but it would've been really cramped, and possibly flammable. Also, it's possible I'm just a heavy breather, but I have had a decent amount of condensation on cool nights, unless I leave the vestibule flap open. The gear pockets could be a big bigger as well. I do love the headlamp pocket above the door. Very useful for reading.

A good balance between lightness and convenience.

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