Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack Review

Mountainsmith outdoor products are designed in Golden, Colorado which is only a couple of miles from where I grew up. I love that this review hits so close to home. For this product review, I tested the Tour lumbar pack.

What is a lumbar pack? It is Mountainsmith’s quintessential waist pack that pioneered this product category almost 35 years ago. Don’t call it a fanny pack or a bum bag. It is far from that. Instead, this pack has made me rethink what it means to travel light in the mountains. Read on to find out more about this great piece of gear that should be in every outdoor enthusiast’s gear quiver.


Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack

Price:

$79.95 MSRP
Colors: Heritage Black, Otter Brown, Deep Blue, Lichen, and Asphalt Grey

Ratings:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Comfort & Fit

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Versatility

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Durability

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Value

Overall Rating: 5.0

Summary:

Overall, it was a great experience using the Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar pack for hiking. Keep reading to find out what I carried in it and how it performed in each of the rating categories.

MY REVIEW

First impressions out of the box were solid. What I mean is that the pack felt well designed and it wasn’t as heavy as it looked. Every inch of this pack was well thought through when it was built and the materials used were top-notch. I could tell right away that I was in for a treat.

As Mountainsmith would say, the Tour pack is “Forged For Life” meaning that it is built to last just like all of their other products. Their commitment to durability is impressive and it is visible in both the materials and craftsmanship used in this pack.

The fabric used in the production of this pack is Cordura® HP. When compared to other popular materials like nylon or poly, it excels in both abrasion resistance and anti-tear strength. It is also water resistant. The material is firm, yet very comfortable when the pack is worn.

The waist belt is well padded, soft, and flexible for a great fit. It has a high level of comfort and includes a small zipper pocket on the right side which is great for a compass, a mobile phone or a small satellite communicator.

Using the included shoulder belt, a consumer can add additional stability by throwing it over one shoulder and cinching it down. This belt also adds an additional level of comfort while on the trail. Throw it over one shoulder with the waist belt tucked in and it doubles as a carry bag for around town.

The Tour pack is extremely versatile. On one of my hikes, I was able to carry water, portable stove, fuel, base layer, fire starter, compass, mobile phone, and a puffy jacket. I had additional room for other small items in the main compartment, inner sanctum™, and in the front zipper pocket.

My favorite feature of this pack is the ability to shrink down and tighten up the load with the bottom panel compression straps. They can also double as a spot to carry an alpine bivy.

Mountainsmith left nothing out of this pack. It includes easy to use pull tabs on the zippers, an internal clip for keys, front panel bungee system, and two large handle straps on the top for easy hand carrying. They literally thought of everything with the features of this pack. Oh, and I almost forgot. The interior yellow fabric makes it easy to see things inside the pack, especially at dusk and dawn when the light is flat. This and the features listed below are a fantastic feature set for such a small pack!

The only feature that I felt was unnecessary was the pass through headphones port. With technology these days, it seems like the majority of people now have bluetooth headphones so this would not be needed in most cases.

An added bonus for this pack would be to include a small, packable rain cover. That would make me more comfortable tossing in my DSLR camera or an extra lens.

Pro Tip:

It’s not obvious at first, but the outer bungee cord is perfect for stuffing a jacket onto the outside of the pack so that it doesn’t take up precious internal pocket space. Simply scrunch up a jacket, place it under the bungee cord and cinch it down.

Here’s a quick list of features on the Tour lumbar pack direct from the Mountainsmith website:

FEATURES

  • Backpanel stash pocket ideal for securing passport, boarding pass, etc.
  • Patented Delta Compression System load adjustment
  • Side reinforcement bottle pockets (Fit up to 32oz)
  • Inner Sanctum™ interior zippered compartment for small valuables
  • Front panel bungee attachment system
  • Zippered front panel pocket with key clip
  • Bottom panel compression straps
  • Bright yellow lining promotes interior visibility
  • Strapette compatible (sold separately)
  • Headphone port
  • Bar tack reinforcements
  • YKK® Zippers
  • 3M™ Reflective Cord

MATERIALS

  • 610d Cordura® HP
  • 210d Nylon Embossed Liner

DIMENSIONS

  • 11.5″ x 10″ x 5″ / 29 x 25 x 13 (L x H x D)
  • Waistbelt Width: 1.5″
  • Waistbelt Circumference: 28″ – 48″

VOLUME

  • 550 cubic inches / 9 L

CAPACITY

  • Up to 12 lbs

WEIGHT

  • 1lb 9 oz / 0.73 kg

Pros & Cons:

👍 Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Great design
  • Comfortable fit
  • Lots of functional features

👎 Cons

  • No rain cover included

Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack. A classic pack that can be taken on trail, travel, and everyday adventures. It is durable, reliable, comfortable, and carries the perfect amount of gear to support all of your favorite activities.

Visit your local shop or order online. Head on over to their site now and check out this great lumbar pack.

➳ Outdoor Prolink provided equipment and associated materials for this review. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography. That’s me!

SOLE Active Medium Footbed Review

SOLE is a Canadian company that was born in 2001 and is focused on making a positive impact on people’s lives. It is worth mentioning in this review that their products are obsessively designed to help athletes of all skill levels while also putting a strong emphasis on sustainability. Using recycled wine corks in their new products and planting cork oak trees are just two examples of how they are offsetting their company’s carbon footprint. They are growing their company in a responsible way while providing great products to the outdoor industry. These facts encouraged me to perform this testing.

For this product review, I tested the Active Medium footbeds which are a perfect fit with running shoes, every-day sneakers, and tennis shoes. I have to admit that I had never used custom footbeds prior to this review, but I was pleasantly surprised with their comfort, quality and performance when testing them in general running shoes and trail running shoes.


SOLE Active Medium Footbed

Price:

$49.00 MSRP
Colors: Black/Red

Ratings:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Fit

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Comfort

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Performance

Overall Rating: 5.0

Summary:

Overall, it was a good experience using the SOLE Active Medium footbed for general running and trail running. Keep reading to find out how these footbeds can benefit you and how they performed in each of the rating categories.

MY REVIEW

Out of the box, my first impression was a good one. The first thing that I noticed was how lightweight the footbeds were. The packaging was simple, straightforward and recyclable.

At first, I was concerned about the fit inside of my running shoes because out of the package, the footbeds looked a bit too long. However, once I removed my old insole from the shoes and replaced them with the SOLE footbeds, they fit perfectly. No trimming was required during my initial testing in the running shoes, but I did end up trimming them slightly for a perfect fit in my trail running shoes.

When looking at the side profile of these footbeds, one can see that they have been constructed with an attention to detail and are of high quality. The 1.6mm open-cell foam (blue layer) provides excellent shock absorption and comfort. These footbeds are latex free and consist of three important layers – the moldable orthopedic base, softec cushioning layer, and a thin top sheet. The moldable orthopedic base offers personalized support to prevent the arch of the foot from collapsing and the deep heel cup provides cushioning and helps prevent lateral movement.

After inserting the footbeds and slipping my feet into my everyday running shoes, I instantly felt the cushioned support and I felt my weight distribute evenly over my feet. On my first run with these footbeds, I decided not to heat mold them and see how they performed. Then before subsequent trail runs, I followed the directions that were provided in the packaging and popped them in the oven for a custom fit.

Heat molding the footbeds was quick and easy with the following steps:

  1. Heated the oven to 175 degrees
  2. Removed the factory insoles from my trail running shoes
  3. Trimmed the top of the footbeds just slightly
  4. Placed the footbeds on a baking sheet for 5 minutes (3 min didn’t quite do the trick as described in the directions)
  5. Inserted the footbeds back into my trail runners
  6. Stood on them for 2 minutes

I found these footbeds to be super comfortable both before heat molding and after. However, heat molding them gave me an even more customized fit that left me wondering why I had not invested in custom footbeds prior to this testing.

During trail running, I typically have some heel pain and some mild soreness in my knees. However, I did not experience any pain while using this product during trail running sessions. I enjoyed feeling like I was floating on air as I took each step along the trail.

An added bonus to the consumer for these footbeds would be the ability to customize the graphics and colors online. It would be great to be able to match colors to running shoe colors as well as upload a custom image online that would be custom printed directly on the top of the footbeds.

Pro Tip:

Be sure to perform the heat mold method that is provided on the instruction card. It will give you a solid fit, faster than wear molding!

Here’s a quick list of features on the Active Medium footbed direct from the SOLE website:

FEATURES

  • Provides cushioned support
  • Reduces plantar fascia strain
  • Improves balance
  • Promotes natural foot alignment
  • Distributes weight and pressure equally
  • Heat and wear moldable for a customized fit
  • Polygiene odor control
  • Supportive arch and heel cup
  • 90-Day guarantee

DIMENSIONS

Width – Forefoot (approx.)

  • Men’s 10 – 98mm 
  • Women’s 7 – 87mm

Length – Heel to toe (approx.)

  • Men’s 10 – 290mm
  • Women’s 7 – 245mm

Pros & Cons:

👍 Pros

  • Clinically proven to reduce plantar facia strain
  • Custom moldable
  • Durable construction
  • Comfortable fit
  • Earth-friendly packaging

👎 Cons

  • No image customization or custom color options available

SOLE Active Medium footbeds. Lightweight, durable inserts for your trail running or athletic shoes. These footbeds provide amazing cushioned support and promote healthy alignment for adventure-ready feet.

Visit your local shop or order online. Head on over to their site now and check out these great footbeds.

➳ Outdoor Prolink provided equipment and associated materials for this review. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography.

The North Face Thermoball™ Eco Traction Mule V Review

The North Face is making our feet comfy, one traction mule at a time. What is a traction mule anyway? This short review will explore these slip-on mules that are great for camp, wearing around the house, or even après-ski.

I purchased and tested the Thermoball™ Eco Traction Mule V for this review, but first things first: The term “mule” can be defined as a slipper or light shoe without a back. The product name confused me at first, but as soon as I used my trusty friend Google to define the term, I felt instantly better about performing this write-up. Once an outdoor enthusiast slides on these mules, they will quickly realize that they are light, comfortable, warm, and perfect for just about any adventure.


Thermoball™ Eco Traction Mule V

Price:

$55 MSRP
Available colors:

  • BURNT OLIVE GREEN WOODLAND CAMO PRINT/TNF BLACK
  • URBAN NAVY/PICANTE RED
  • ZINC GREY / HIGHRISE GREY
  • TNF BLACK / TNF YELLOW

Ratings:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Weight & Pack-ability

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Comfort & Fit

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Warmth

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4/5) Protecting Our Planet

Overall Rating: 4.8

Summary:

These have to be the most comfortable slippers on the planet. They are cozy warm, easy to slip on and a joy to wear. Overall, I enjoyed testing these mules indoors and out. Keep reading to find out how they performed in each of the rating categories.

MY REVIEW

When I removed these slippers from the packaging, the first thing I noticed was how light they were. At 8.1 ounces each, I immediately began to daydream about taking them on a backpacking trip. These mules are definitely pack-able and perfect for sliding into a backpack.

The design has a relaxed fit, but they don’t feel sloppy at all. The sidewall gives just enough support for lounging around camp and the collapsible heel cuff can be worn around the heel or underneath for easy on-off scenarios.

The 100% recycled ripstop nylon upper, Thermoball synthetic insulation, and the Oso-fleece lining make this product very comfortable. When sliding in, they instantly feel comfy on the bottom of the foot and the insulation hugs the top of the foot just like a puffy jacket does on an upper torso.

From the perspective of protecting our planet, The North Face is up for the challenge of creating environmentally friendly products that perform well on all types of adventures.

I was impressed by the PrimaLoft® ThermoBall™ Eco synthetic insulation that is made from recycled polyester fabric and recycled insulation. The recycled insulation is spun from recycled bottles, making this material even more responsible. In addition, the 100% recycled P.E.T. ripstop nylon is ECO friendly while the sole is made from 40% recycled rubber.

Pro Tip:

Head over to The North Face official website and sign up for their VIPeak Rewards program before you order. They will send you an email with 10% off your first purchase.

Here’s a quick list of features about the Thermoball™ Eco Traction Mule V direct from The North Face website:

  • Water Resistant – Partially blocks rain/snow to increase breathability.
  • Insulated – Insulation traps hot air for reduced heat loss and increased warmth.
  • Recycled Content – Helps reduce landfill waste and the use of virgin materials.
  • Upper: Durable, water-resistant, 100% recycled P.E.T. ripstop upper
  • PrimaLoft® ThermoBall™ Eco synthetic insulation
  • Cozy Oso-fleece lining
  • Collapsible heel with elastic side gore panels for easy on/off
  • Sole Unit: 40% recycled rubber outsole for supreme traction

Pros & Cons:

👍 Pros

  • Simple, yet effective design.
  • Lightweight and breathable.
  • Great fit and comfort
  • Collapsible heal for flexibility
  • Like walking on the clouds

👎 Cons

  • Limited color options

Thermoball™ Eco Traction Mule V. Never stop exploring comfortably when you wear these well designed mules on your next adventure.

Visit your local shop or order online. Head on over to their site now and check out these great indoor/outdoor slippers.

➳ All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography. That’s me!

Ride Concepts Livewire Mountain Bike Shoe Review

Ride Concepts advertises their shoes as premium footwear for mountain biking. I set out on this review to either confirm or deny this claim and to give an honest rating based on my experience using their product.

I had the privilege of testing out the Livewire model for this review. The Livewire is part of the men’s Session Series products from Ride Concepts. The models in this series of mountain biking shoes cover park pumpers, single track riders and casual cruisers.


Ride Concepts Livewire

Price:

$100 MSRP

Ratings:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4/5) Comfort

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Traction

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) Durability

Overall Rating: 4.6

Summary:

I was pleasantly surprised with my experience testing these flat pedal shoes. I wore them in a number of different situations including cross-country and downhill riding as well as post-ride walk around town.

The Livewire is a do-it-all, flat pedal, mountain bike shoe with an impressive amount of technical capability and comfort.

MY REVIEW:

Overall, I found myself more impressed on each ride with this mountain bike shoe compared to others shoes on the market.

The first thing I noticed about the Livewire was the build construction when I pulled them out of the box. I noticed that the soles looked extremely durable and I could tell that all of the glued seams were there to last.

The toe box was cleverly constructed with molded toe protection and a durable mesh top cover.

As I loosened the laces and slipped my foot inside, I felt the wide tongue mold around the top of my foot.

The heel cup fit snug and I had no slippage when walking. The shoes felt like they were custom fit to perfectly match the shape of my feet.

The insoles felt soft and comfortable, both under the ball and heel of each of my feet.

Pro Tip:

After you lace up these shoes, don’t forget to place your tie loops underneath the included elastic band. It is located on the tongue between the third and fourth lacing holes and has a pull tab for easy use. This will keep you from catching those laces on your pedals or in your front chain ring.

What about on-the-bike performance?

On the bike, I could tell immediately that the DST 6.0 soles were not going to fail me when riding aggressively. They were tacky, yet firm, and the hexagon lugs matched up well with the pins on my flat pedals. On climbs, my feet stayed connected with the pedals on both the downstroke and the upstroke. I asked myself, “Why do these feel just as good as clipless-pedals and shoes?” Traction was amazing both on the pedals and on rocks when hike-a-biking uphill on gnarly sections.

When descending rocky, technical terrain, I never felt like my feet were going to slip off the pedals. I could place my feet on the pedals at the beginning of a downhill, quickly twist my heels back and forth a bit and then I felt connected and in total control. The shoes performed amazingly well in dry, wet and muddy conditions.

Bunny hopping and launching off rocks was satisfying in these shoes too. They gave me complete confidence that my feet would stay positioned correctly and that there would be no slippage upon landing. This proved to be true each time I launched into the air.

Here’s a quick list of features about the Livewire:

  • Rubber Kinetics | DST 6.0 HIGH GRIP Rubber Outsole
  • D3O High Impact Zone Insole Technology
  • Durable, synthetic upper with anti-abrasion mesh
  • Custom molded toe and heel guard protection
  • EVA midsole provides support and shock absorption
  • Fully gusseted tongue prohibits intake of dirt and debris
  • Modern lifestyle Performance Fit
  • Approximate weight – 16 oz (455 g) 

Pros & Cons:

👍 Pros

  • Excellent comfort on and off the bike.
  • DST 6.0 Rubber performs well in all conditions.
  • Comfortable insole and form fitting outer shell.
  • Convenient elastic band to keep tie loops tucked in.

👎 Cons

  • Long tongue tends to rub against top of the ankle until broken in.
  • Elastic band should be a different color. It’s hard to spot but a great feature everyone should use.

Ride Concepts Livewire Mountain Bike Shoes. I found them to live up to what is being advertised. Ride Concepts could very well produce the most comfortable, most durable and most reliable mountain bike footwear on the planet. I highly recommend these shoes. They took my riding to the next level.

Visit your local shop or order online. Head on over to their site now and check ’em out.

➳ Outdoor Prolink provided equipment and associated materials for this review. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography.

OtterBox Dry Box 3250 Review

Look no further. The OtterBox Dry Box 3250 has been redesigned with a more modern look, better functionality and up-to-date colors. This is the go anywhere box that will keep your stuff safe and dry in the outdoors.

OtterBox DryBox 3250 -JohnLaGuardia.com 4

Use:

Great for traveling, hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing and outdoor photography.

Price:

$39.99

My Review:

My overall experience with the OtterBox Dry Box 3250 was an excellent one. I put it to the test both in my photography studio and on an outdoor micro adventure.

In the studio, I found the dry box to be just the perfect size for stowing all of my laptop adapters, memory cards, batteries and miscellaneous photography accessories. It allowed for quick access during a recent product photography shoot and when I dropped it on the concrete floor, there wasn’t even a noticeable scratch on the dry box.

On adventure, I carried some small photography accessories, car keys, wallet and a mobile phone safely inside the case. It was also the perfect size to stow away in my daypack. Opening the latches each time I reached for my gear was effortless, unlike past dry box models from OtterBox and their competitors. I want to emphasize here that the new design comes with thumb-saving latches. Yes!

The only thing that I found lacking was the fact that it had side loops without a real place to clip a carabiner and did not include a loop of paracord or rubber to secure a carabiner to it. Paracord would be a nice addition to the design in the future.

Although I didn’t get a chance to review flotation in water on this adventure, I tested this functionality at home and it passed with flying colors, keeping my stuff dry and floating at the top of the water. You would have to place something extremely heavy inside the case in order to completely submerge it, if that is even possible. After re-opening the box, I found that there was very minimal water beading around the seal and no water entered the inside compartment.

The OtterBox Dry Box 3250 is a killer design that not only exceeded my expectations, but looked cool doing it too. It’s available in Hudson (white/blue) which is my personal favorite, Ridgeline (tan/green), Black (black/black) and Trail Side (RealTree camo).

OtterBox DryBox 3250 -JohnLaGuardia.com 2

ProTip:

If you stow your mobile device and keys in the dry box together, protect your device’s screen by first wrapping it in a small microfiber cloth so it doesn’t get scratched.

Rating:

👍 size, easy open latches, durability, waterproof design, weight and great color choices

👎 side loops are too narrow for a carabiner and require a loop of paracord or rope (not included)

Specs:

  • Waterproof & stackable with 55 cubic inches of storage space.
  • Can be submerged up to 90 feet deep for 30 minutes.
  • Ultra durable polycarbonate construction.
  • Stainless steel hinge and latch pins.
  • Lock holes for security.
  • Lined with polyethylene foam.
  • Backed by an iron clad, one year guarantee.

The OtterBox Dry Box 3250. I strongly recommend you take it on your next adventure!

➳ Otter Products, LLC provided equipment and associated materials for this review. John LaGuardia is an employee of Otter Products. All photos are a courtesy of LaGuardia Adventure Photography.