Stuff We Like: January 2022

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
Linden testing the durability of the True Value Folding Shovel with Pick Ax


Most of our reviews are pretty long — and take a long time to produce — because we want to provide enough info for you to actually determine whether the gear we tested will work well for you.

But we get asked to check out an increasingly wide range of products, and sometimes, we just want to tell you about something we’ve been using and loving lately.

So we’ve rolled out this monthly series — Stuff We Like — to keep you current on a broad range of stuff we’re currently digging.

And if there’s something you love that you think we ought to check out, drop us a note in the comment section below.

Folding Shovel with Pick Ax

MSRP: $13.95

Kristin Sinnott: On a recent mini-vacation, we made a last minute decision to stop by some sand dunes on our way home. It being a last minute decision, we had zero shovels or sand toys for my son. Thankfully we picked up this folding shovel with a pick ax at a local hardware store on our way. 

The shovel is not a toy and I want to be clear that I am not recommending the folding shovel, with a pick ax, as a toy for children. It has a saw blade built into one side, a fairly sharp shovel tip, and a can opener. This is not something you would find in a toy store or even on the children’s aisle of the hardware store. But it is also the perfect size for him and it digs through hard sand and old snow with ease. Something that little plastic kids shovels don’t do. 

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
Folding Shovel with Pick Ax

Dollar for dollar, this is one of the best purchases my husband and I have ever made for our son. My son loves it and its compact size means it fits nicely into a backpack or larger pocket. We now keep it in the back of the truck so we are always prepared for some digging. 

But be warned, if your child loves to dig, you might spend more time in parking lots than you want. As I’m writing this, My husband is currently stuck in a parking lot at our local ski area because my son wants to dig. My most recent text from him – “can’t even bribe him with a smartie” to get into the truck. 

Kitsbow Mullinax ¾ Sleeve Merino Tee

MSRP: $89

David Golay: I was already a big fan of the standard Mullinax Tee when I tested that last year, and the ¾ sleeve version is even better.

I’ve long been a big fan of wool for base layers and bike jerseys, for how well it regulates temperature and resists odors, and the Mullinax tee (in either sleeve length) is a really good option for all-around on-bike use.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
David Golay in the Kitsbow Mullinax ¾ Sleeve Merino Tee

They’re both soft, super comfortable, and extremely well patterned. But what gives the ¾ sleeve version the leg up in my book is the fact that the fabric used in both is just a touch on the warmer / heavier side of average, making the ¾ sleeve version of the Mullinax ideal for use on somewhat cooler days. And especially if I’m wearing it under a jacket (as I often have been of late), the added elbow coverage goes a long way towards mitigating the cold and clammy feel that you can get from hardshell material against bare skin.

That’s not to say that the Mullinax ¾ Sleeve is just a cold weather piece, though — I’ve worn it in weather up to 70° F (21° C) or so and been totally comfortable. It’s also a nice bonus that Kitsbow sews each shirt in North Carolina, and makes them to order, to reduce unsold garments from going to waste. 

Five Ten Trailcross GTX

MSRP: $200

David: My hopes for the Five Ten Traillcross GTX were almost impossibly high when I got them in for testing. My winter riding involves a lot of wet weather but temperatures that rarely dip below freezing, and I’ve long struggled to find a pair of shoes that are well suited to those conditions. But thankfully, the Trailcross GTX has not disappointed.

Though I ride both flats and clips fairly regularly, I tend to prefer flats in the winter — both because they’re often easier to deal with when it’s very muddy and sloppy and clipless pedals are prone to clogging up, and because not having the metal heat sink of the cleat plate under my foot tends to keep my feet warmer and more comfortable. And while there are plenty of waterproof winter bike shoes out there — mostly for clipless applications — they tend to also be heavily insulated and bulky, making them both too warm and too cumbersome for my needs.

Enter the Trailcross GTX. It’s a waterproof flat pedal shoe, using Five Ten’s excellent rubber, but crucially it’s not insulated beyond that. And the results are outstanding. They’ve kept my feet warm and dry while still riding really well, and they’re not too hot to wear when temperatures climb into the 50s.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
David Golay in the Trailcross GTX

Like most waterproof bike shoes, the Trailcross GTX does work better when worn with pants — the ankle gasket is pretty good, but not 100% waterproof, so having a pant leg over the cuff stops water from running down your leg and into the shoe. But that slight limitation aside, they’re outstanding (and I’m really not sure how you’d design a better ankle gasket — there are just too many concave surfaces in an ankle to seal against).

We’ll have a full review of the Trailcross GTX in a bit, once I’ve been able to spend more time in them and get a better sense of their durability, in particular, but I’m super high on their performance for my needs. 

DUER Fireside Denim Mid Rise Slim Straight

MSRP: $159

Kristin Sinnott: This past fall, I decided I was done with my pandemic sweatpants and that it was time to ease myself back into ‘normal’ clothes. And by normal, I mean jeans. I was first introduced to the brand DUER while shopping at our Blister Recommended Shop, Outdoor Gear Exchange, in Burlington, VT.  I tried on a number of styles and was impressed by how DUER managed to balance comfort and style. I purchased a pair of jeans and they quickly replaced my sweatpants. When I was introduced to the Fireside Denim, I knew the fleece-lined jeans would work well for the winter months and more specifically, I was excited to wear them at our upcoming Blister Summit. While most of our reviewers will be on the mountain skiing with attendees, I will likely be in the vendor booth area most of the day. And I don’t plan to spend all day in my ski pants, so the fleece-lined pants seemed perfect.

Unlike other lined denim, the fleece lining is woven into the fabric, making the pants a similar thickness to other jeans, but much warmer. There is nothing frumpy or thick about the Fireside Denim. While I haven’t had a chance to test them at the Summit, I will definitely be wearing them most days. 

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
DUER Fireside Denim Mid Rise Slim Straight

SKIDA Kids Balaclava

MSRP: $34

Kristin Sinnott: About 90% of the time I ski on-resort, I wear a small beanie or balaclava under my ski helmet. No matter what helmet / goggle combination I wear, I always feel a bit of cold air seeping in and the beanie cuts the chill. So when my son started wearing a ski helmet I wanted to find something for him, too. Last year, he exclusively wore a Nui Organic wool balaclava because it was a nice thin layer that was also soft, warm, and a comfortable fit.  But it didn’t provide a lot of warmth or protection around his face and it didn’t stay up over his nose. Between shrinking it, and my son growing, I had a hard time keeping the bottom tucked into his jacket. It’s still a great piece and my son wears it occasionally, but I wanted something a bit bigger and that I could more easily pull up over his mouth and nose.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
SKIDA Kids Balaclava

Thankfully, SKIDA introduced a line of kid-sized balaclavas with a hinged neck. The balaclava is made from “brushed thermal poly-spandex fabric with moisture management and anti-microbial technology”. It’s the same fabric SKIDA uses in their sun tour neck gaiters and adult balaclavas, and the exterior is slick and the interior is soft. The fit is snug but not too tight for my 3-year-old. It can take a little bit of effort to pull over my son’s head. It works well under my son’s helmet and the neck is long enough that it stays tucked into his jacket. And when we need to mask up while on the mountain, it’s easy to pull the neck up over my son’s nose and it stays put.  

POC VPD System Back Protector

MSRP: $160

Luke Koppa: I’ve been wearing a back protector pretty much every day at Mt. Crested Butte for the past two-and-a-half seasons. My mom originally got me one cause she saw the terrain we tend to like to ski here and was understandably a bit concerned. After the first couple days wearing it, I stopped noticing it. Lately, I’ve been using this fairly basic one from POC, and I’ve generally gotten along with it very well.

With a midlayer underneath, I don’t notice I’m wearing it. If I just have a baselayer underneath, I do sometimes get a bit of chafing on the tips of my shoulder blades, but this is usually pretty minor. I also generally prefer pairing it with bibs, rather than pants, since it can get caught inside the waistband of some pants.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
POC VPD System Back Protector

But the main reason it’s getting included here is that I finally had a scenario where I think it came in very, very handy. As I described in my Flash Review of the new Salomon QST 106, I had what could have been a very bad crash the other week. Long story short, I came in too hot to a zone I hadn’t skied in about two years (since it hadn’t opened at all last season, and it’s already open this season!), forgot I was above a cliff band, couldn’t shed speed quickly enough, and ended up rolling down a 15-20 foot cliff band. By the time I came to a halt, I was actually laughing to myself, cause I was totally, completely fine. And I doubt that would have been the case if I didn’t have both a back protector and helmet (POC Fornix) on. 

So, if you spend a significant amount of time skiing around rocks and trees, I think investing in a back protector is a great call. This one from POC works fine, I’m also a fan of the Shred NoShock one, and I know Dylan Wood has gotten along well with the more streamlined POC VPD System Vest.

Cadence Travel Capsules

MSRP: $74 for a 6-pack 

Kara Williard: In the spirit of getting away from single-use plastics, my mom bought me these travel capsules for Christmas. They are 56mL refillable travel containers that work great for toiletries, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, vitamins, etc. They are durable, with magnetic interchangeable labels to keep things organized. They fit together in a hexagonal pattern with magnetic force to keep them connected while traveling. Overall, I am impressed by how durable they are, as well as intentionally built with easy open and closure. While I have only used them a couple of times, they seem like a long-term investment and simple travel solution to get away from the unnecessary purchase of small travel-sized toiletries. 

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
6-Pack Cadence Travel Capsules

Arc’teryx Atom LT & Therme Parka

MSRP: $259 & $699

Luke Koppa: These pieces have been and are currently my go-to layers for pretty much all non-skiing things I do around Crested Butte. I.e., walking to and from Blister HQ, the bus stop, town, etc. 

I’ve owned an Atom LT since 2013 and it’s still one of the more versatile layers out there. It’s super comfy, more breathable than most puffies, and in my opinion, it just looks really, really good. Arc’teryx updated the Atom LT last year and I’m an even bigger fan of the new one. The updates were subtle, but the face fabric is a bit more abrasion resistant, the zipper pulls are more functional, and I think the fit was refined even more.

It’s recently been my go-to for walking around the mountain and town during the day, when temps have been around 20 to 30°F / -7 to -1°C. And it also works better for shoveling, skinning, and other more “active activities” than any traditional puffy that lacks the breathable side panels of the Atom LT.

I got the Therme Parka my first year in Crested Butte, and it’s been incredible. It’s an investment piece for sure, but mine legitimately looks (and performs) the same as when I got it three years ago. While Crested Butte’s temperatures are pretty mild during the day, they drop rapidly as soon as the sun sets. So for late-night walks home from the bus stop, or early morning walks to the mountain, the Therme Parka has been invaluable. It’s super warm, looks sharp, and it’s cut roomy enough to fit a midlayer (like the Atom LT or a regular hoody) underneath. I think I’ll be using it for decades to come.  

FITS Expedition Boot Sock

MSRP: $23.99

Luke Koppa: The FITS Light Hiker has been my go-to everyday sock for the past 5+ years, but lately, I’ve really been digging its beefier cousin, the Expedition. It’s a super thick merino wool sock, but unlike a lot of really thick socks, it still fits quite snugly. I love it when I’m working from my (pretty energy inefficient and therefore cold) place, and it’s also just nice for when I’m wearing boots that are a touch to big on me. I have one pair that I’ve owned for about eight years that’s holding up just fine (unlike the Light Hikers, which I tend to burn through in about a year), and I just bought another to swap into the rotation to hopefully make both last even longer.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
FITS Expedition Sock

Steely Zips Mule

MSRP: $169

Luke Koppa: Steely Zips was started by a fly fishing guide in Ketchum, Idaho, and the Mule is their take on a more useful hoodie. In short, it features a pretty sturdy, 3-layer waterproof (10K) fabric through most of the jacket (with a soft, brushed backer), and then super breathable Polartec Power Grid under the arms and on the sides. 

I was really curious about this piece since I’m a big fan of putting waterproof fabric where it needs to be and more breathable alternatives where you don’t need maximum weather protection. So far, the Mule has proven to be a very versatile piece. 

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
SteelyZips Mule

Most notably, it’s currently my go-to shoveling jacket. I was gone for most of Mt. Crested Butte’s snowpocalypse over the holidays, but I came back to our driveway being covered in about four feet of snow. Then a couple more fell on top of that. So I’ve been doing a lot of shoveling… 

Anyway, when shoveling while it was still dumping snow, the Mule did a nice job of keeping moisture out while also breathing a whole lot better than any full waterproof shell I’ve used.

I’ve also done some skinning in it, and when it’s very cold and/or snowing, it’s great. I’d still opt for a non-waterproof softshell in temps past around 25°F / -4°C, but again, the Mule breathes better than fully waterproof shells. 

It’s simple when it comes to features, with elastic cuffs, two hand pockets, and a single chest pocket. That’s all I want from a piece like this. I’ll continue to break it out through the winter, and I’m particularly eager to use it for spring and fall fly fishing days (and probably mountain biking around those same times).

Paka Apparel Sweaters

MSRP: $79-129

Kara Williard: I really can’t stand an itchy sweater. Paka sweaters are made from 80% Alpaca wool, and 20% Merino. The combination creates a soft, warm, and finely-knit sweater. I own two Paka sweaters, and they are both extremely comfortable, cute, and functional. I was first drawn to Paka because of their mission and overall business model. They are a B-Corps certified business that promotes fair wages, education, support, and direct connections to the individual weavers in Peru. Each sweater is signed by the woman who made it, and Paka has partnered with local NGOs in Peru to ensure protection for their employees. They also source free-range Alpaca wool and use all-natural dyes. 

So far, I have only tried their sweaters, but they Paka also build joggers, tshirts, and socks. They do require machine-washing in cold water and air drying, but so far after a couple washes they seem to maintain both fit and texture.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
The Hoodie Paka Sweater

XTRATUF 15” Legacy Boot

MSRP: $150 

Kara Williard: I am pretty sure Luke and Kristin accused me of being part of a cult on this one, and if there were a legit cult for Xtratuf boots, I probably would join it. As someone who spends half the year as a farmer and the other half navigating a snowy ski town daily, this is my go-to shoe and certainly the shoe I spend the most days in over the course of the year. From muddy projects on the farm to cleaning the chicken coop, walking through 6” of mud, and then spraying them off and taking them out on the town, these are exceptionally versatile boots. They are incredibly durable and comfortable.  

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
XtraTuf Mermaid Life 15" Legacy Boot

They have a pretty roomy toe box; I am able to fit a thick sock which helps keep them warm. They also offer a pretty good tread which I found to be adequate for navigating some treacherous icy sidewalks and roads. While there are boots that are more snow-oriented, warmer, and offer more extreme tread, the Xtratuf Legacy boot is a well-rounded slip-on boot that provides a wide range of functions. I also appreciate that I can roll the boot cuff down to adjust the height of the boot depending on what I am doing.  

Bully Tools 42” Poly Scoop Shovel

MSRP: $43.99

Luke Koppa: As I just touched on, shoveling has been a big part of my life during the past month. And my roommates and I have now broken two shovels in the past few weeks. Back before the huge storm, I went and got one pusher-style shovel and debated getting a scoop-style one to complement it, but I stupidly thought we’d be fine. Our second shovel at the time, a cheap wood + plastic one, promptly broke a few weeks later when the snow really started to fall. And by then, our local hardware store was sold out of everything except some Ace brand wood + plastic shovels. So I reluctantly got one of those, and it was broken within the next week.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
Bully Tools 42" Poly Scoop Shovel

Restocking came a few weeks later, and my roommates and I quickly snagged a few of these Bully Tools Scoops. I’ve seen then in just about every urban ski film ever and knew they had a good reputation, and I was particularly excited about their one-piece, potentially more durable construction.

So far, I’m a huge fan. They haven’t broken yet, despite the fact that we’ve mostly been using them for much heavier snow than the two shovels we’ve already broken. They pierce through set-up snow surprisingly well, and I find the design very ergonomic for shoveling and throwing snow (even over our 9+ foot snowbanks). This shovel has a bit of flex to it, which I was initially worried about, but so far it hasn’t been a problem whatsoever. I’ll report back if we ever manage to snap one, but for now, this has become my favorite shovel ever. I know Jonathan recently got something similar from a different brand, so I’ll be curious to see how our two shovels compare over the rest of the season.

Filson Moleskin Work Coat

MSRP: $325

Jed Doane: In my experience, finding the perfect casual jacket- one that’s warm (but not too warm), layerable, and comfortable- has been tough. I’ve had numerous everyday shirt-jackets from a number of brands, but all of them were either too scratchy, not durable enough. This moleskin jacket from Filson is both heavy-duty and incredibly soft, and I find myself wearing it most days. It’s well-built, the pockets are nicely located, the fabric is thick and heavy, and it’s done a good job of resisting various spills. Overall, this is quite a durable piece designed to last (with a price to match). It works at the bar, as a single layer to and from work, and just wearing around town.  On colder days, I’ll wear it over a sweatshirt or my trusty decade-old Patagonia Nano Puff. With distanced social gatherings back with a vengeance, I wear it when outside at chilly restaurants as well. Notably, I’d recommend a full size down from most jackets (I’m 6’2 and the M is quite roomy on me).

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
Filson Moleskin Work Coat

3M Aura Respirator

MSRP: $20 for 10-pack

Jed Doane: I’ve become somewhat of a (forced, self-proclaimed, and halfhearted) connoisseur of N95 respirators in recent years, and my love for this 3M foldable option has really blossomed with the Omicron surge. They’re exponentially more comfortable and easy to tolerate for long hours than any other respirator I’ve tried (including the dreaded, stiff 3M 1860), so if you’re stuck in an aerosol-heavy locale for an extended period of time or just want to beef up your everyday PPE, these are a great option.

Stuff We Like: January 2022, BLISTER
3M Aura Respirator

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