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Gearing Up for Outdoor Fitness the Techie Way

Monday, January 18, 2016


Sure, it’s January, but now’s the perfect time to start thinking about grabbing some technical and techie gear for Spring outdoor sports in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  From Washington to Oregon and all the way inland to my home state of Idaho, there are plenty of Spring outdoor pursuits to start prepping for, and you can get some great deals.

There are awesome deals to be had on last year’s gear.  Or, if you like the newest of the new, it’s time to start digging through websites and catalogs to look for the brand new tech for things like cycling, trail running, and backpacking.

Here’s what I’m going to be looking for this year as I ramp up to start backpacking season:

More Shoes? Always

My mother taught me and my sisters that a woman can never have too many shoes.  This is especially true if you are athletic in any way.  What works in the gym will not serve you on the trail, and if either pair has been worn regularly for about six months, it’s time for new shoes.  Darn.

I bought a pair of Salomon XR Shift trail runners a year ago and have been wearing them regularly.  For me, Salomons are a comfortable running shoe, and helped move me onto a regular jogging routine.  Having the right shoes helps.  Since they are a year old, however, it’s probably time to look into a new pair.

Because I’m a little late to jogging, and I have a trick knee, I may invest in a pair of HOKA ONE ONE’s.  Why are these a great bet?  The company offers free ground shipping and a 30-day trial on all orders.  In fact, if I try them and don’t like them, I can return them for free and get my money back or pick a different pair.

It’s also time for a new pair of hiking boots.  My pair were free, and I thank my sister for that, but they’re a bit snug.  Do I stick with stand-bys like Salomon and Merrell, or do I try something else?

If I want a bargain that’s still pretty technically advanced, I check out The Clymb.  This is where I found my $100 Salomons for $30.  I was among the first members of this site, and it has evolved greatly in terms of its searching and filtering capabilities.

Tunes and Other Tech

I have to have music while I exercise.  It keeps me motivated to push through pain and ignore the Blerch as he whispers in my ear to stop and have a snack.  I’ve been using an Apple product of one kind or another for years, from one of the very first iPods to the iPhone 6 Plus I have today.

With such a honking piece of tech for my tunes, there are honestly a lot of things to consider: cases, armbands, headphones.  It’s difficult to know where to begin.  After having to replace the screen already, my phone will never leave it’s heavy-duty case, so it’s time to shop around for a better receptacle for my phone during jogging and hiking.

After having used an armband for years, there are few on the market that can carry my phone in its huge case.  It’s time to consider a fitness belt.  Fellow fitness nut Conrad Stoll reviewed three different ones a year ago and concluded that one size may not fit every occasion.  I’m inclined to do something similar, finding a brick-and-mortar retailer so I can see if my phone will fit and if the belt will be comfortable around my waist.

If I do try a hip belt for my tunes, finding new headphones will be a must.  Apple’s newest earphones are great for sound and comfort, but the cord is short.  There are great sweat-resistant earphones from the likes of Bose, a perennial sound and tech master.  For the same price, however, I could get upgrade to these wireless headphones and never have to bother with cords again.  Outdoor fitness should be hands-free, shouldn’t it?

Hauling the Gear

I plan to do a lot of hiking and backpacking this coming Spring and Summer with whichever shoes, hip belt, and headphones I choose.  I have a brand new backpacking pack waiting for the right moment, but how do you choose if you don’t have one?

It can be tough, especially if you happen to be a 5-foot-10 woman like I am.  I have a men’s large-framed pack, and it took a lot of trial and error to find the right one.  Picking the right pack isn’t something you can do over an e-commerce site.  If you want the latest in technical frames and fabrics, you have to visit a local gear shop for fittings.

You may think you want the biggest and the best women's-specific pack from a brand like Osprey, but when you get into the shop, the fit is all wrong.  You find out, like I did, what’s really best for your body type is something completely different, like an ultralight top loader.

Go Shopping!

Head out to a store or five and start trying on gear.  Take your phone and find the headphones that work right for you.  You may not like in-ear headphones like I do, or you want one with a cord and mic instead of a wireless option.

Dig around on sites like the Clymb and Steep & Cheap for bargains if the latest gear isn’t your thing.  I like a little of both: high-tech for my tunes and packs, a good bargain for my clothes and shoes.  What works for you?

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: The 7 Best Health and Fitness Apps

Here is a list of some of the most obsession worthy health apps.

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MapMyRun is the number one selling running app for a reason:  it is easy to use, offers community support if you want it, and tracks and stores your exact routes for you.  If you are training for a race or a serious runner, users say that the extra perks in the upgraded paid version are well worth it. 

Made for iPhone, Android and Blackberry 

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MyFitnessPal seems to be the clear favorite amongst everyone polled.  It is helpful not only for the fitness tracking aspect, but everyone polled mentioned how much they loved the food/diet aspect as well. From carb counting for diabetics to recipe ideas to complement your fitness goals, users love this app. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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JeFit is another fitness app that has rave reviews.  It not only tracks progress for you, but offers a huge database of workouts.  While many apps offer community support, JeFit allows you to sync workouts with friends who use the app, offering a (real) virtual buddy system.

Made for iPhone and Android

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Strava gets the highest mark of all the cycling apps.  While it is also great for runners, the cyclers seem particularly inclined towards the fierce competition that can be ignited by this app.  You can track all of your rides via GPS, then you can compare your efforts to those logged by others in the community on the same stretch of road.  You can also join ongoing challenges that can net you great prizes (in addition to bragging rights). 

Made for iPhone and Android

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YogaStudio gets the top vote for Yoga apps.  It has a lengthy collection of full class-length videos available at your fingertips.  Unlike many other apps, this one also allows you to customize your own video yoga class.  All of the poses are done by qualified yoga instructors, and you can find classes suitable for all levels of yogis.

Made for iPhone only

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SimplyBeing meditation app offers the best of both worlds.  You can choose to run this app as a background for your meditation with soothing music or natural sounds that run for a set amount of time.  Conversely, for those of you who have trouble focusing during meditation, you can choose a soothing voice-guided meditation. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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Fooducate is an app all about educating people so that they make healthier food choices.  Although not perfect, this app is easy to use (you can even take pictures of bar codes to instantly find foods in their database).  It gives food a letter grade, tells you the pluses and minuses, and gives you better ranked alternatives.  You can also use it as a weight loss tool by tracking your daily calories. 

Made for iPhone and Android


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