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Product review: 14 outdoor products for spring
As snow melts in the higher elevations, roads are opening and places that werent accessible before are now open to adventurers. - photo by Grant Olsen
In honor of the warmer days ahead, here is a look at several products that could possibly be of use on your next excursion. Big and small, they offer just a small glimpse into the constantly evolving world of outdoor gear.

Ultimate Hammock and Straps

PRICE: $69


Hammocks are one of the quickest and easiest ways to accessorize your campsite. Theyre portable, easy to set up and everyone loves to lounge on them. The Ultimate Hammock is an affordable and durable model that hit the market not too long ago.

The Ultimate Hammock is designed for simplicity. Its quite large (9 feet 4 inches by 4 feet 7 inches,) but it only weighs about a pound. That means youre getting an extremely comfortable and usable hammock thats light enough to toss in your pack for a hiking trip.

The Ultimate Hammock has a built-in stuff sack so you wont have to worry about losing it. The carabiners for rigging it up are extremely strong and once its in place, the hammock can handle up to 350 pounds. The seams are triple-stitched to ensure a long life. Another nice feature is the attachment straps are about 9-feet long, allowing you to attach the hammock to just about any tree you encounter on your travels

Slackline Industries Baseline

PRICE: $74


The Baseline from Slackline Industries is a great all-purpose line. Its made to accommodate beginners while also delivering the performance that a more experienced user would want.

The team from Slackline Industries is exceptionally good at designing their slacklines with the user in mind. The Baseline includes a safety lock ratchet with 8 feet of webbing. Theres a reinforced loop to get a solid anchor. The ratchets grip and release is soft plastic for comfort, making it easy to keep things safe.

The Baseline incorporates a custom-designed weave that gives you the versatility to use it however you want. It gives you lots of stability so its perfect for beginners who are just getting their feet under them. It also gives you the flexibility to test out more advanced techniques and can handle jumping.

Pistil Elson Hat

PRICE: $29


Wide-brimmed hats are not only recommended by the American Cancer Society as a way to protect yourself from skin cancer, but theyre also handy in rainy or snowy conditions.

The Elson hat from Pistil is one of the most functional hats Ive ever owned. Because its made of felted wool, its incredibly comfortable to wear. Another benefit of the wool is that its flexible so you can roll the hat up and stash it in your pack when you dont need it. Not all wide-brimmed hats can do that and still maintain their shape.

On the inside of the Elson is a comfy sweatband that helps to ensure a snug fit. If youre looking for a functional and good-looking hat that you can easily store when its not in use, you cant do better than the Elson.

BlackRapid Sport Strap

PRICE: $73


When you bought your camera, it most likely came with a strap. So why would you want to spend more than $70 on a new strap? Well, the Sport Strap from BlackRapid isnt designed for casual photographers. So if youre not a pro photographer shooting on a regular basis, this may not be your thing.

That being said, BlackRapids camera straps are pretty amazing. The Sport Strap has an ergonomic design that holds your camera steady in even the most intense shooting environments. When youre ready to take a photo, its a smooth transition to slide your camera up.

The Sport Strap has lots of little features to make it better. For example, theres an underarm tether to make sure your camera stays put. With a $150 point-and-shoot, thats a nice addition. With a $5,000, pro-grade camera, its an essential. Other features include a shoulder pad for equal weight distribution and a high quality fastener to keep your camera safe.

Dolly Varden Biscayne Shirt

PRICE: $49


The idea behind Dolly Varden products is to create sophisticated performance wear thats up to the challenge of a multiday fishing trip, but is also casual and comfortable enough to wear around the house.

The Biscayne Ball Tee embodies this strategy perfectly. Its made from an ultra-comfortable blend of poly, viscose and spandex, so its probably more comfortable to wear than your old softball tee. The fabric is breathable and durable enough to handle a rugged trip, while also giving you 50+ UPF for your time in the sun.

The folks at Dolly Varden are branching out into other types of performance clothing and its yet to be seen how effective all their products will be. But for now, its safe to say that theyve hit a homerun with this awesome ball T-shirt.

Pump Me Up! Mini Bike Pump

PRICE: $19


The Pump Me Up! is a true micro pump. Its only about 7 inches long and weighs a hair over 3 ounces. It is Presta and Schrader compatible and has a lifetime warranty. It comes with a Velcro strap to secure it to your bike frame below the bottle cage. And its small enough that you can also just keep it in your backpack or hydration pack.

Because of the length of the barrel, you only get 100 psi from the pump. But its still enough to handle most jobs. Theres a large dust plug thats built into the pump head so you dont have to worry about it getting dirty or damaged.

The pump comes with a lifetime warranty, which is always nice on technical equipment. Because its constructed from a high-quality aluminum alloy, you probably will never need to file for a replacement.

Planet Bike ALX Floor Pump

PRICE: $49


I love the look of the Planet Bike ALX pump. It has a metallic barrel and is topped with an old school wooden handle. Theres also a color-coded dial gauge, allowing for quick referencing while pumping. It has a retro vibe to it, but includes the features youd want on a high-efficiency pump.

Although the ALX has a steel base, its still really lightweight. Not that I put much of a premium on that. I personally dont care if my floor pump is heavy. But the fact that its lightweight makes it easier for kids to use it.

Included with the ALX is a needle and cone for inflating balls. These accessories are stored in a small case that attaches to the hose. I really like how its incorporated into the design so that youll never have to search your garage for them when you need them.

Kelty Coyote 80 Backpack

PRICE: $209


The Coyote is one of Keltys versatile packs thats sleek enough for a day trip but can also accommodate enough gear for an extended backcountry trip. Its got lots of awesome features, like the CloudLock II suspension and LightBeam aluminum stays that allow it to support substantial loads and allow you to adjust the fit on the fly.

The Coyote is a top-loader with front-panel access. There are lots of pockets for extra storage so youre never too far from your supplies. This is particularly nice for family adventures, when you might need to get to your gear more often than on a solo trip.

Weighing in at about 5 pounds, the Coyote is light enough for any of your needs. The body fabric is 420D polyester reinforced with 450D polyester. Rugged and innovative, the Coyote will deliver every time.

Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System

PRICE: $349


Perfect for parents taking little ones along on outdoor adventures, the Bravo stroller is one of the few strollers that you can legitimately open and close with one hand. Many strollers out there advertise that they have one-handed folding, but theyre not smooth enough to make it practical. With the Bravo, its a reality. When its folded, theres a convenient carrying handle built right into it.

The Bravo is fairly lightweight, tipping the scales at about 23 pounds. When paired with the included KeyFit 30 car seat, the total weight is about 10 pounds more. When your child is ready to outgrow the car seat (its designed to accommodate up to 30 pounds,) the Bravo really shines. It has a comfy toddler seat and its easy to alternate between the car seat and the integrated stroller seat.

Beyond its adaptability, the Bravo has other benefits. It only takes a few minutes to assemble and it is one of the most user-friendly strollers on the market. It also has a height-adjustable handle, all-wheel suspension and large storage basket.

PureSpa Bubble Therapy Spa

PRICE: $599


Inflatable hot tubs are becoming more popular because theyre more portable and affordable than a hard-sided hot tub. The PureSpa Bubble Therapy Spa is one of the best models on the market. It has 120 bubble jets and a customizable heating system. Best of all, once its packed into the carry bag, its actually quite portable. Thats an accomplishment for a spa this big.

The PureSpa Bubble Therapy Spa is supposed to fit up to four adults, but unless those adults are tiny, it's going to be a tight fit. Two or three adults is more realistic. It comes with a floating chemical dispenser and filter cartridges so you can keep it clean and running smooth. The water temperature ranges from 68 degrees to 104 degrees. The spa comes with a built-in inflation system, so dont worry about giving yourself a headache as you try to blow it up.

One unique feature is that this spa doesnt just heat the water, it heats the air prior to it bubbling the water. This keeps the water warmer and the amount of energy required to do the heating more economical. That being said, it still takes a while to get the water heated. You cant just go out, turn it on and expect to be soaking in hot water. You need to plan ahead to make sure it gets the water to your desired temperature.

Costa Del Mar Fantail

PRICE: $249


Costa Del Mar sunglasses are known for being comfortable and functional and the Fantails are no exception. They have a medium fit that can accommodate most head shapes (lens size: 59mm/38mm; temple length: 120mm; bridge/DBL: 18mm/17mm). The heavy-duty TR 90 nylon frames have integral hinges and are super sleek.

Of course, most people buy Costas for the lenses, not the frames. The lenses give 100 percent UV light blockage and their complete polarization eliminates reflected glare so effectively that it saves your eyes a lot of strain. You can choose between plastic or glass lens options. The plastic versions are lightweight and impact-resistant. The glass versions are a bit heavier, but give you the greatest clarity.

Costas are specifically made for those who spend a lot of time on the water. The Fantail is a great option for anglers because the lenses give you crisp vision that helps you see in the water and discern depth. Any advantage you can have while fishing is good, making these sunglasses a real winner.

Spyder Industries Big Haas Hook

PRICE: $99


Not all hauling jobs are created equal. Sometimes a basic rope will suffice, while other times, the vehicle doing the hauling will be pushed to its limits. At times like these, a heavy-duty recovery hook can be a big advantage. Its for jobs like these that Spyder Industries developed the Big Haas hook.

The Big Haas fits a standard 2-inch hitch receiver, but thats about where it departs from the standard. It features a double-plate steel construction. The steel is powder-coated with a semi-gloss texture. It comes in two sizes, with the regular measuring one foot in length and more than 6 inches high.

The Big Haas recovery hook can be outfitted with accessories like LED floodlights or spotlights. Simply connect the pigtail wires into your backup light wiring harness and youll be good to go.

Vasque Inhaler GTX

PRICE: $159


Vasque has designed these boots to allow your feet to breathe freely while on the trail. Theyre the most ventilated boots that Vasque makes, which is saying a lot, because the brand is known for delivering performance and comfort. They feel more like sneakers than boots, which is impressive considering the amount of technical components.

These boots have a GORE-TEX liner so you can trust that theyre waterproof. There are also mesh panels to increase the ventilation. On top of that, the Extended Comfort Technology ensures that its also incredibly ventilated. This material is also lightweight, helping to keep the overall weight down and ensure that theyre not too clunky.

The Inhaler GTX isnt a one-trick pony because it also gives you best-in-class traction. It has a Vibram Pneumatic sole molded in Megagrip rubber that definitely bites into the terrain so you wont slip.

EVOC Protector Jacket

PRICE: Varies by retailer


Extreme sports call for advanced protection and the EVOC Protector Jacket delivers. Its lightweight and comfortable, which automatically distinguishes it from the crowd. The jacket provides generous upper torso protection with a Liteshield Air Back Protector and detachable SAS-Tec padding for your shoulders, clavicle, chest and pelvis.

The Lycra material is similar to what is used for bicycle jerseys. Its moisture-dissipating, anti-bacterial and dries fast. Its also machine-washable so you can keep it looking spiffy.

As for the padding, its viscoelastic foam can adapt to your unique body shape. The secret to its malleability are the cross-shaped perforations that give it its adaptability. As an added bonus, the perforations also deliver extra ventilation. With an impressive combination of technology and comfort, the Protector Jacket is a great product.
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