At GearJunkie, we test, use, and rely on all manner of gear — for all seasons and conditions. Take a peek at the products we love this month!
Tested by: Ryan Johnson, VP of Sales and Marketing
From terminal to trailhead with the new Merrell Embark Lace, there’s no need to pack a second pair of shoes. New for spring, the Merrell Embark Lace is a killer travel shoe that you can wear every day. Plus, they’re loaded with all kinds of recycled material, so you can feel great about reducing waste in the landfill.
I’ve been shopping for a business casual shoe for a while now and looked at a bunch of the trendy models from Allbirds, adidas, and Nike, but let’s face it — when you work in the outdoor industry or are an outdoor gear fanatic, you’ll likely be rocking outdoor brands.
Out of the box, these Merrell shoes are like a comfy sock with a Vibram sole and tons of cushioning. I read they run a tad big and I’m between a 9.5 and 10, so I ordered the 9.5 and the fit is dialed. Full-knit uppers can be hit or miss depending on your foot shape, but these worked great for my higher volume foot.
A few of the recycled components include a 60% recycled knit upper, 100% recycled laces and webbing, 30% recycled integrated EVA foam insole, 100% recycled mesh footbed cover, and a 30% recycled outsole.
To be clear, this is not a technical approach shoe or a full-featured hiking shoe, but if you can only pack one pair, you should seriously consider the Merrell Embark Lace.
Tested by: Katie Eichelberger, Content Producer
I had no idea a bottle cage could look so cool until I found the Portland Design Works Owl Cage. Made from alloy, the wings of a great horned owl cradle your bottle tightly so you don’t have to worry about it flying off the trail.
I recently bought a new (to me) hardtail mountain bike and as I was meeting up with the seller here in Minneapolis, I noticed the owl bottle cage on the frame and commented that I loved it. He quickly responded that his wife would probably kill him if he sold that too, so it wasn’t part of the deal. Not a problem for me, I would find it and I would get it. I did find it, and I smile every time I look down and see it.
Portland Design Works is a great company to support, as it is an active member of the 1% For The Planet, meaning it donates 1% of its top-of-line revenue to nonprofit organizations focused on protecting our planet.
Tested by: Mary Murphy, Managing Editor
You know you’re getting older when you get excited unwrapping a new pair of orthotics. No matter your age, a lot of us — runners, hikers, backpackers — spend an inordinate amount of time walking on our feet, on uneven, hard, sloping, rocky terrains. And sometimes, all that hiking hurts your dogs.
Superfeet’s solution was to create its first pair of hiking-specific insoles: the Adapt Hike Max ($50).
As a GearJunkie living in Colorado, I hike nearly every day. To say I was excited to try these is an understatement. I put roughly 25 miles on these insoles in both my standard hiking boots and a few pairs of low-rise hikers to get their feel across the board.
The insoles are very comfortable. One of the first things I noticed is that it felt like they shaped and supported my foot well, and that’s saying something given I have very narrow feet and a high arch. (It’s awesome to see insoles with a design for medium to high arch shapes!)
The cushioned forefoot zone underneath the ball of the foot and the heel cushion are the other two components I could tell definitely made a difference in my foot comfort while hiking, especially on rockier terrain.
Overall, I’m looking forward to wearing these insoles for many more miles. If you haven’t ever found peak comfort for your feet, definitely give these insoles a try.
Tested by: Jenny Hansen, Contributor
No dogs left behind! Summer is the season for travel and outdoor water adventures. Along with my paddleboard, I’ve been keeping this Red Dog Buoyancy Aid in my car at all times in the event of an impromptu paddle or swim.
Because my pup is so dense, she normally has trouble keeping herself afloat, but she enjoyed swimming after her ball and hanging on the paddleboard with me for hours while wearing this life jacket, earning it our vote for the best life jacket for large dogs.
It seemed to be very comfortable and not bothersome to her at all. It has four different grab handles, which came in handy for helping her back onto the paddleboard.
At $109, it is on the pricier side, but it seems to be made to withstand the elements. Plus, it’s quick-drying, which means no stinky wet dog smell lingering in my car afterward. If that’s something you’re looking for, then definitely check this one out.
Tested by: Chris Potter, Project Manager
Summer’s here, and if it’s time for a cooler upgrade, rotomolded insulation is the way to go. Back-to-back days in the 90s have nothing on the Dometic Patrol 35L cooler. While coolers that can keep ice frozen for days are nothing new, a cooler of this quality for this price certainly is novel.
Designed with rugged, one-piece rotomolded polyethylene and secured with a deep-freeze lid seal to trap the cold inside, the Dometic Patrol is ready for any trip you have in mind. The 35L model can fit 28 cans, and the dock in front can be equipped with a bottle holder or a fishing rod holder for added convenience.
Through the spring, my car camping experience definitely improved with the addition of Dometic’s Patrol 35L cooler. Knowing I can bring more food and drinks without a second thought is a peace of mind I didn’t have before moving into the rotomolded insulation realm. If you’re ready for a cooler you can count on to endure any adventure, check out the Patrol 35L.
Tested by: Mary Murphy, Managing Editor
From the very first beta pair through the Gen 1 and Gen 2 versions of Ombraz, I’ve seen and worn them all. So when the latest style came out, I jumped at the chance to try ’em. Could Ombraz’s unique, armless sunglasses get any better?
The Ombraz Tetons (coming soon for $200) are just as stylish as the classic, though I’ve found after agonizing over a head-to-head comparison that the Tetons fit my face just a tad better. What’s the same? For one, the armless design with the adjustable cord. Two, 100% UV protection. And three, you can fold them up, drop them, step on them — they are durable as heck.
What’s new? The Tetons have a new frame material (TR-90), and also have a built-in mini side visor to reduce peripheral glare. There’s also just a single bridge above the nose instead of the double style you’ll see on Ombraz’s Classic or Dolomites. The Tetons will come in two colors: charcoal black or a tortoise pattern.
Sure, the Ombraz Classic will never die, but these new Tetons have a lot going for them too.