Veterans Expeditions

Posts Tagged ‘Gear Reviews’

Outdoor Retailer Show: a military veterans perspective

Keen shoe display at the Keen Booth

I spent last week in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Outdoor Retailer Show. I was there to find out what outdoor companies are working with military veterans and to remind companies to consider veterans in their marketing of outdoor gear. My goal was to partner my veteran non-profit (Veterans Expeditions or VetEx) with any outdoor company who recognizes military veterans as an educated consumer of their outdoor gear. I was also looking for the latest gear to test and review.  I was looking for companies who identified with my mission and wanted to provide gear to the veterans who come on VetEx trips. I was to report back what I found in an Elevation Outdoors Blog. I walked into the enormous Salt Palace with open eyes and ears. This is what I found.

I met with the good folks at Keen to thank them for providing shoes for VetEx veterans and talked further to see if Keen could continue to support the footwear needs of VetEx. Turns out Keen will continue to support VetEx’s footwear and wants to see veterans as Keen Ambassadors. I can’t tell you how good it feels to sit down with an outdoor company and be treated fairly and with respect even though I am not some outdoor big-shot hucking myself of anything that might kill me or claiming first ascents around the world. I am just an ordinary veteran who found peace in the outdoors and wants to share the outdoors with as many vets as possible. Keen gets it though because we “inspire” the folks at Keen by just being military veterans who want to build community through the outdoors.

Boa Bindings make Louis Garneau snowshoes a snap

I went to a sushi lunch provided by the folks at Backbone Media. It was a good opportunity to eat some great food and get some time with new products from Boa and Louis Garneau. I was impressed with the Boa bindings used on the snowshoes offered by Louis Garneau. The snowshoes were all very light with the Boa binding and the running snowshoes (center snowshoes in photo) were the lightest snowshoes I have even felt. The unique binding allows for one handed in and out operation. For veterans with hand or upper body disabilities like myself, the one handed operation is very appealing for its simplicity and ease of operation. Stay tuned as I have been promised a demo of these snowshoes when they are released this coming fall. We will have the vets at VetEx put these snowshoes and their cool bindings through a gear test and review. We will let you know how theses snowshoes stack up after solid use.

Next I met with Verde PR and got the lowdown on Julbo eyewear, K2, Madshus, and Metolius. Stay tuned on gear reviews from these companies and their products. I am hoping to get more eyewear to test from Julbo and start the conversation for them to become the eyewear provider of VetEx. Good eye protection is so important in the high mountains and most of our veterans lack a pair of solid sun glasses.

Kahtoola Microspikes see an upgrade

It was on to the Kahtoola booth for happy hour and a talk with Danny Giovale, the owner of Kahtoola. There was a large crowd gathered at the Kahtoola booth and they were giving away lots of microspikes and snowshoes. I watched them give away pair after pair. The most gear I witnessed being given away all week at the show. Danny and I sat down for a chat about how far VetEx has come. Kahtoola was VetEx’s first gear sponsor and they have been backing us since we started. I was reminded of just how down to earth Danny Giovale is as well as his entire Kahtoola gang. You will not find better people in the outdoor industry than these folks. A refreshing, made in the USA company that truly supports military veterans. Can’t say enough about the people behind such great outdoor gear. Happy to hear there will be new things coming soon from this Flagstaff Arizona company. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Their microspikes are one of a kind and the standard for in between season mountain travel.  The snowshoe binding releases from the deck to provide instant traction to your boots.

One of my last stops was to the folks at SteriPen. You know, the ultraviolet backcountry water zapper. SteriPen was very interested in helping get vets outside. They make a special SteriPen for Special Ops that I will be testing very soon. SteriPen will also donate these cool water purification devices to VetEx for our expeditions and trips. Very cool of these guys to come in and help us out with a product that will give us clean drinking water in the backcountry.

So thats a wrap on the Outdoor Retailer Show from my military veteran perspective. I will also be testing gear from Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Mammut, and many others. Clif will be making sure our veterans have the snacks to get us through the next backcounty challenge and beyond. I thank all the outdoor companies helping military veterans achieve their outdoor goals!

By Nick Watson, Former Army Ranger and Co-Founder of Veterans Expeditions (VetEx)

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Review: Marmot Silverton Jacket

 1. What is It? The Marmot Silverton Jacket. The color is Fern/Wintergreen. The jacket retails for $495. It is a hard shell built to withstand big mountain weather without the weight and bulk of most Jacket’s in this category. http://marmot.com/products/silverton_jacket

2. Who is this Jacket for? The Marmot Silverton Jacket is for the back country skier and snowshoer who wants a premium shell to keep them dry and protected from mountain weather. The jacket performed well on Mt. Rainier this April during many snow storms. The jacket also kept me dry in rainy Seattle. This Jacket shines as an all around versatile piece of gear for the high mountains and the city raincoat.

3. Pros: I like the pockets (2 waist pockets, 1 chest pocket, and 1 left arm pocket). I like the zippers on the jacket, pockets, and pit zips. They have always worked without hassle. I like the protection the jacket offers.

4. Cons: The jacket has few cons. This Jacket has a fitted fit which works in some cases and not others. In my case the jacket fit me great except for the extreme high mountain winter weather type conditions. I would want the next size up for 7,000 meter peaks or higher.

5. Overall Gear Rating is a 4.5 out of 5. This is the perfect 4 season mountain jacket to keep you dry.

6. This jacket is in my pack for anything the Colorado high country can throw at me.

Photo by Chris Kassar

This jacket was reviewed by Nick Watson

Gear Reviews by Veterans Who Know Gear

Photo by Peter Cameron

Gear reviews will be written by military veterans who have been using and testing gear as they train with VetEx for upcoming expeditions, races, and events. The criteria for the reviews has been created with knowledge and experience of both military deployments and wilderness guiding. We bring a very practical approach to our reviews. Please note that the gear being reviewed may have been purchased at retail, pro-dealed, sponsored, etc.

Gear Review Criteria:

1.  What is it?

2.  Who is it for?

3.  Pros

4.  Cons

5.  Overall Gear Rating

6.  Is it in my pack?

 

VetEx Co-founder Nick Watson is the primary gear tester for VetEx, and we will gladly post gear reviews from any and all military veterans who want to post their reviews here.

Gear Tester Bio, Nick Watson:  

Nick served 5 years as an Army Ranger with 3rd Ranger Battalion from 1991-1995.

Nick graduated from numerous advanced leadership and survival schools to include Airborne School, Ranger School, S.E.R.E. Survival School, Non-Commissioned Officer Primary Leadership Development Course, Combat Lifesaver, and Field Sanitation. He was involved in numerous international and national deployments. Nick has been working as an Outdoor Professional since leaving the army. He is a graduate of the Recreation Management program at the University of Vermont and has held numerous jobs in the outdoor industry to include: National Park Service Park Ranger, NPS Biological Technician, Trail Crew Boss, Wilderness Therapy Instructor, Field Director, Wilderness Guide, etc. That is 20 years of outdoor experience. Nick is an “all-arounder” who enjoys the challenge of the outdoors paddling, mountain biking, road biking, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, climbing ice and rock, and most of all he enjoys those epic long days high in the mountains. His gear reviews focus on practical, real world application and function of each gear item. If Nick carries it in his pack, you want it in yours!

 

Photo by Scott Ostrom

Gear Tester Bio, Livio Ciciotti:

Livio Ciciotti is a native of Upstate New York where he grew up playing football and working on local farms bailing hay. Since moving to Colorado in early 2012 he has really found his home in the high country. Livio is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied Graphic Media and Communications. While attending RIT, Livio enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves, in the Infantry. Livio hoped to one day become a Marine Infantry Officer but due to a serious accident he was not able to fulfill that ambition. He served six years with India Co. 3rd Battalion 25th Marines. While serving in the Infantry Livio attended Tactical Small Unit leaders Course as well as Combat Life Saver Course and Combat Hunter Course. In 2010 Livio deployed to Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan where he served as a Vehicle Commander and Team Leader. Livio was promoted to Sergeant and served as a squad leader before his contracted ended in 2012.

Livio loves getting high in the Colorado Rockies on isolated trails where he can enjoy the outdoors to the fullest.

Photo by Scott Ostrom

He continues to learn and advance his outdoor skills with Veterans Expeditions. His favorite part of the VetEx experience is sharing the trail with the “Brotherhood” as he calls it. “It’s a commitment that we owe each other and ourselves as veterans to stay connected and to support each other.”


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