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Product review: 5 outdoor products for spring
Warmer weather means adventurers can gain access to higher altitudes. - photo by Grant Olsen
THE GREAT OUTDOORS Though there may be a snowstorm or two lurking in the future, weve reached a point where good weather has made outdoor adventures more consistently available. Basically, you can hang up the snowshoes and start breaking in your hiking boots.

To herald the pre-summer weather conditions, this review looks at a handful of products that are designed to thrive this time of year.

Voil Ski Straps



While most people think of skiing when they think of these Utah-made straps, they have just as much utility in warmer weather. Made from polyurethane and a hardened aluminum, theyre durable enough to handle just about any abuse you throw at them. And if you were to have any issues, they're backed by a lifetime warranty.

So what should you use a Voil ski strap for during a spring outing? Theyre great for compressing foam pads or inflatable camp pads, securing loose gear to your pack or keeping your pant cuffs out of your bike chain. Of course, their most important use is probably the one you could never anticipate until youre in the middle of an unexpected situation in the backcountry.

Smith Captains Choice Sunglasses

PRICE: $179


Whether youre an angler or prefer kayaking and other watersports, a good pair of sunglasses can be essential. The Captains Choice from Smith are specifically designed with anglers in mind, but many of the best features are translatable for anyone who likes to spend a day on the water.

For starters, the Captains Choice have ChromaPop+ lenses that eliminate glare better than most other sunglasses on the market. The proof is found at the end of a bright day at the lake, with your eyes barely feeling fatigued. The lenses also have hydroleophobic and anti-reflective coatings to repel water, smudges, scratches and reflections.

The lightweight frames have a medium/large fit, so theyll work for most faces. And they stay snugly in place thanks to the hydrophilic megol nose and temple pads. Theres also an integrated leash that can act as a failsafe. Of course, if you think leashes look dorky, its thankfully detachable.

If youre looking for a precision pair of sunglasses that excel on water, but can also work for just about anything else, the Captains Choice is a good option.

Priority Start F/W

PRICE: $259


Balance bikes can be an excellent way to get young kids comfortable biking. The Start FW provides a transition from those early years of big wheels and balance bikes to the full-size bikes that come later. Its designed for kids 4-8 years old, giving them the functionality of a legitimate bike while also including kid-friendly features.

One of the key features of this bike is the rear freewheel, which allows kids to rotate the pedals either forwards or backward. Coaster brakes are nice, but they can be counterintuitive for some kids.

Other features include a rustproof aluminum frame that can withstand sprinkler baths if its accidentally left out on the lawn overnight. The inner tubes are self-sealing, which reduces maintenance on the tires. And, of course, the bike has Prioritys grease-free belt drive that delivers a smooth, quiet ride and can actually last longer than a chain.

L.L. Bean Discovery Series Spin Outfit

PRICE: $85


The Discover Series from L.L. Bean provides a solid spin combo at a good price. As is often the case with spin combinations, the rod and reel arent quite on the same level. In this case, the rod outshines the reel.

The rod comes in a 5-foot ultralight version, a 5-foot-6-inch freshwater light version, a 6-foot-6-inch medium freshwater version and a 7-foot, heavy version that can handle large freshwater species and smaller saltwater fish. The rod is built with quality graphite blanks and durable hardware. It comes with a classic-looking cork handle, so if you prefer foam handles, you should know that theyre not an option with this combo. Best of all, the package includes a surprisingly robust road case to protect it during storage or travel.

As for the reel, its got a fairly smooth retrieve. The bail is a little stiff, so it takes a little more effort after your cast to get things going. The drag is serviceable. Ill put it this way: while the rod could probably handle a big northern pike, Im not confident the reel would hold up its end of the bargain.

Nuna Pepp Stroller

PRICE: $249


When taking a baby on an outing, the stroller is often one of the biggest space-hogging items. And if you own a car instead of an SUV or minivan, this problem is exacerbated.

The easy solution to this problem is to bring a small, foldable umbrella stroller. Theyve been around for decades because they simply work. But what if you have more accessories you need to bring along with you during the outing? You could tote them in a diaper bag or backpack, but sometimes its most convenient to be able to store things in the stroller.

The PEPP is essentially a hybrid of an umbrella stroller and a more substantial stroller. It still folds up ultra-small, like a traditional umbrella, but it has a storage basket and features like an adjustable handle that you normally wouldnt get in such a compact stroller.

On longer outings, the PEPP is excellent because it has a three-position seat that can go into full recline. So instead of your child slumping forward in the stroller with their head swaying back and forth, they can lie all the way back and snooze in peace.

The stroller has a sleek folding system and can stand independently once folded. It also has a fairly good suspension system for off-road jaunts, though it would never be adequate to handle much more than a groomed trail.
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