Published: December 7th, 2017
Thanks to a couple of good pals at Salewa, I recently had the chance to test out some their top-of-the-line Mountain Trainer hiking boots and an insulated, hybrid jacket. And thanks to some serendipitous timing, I was able to test this new gear out in a contrast of environments. From the ruggedly rocky to the brisk shores of a reservoir, I was able to go the distance with Salewa, from Saguaro Cacti to Squire Point.
The first testing grounds came at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve adjacent to Scottsdale, Arizona. With over 30,000 acres of desert terrain hosted by the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, complete with rocky trails, hearty gain and plenty Saguaro Cacti, the Sonoran preserve was the perfect place to test out the Mountain Trainer Mid GTX hiking boots I had received in the mail just a few days prior.
Lightweight but rugged, with mid-ankle support and a sturdy toe box, I was initially worried about not breaking the Mountain Trainers in a bit before hiking into the Arizona landscape. Little time was left to worry though, and when I took my first step onto the trail heading up to Sunrise Peak, and the tread caught the grit of the sandy terrain, I could tell that the boots were made for a natural surface.
As I hopped rocks, avoided cacti contact and appreciated the views, any worry about ankle rubbing or back-of-the-foot blistering was quickly left behind. What I did notice about the boots, is that on the few occasions where I failed to look where I was stepping (the quite a few occasions), the Flex Collar supported my ankle and helped me recover into a (semi) graceful landing.
The Mountain Trainers got me to the top of Sunrise Peak with no problem, and I’d eventually hike another 20 miles of trails throughout the McDowell Mountain Preserve. While my favorite part of the whole experience easily had to be the Saguaro Cacti , I was also pleasantly enthused by the lack of blisters, hotspots or ankle chafes every time I took off my boots.
While the 20+ miles of desert travel I encountered in Arizona was only a teaser for all that the Mountain Trainers are capable of, on my way back home to Iowa, still wearing them on the plane, I could easily see the different places the Mountain Trainers could take me. With just twenty miles it seemed the Mountain Trainers were well past broken in, and now they’ll remain for a long time as my go-to boot in my gear collection.
From 85 degrees to just above freezing, heading back home to Iowa was the perfect way to test out the second piece of gear I received from Salewa, the Ortles 2 Primaloft Hybrid Jacket. Featuring a lightweight design and an oven-like ability to trap warmth, from the moment I put this jacket on I knew it was meant for movement, and I knew the perfect place in Iowa for just that.
Adjacent to the Coralville Reservoir, just north of the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, Squire Point is a half-kept secret of eastern Iowa for running and hiking trails. Meandering around rocky outlets of the Iowa River, Squire Point and the connecting reservoir trail systems are filled with water-fed views, rolling hills and a plethora of geocaches worth exploring for.
For those unfamiliar, geocaches are hidden objects out in the world with geographic coordinates attached to their location. Utilizing the database and community hosted by Groundspeak and Geocaching.com, anyone can look up these coordinates and find these geocaches. Geocaching is a community supported activity that requires goodwill, good detection skills and a little patience in searching for hard-to-find locations.
The sun was out, and the car thermostat read 35 degrees upon pulling into the Squire Point trailhead. I was set to search for an elusive geocache that has stumped me before, and I was immediately thankful for the Primaloft insulation of the Ortles Jacket, especially as my travel partner and I began the hike and my body warmth collected underneath the insulation.
Not only did the Ortles Jacket trap my body heat while I was moving, but it kept it around as I remained idle. This was well-noted when we started drawing close to the coordinates of the geocache we were searching for. Instead of the fast-paced hiking to get near the location, suddenly there was a lot of standing around, and searching in rock crevices, tree stumps and questioning if the geocache was still hidden in the right spot.
Alongside staying warm with minimal layers in just above freezing weather, as I was actively using my limbs to climb, reach and extend my arms in search for the geocache, I noticed the utility of the Durastretch fabric on the Ortles Jacket that extends up to the elbows. Besides not scraping up any baffling as my arm slid across rocks, there was no restriction to my elbow, shoulder and arm movement, which I quickly imagined would be helpful for rock climbing.
When the wind really began whipping off the waters of the Iowa River at Squire Point, I utilized the pull-over hood, and recognized that it too would be perfect for climbing endeavors, in that the elasticized hoody could easily fit a helmet. Without going into too many necessary details, the elusive geocache was finally found in its secure hiding space. As I pulled my pen out of the convenient chest pocket of the Ortles Jacket, and signed the tiny log stashed inside the geocache, it was already easy to see that the Ortles Jacket was up for exploring new things.