Gear – Fitbit Charge2

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: Fitbit Charge2 fitness tracker. The Fitbit Charge4 is the latest version. The Fitbit Inspire is close to the Charge2.

How much?: I got the Charge2 as a gift almost 4 years ago. The current model, the Charge4, is about $200, and the Inspire is about $100.

Where, when, how do I use it?: In 2016, my health wasn’t great – I was overweight, with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and suffering from stress-related angina. I knew I had to make some lifestyle changes, and my family helped out by buying me a Fitbit to get me off my butt and out walking.

And it’s worked. Since Nov 2016, I’ve logged more than 14 million steps over 10,600+ km while climbing the equivalent of 33,000 flights of stairs. I’ve lost about 30 pounds, my blood pressure is back to normal, and my cholesterol is under control.

Of course that’s not simply because of the Fitbit. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and walking daily. What the Fitbit does well is nudge you. I’ve set mine to vibrate every hour to remind me to get up out of my chair and walk at least 250 steps each hour. It also tracks my sleep so I can see how much restful deep sleep I’m getting. And it tracks my heart rate as it measures exercise, and that is logged against my activity targets. Having a goal and measuring against is a big part of the motivation you need to keep active – that, and having your son tell you that he doesn’t want you to die of a heart attack.

Over the years, it’s been pretty trouble-free. There isn’t much to do except wear it and charge it. So far the battery is holding up – I can still get about 3-4 days of use out of a full charge, down from 5+ originally, so I assume that is the limiting factor. Once the battery can’t hold a charge I’ll have to replace it.

That said, while this is supposed to be GPS enabled, it’s not super accurate on distances. Depending on the terrain, it can under- or over-shoot by as much as 15%, so on flat ground I find that I walk 10%-15% further as per Google Maps distance measurements compared to what the Fitbit says, and on hilly terrain it can be the opposite. For that reason, I take its distances with a grain of salt. What matters more to me is active minutes per day and per week – as long as it tracks my heart rate to motivate me to actually stay active, it doesn’t really matter to me whether Fitbit says I walked 9 km when I really did 10 km.

Would I buy it again?: Yes. I’ve worn out 3 bands on it, but the Charge2 is still chugging away. When I finally wear it out, I’ll by the latest model.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

Gear – Tilley T3 Hat

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: Tilley T3 Cotton Duck hat. It’s Canada Day, so let’s talk about Canadian icons!

How much?: I bought it in Sydney Australia in 2007 and now I can’t remember what I paid. Today you can buy it from Tilley for $85 CAD + tax.

Where, when, how do I use it?: This is my go-to summer hat. As I said, I bought it in Australia. I was posted there on a work assignment in January 2007, at the height of summer, and quickly learned how fierce the Aussie sun can be. We lived in a flat near Circular Quay, and close to that is an area known as the Rocks. This cluster of renovated old stone buildings is today a buzzing little shopping district, amongst which was a hat shop. I popped in on Australia Day (Jan 26) when we were out in the crowds enjoying the celebrations and I was getting scorched.

At the time, I was just looking for a basic hat, but when I saw the Tilley I immediately knew I had to buy this iconic Canadian classic and uphold my maple-leafness downunder. I wore it most days as we explored the countryside, and it’s been a summer staple since.

It’s getting a little battered and sweat-stained, but 13 years later it’s still going strong. I wash it occasionally, taking care to stretch out the band while it’s still damp so that it doesn’t shrink. Otherwise, since I started my walks in 2016, it just gets folded up and carted around and stuffed in knapsacks and worn in the sun. It has one job, and it does it really well.

I can’t think if any real issues with it. The light colour is reflective, it breathes pretty well through the vent holes, the absorbent brim keeps sweat out of my eyes, there are proper chin ties in case it gets really windy, and it floats if it falls in the water. You can even stuff an emergency $20 into the secret pocket in the top.

Inside, there’s information on how to get a replacement if it ever breaks down. Alex Tilley, who designed, says it’s the finest hat in the world. I’m not going to argue.

Would I buy it again?: If I ever lost it, then yes absolutely, though I won’t have to because it’s insured against loss (you get that when you buy it). But barring that, I can’t see how I’ll ever wear it out. You buy a Tilley hat once. I like that.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

Gear – New Balance 1450 Walking Shoes

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: New Balance MW1450WK walking shoes.

How much?: about $180 CAD + tax

Where, when, how do I use them?: I bought these in August 2019 after I had worn out my New Balance 990 running shoes. I knew I was going to be doing a long 200km walk from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto in a few weeks, and since it was partly Bruce Trail offroad hiking and partly Waterfront Trail paved trails, I wanted something that could handle both. Basically, I wanted something heavier than a running shoe but lighter than a hiking boot. These fit the bill.

They have GoreTex uppers so they’re pretty water resistant. I have worn them through my share of puddles and small streams and as long as it wasn’t above ankle height, they have kept my feet dry. In fact, I wore them in the late autumn and early spring shoulder seasons so they’ve seen their share of slush, sleet, and light snow as well as mud and puddles.

At this point they probably have around 500 km on them, and judging by the soles, I can get a bit more before I completely wear them out. I have had to have the local shoe repair guy put some soft leather into the back of the heels where I wore out the lining, but other than that they’ve held up well.

Since I wear custom orthotics, I got an extra wide pair which has proven to be a wise choice – there’s lots of room for both the orthotics and thicker socks. I did have some blisters early on as I was breaking them in, but I put that down to the wrong choice of socks. Since then, they’ve worked pretty well.

One thing to consider is that, if you aren’t carrying heavy loads, you can probably get away with these even on backpacking offroad trails. The high ankle style gives a good amount of support, and the soles and footbeds are solid too. I still wouldn’t say they are a true substitute for full-on hiking boots, but they can work. It might just boil down to your own preferences – since they are lighter than full hiking boots, that might mean the difference between a 25km day and a 30km day.

Would I buy them again?: I think so, if I still need a “between” boot/shoe. I like the NB 990 running shoes for roads and paved trails, and I like my Zamberlan hiking boots for off-road stuff. If in future it looks like I’m going to be in one of those betwixt and between situations where I can only take one pair of something, I think I’d look at these again.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

Gear – Zamberlan Boots

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What are they?: Zamberlan Sequoia GTX hiking boots. I don’t believe this particular model is on the market anymore, at least not in Canada. I bought them at Mountain Equipment Co-op in 2017 and when I checked their site in 2020, there was a similar but updated model available, the Zamberlan Vioz GT Gore-Tex hiking boot.

How much?: About $300 CAD, before tax.

Where, when, and how I use them: The boots in the picture have well over 1000 km on them, in fact I think it’s closer to 1500 km. They are nicely broken in, as they say, and I think they have another 500 km in them at least. The soles and lugs are still solid and grippy, the interior lining is barely worn, and the leather uppers are supple but still supportive.

I’ve worn them on a number of long walks, mostly around Toronto though as it happens, I bought them in 2017 because we were going to Ireland and I wanted a proper pair of boots for bog-hopping and climbing. This pair has climbed hills, splashed through many puddles, streams, and bogs, and trudged through snow, slush, and mud.

In addition to hiking, they’ve become my day to day winter boots as well. I keep them rubbed and conditioned with dubbin, and that keeps the salt from eating the leather. They are GoreTex lined so they keep my feet dry, and they have Vibram soles which give good grip on icy surfaces.

I did think about wearing them on my 200 km TONotL walk, but in the end decided on a different set of footwear. While I think they would have worked really well on the first 3 days covering the Bruce Trail portion of that walk, I was also doing 3 days of walking on paved trails and I thought that heavy running shoes would have more cushioning for that. I couldn’t take 2 pairs of footwear, so I went with the running shoes.

I am planning on doing some more of the Bruce in future, and for that I think I’ll use these. It’s what they’re made for – backpacking and hiking on off road terrain.

Would I buy them again?: I like them and when I wear out this pair I will probably get another set. They look good with a pair of jeans or a pair of hiking shorts. They are indestructible, at least so far, and have worked well for more kms than any other footwear I’ve used.

That said, they are not the lightest things out there, having leather uppers and a lot of structure to them. The Goretex lining also means that they don’t breathe as well as some lighter materials might, so your feet get warm which can lead to excess sweating which can lead to blisters.

That said, they are exactly what you’d think they are just looking at them – tough, hard-wearing, and comfortable once you break them in. I recommend using merino wool socks with these, and if I am doing really long walks I’ll use Vaseline on my feet too.

One caveat is that I wear custom orthotics, which are fairly thick. Finding boots that work well with these has always been a challenge. That means I don’t know how they would feel using the regular supplied insoles.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

Gear – New Balance 990 running shoes

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: New Balance 990 v5 running shoes.

How much?: about $250 CAD including tax

Where, when, how do I use them?: The ones in the picture are a brand new pair, my 2nd. I just got them and am in the process of breaking them in. I wore out the first pair over around 350 km – 400km of road, sidewalk, and trail walking around Toronto (and Bermuda).

I wear them for probably 8-9 months of the year, switching to boots in the winter. Otherwise they are my go-to everyday footwear. Since I’m now mostly retired, I don’t need to wear anything fancier most days, and they’re comfortable enough to wear all day long.

I got the first pair on the recommendation of my podiatrist. The 990 model has a pretty defined/stiff structure for a running shoe, and I need that given that I wear custom orthotics. At the same time, they have a lot of cushiony give in the sole, which makes walking on pavements much more comfortable.

Would I buy them again?: Yes – like I said, this is my 2nd pair. I wish they would last more than 500km but then everything wears out eventually. They’re comfy, they fit really well with my orthotics, they breathe well so they’re cool in summer, and when worn with good socks I haven’t had any blister issues.

I can’t think of any cons, other than they are expensive compared to some other models and brands of running shoes. If you don’t need all the structure and you’re looking for lightweight and low cost, then you can definitely find something for less. That said, you get what you pay for, and the bottom line for me is that they work and they’re comfy.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.