Gear – Deuter RaceX daypack

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?: Deuter RaceX knapsack.

How much?: about $90 CAD + tax

Where, when, how do I use it?: I bought this in 2017 to use on day walks around town. Since then I’ve also used it as a light office laptop bag – the hydration sleeve fits a Macbook.

It’s probably been on at least 1000km of walks with me, and carried its share of weekly shopping too. BTW you can get 4 bottles of wine into it no problem, 5 in a pinch if they are the long slim Alsatian style bottles. I use it quite a bit, especially in summer when you need lots of water.

It’s about a 12L bag, pretty small yet big enough to hold water, sunglasses, a light rain jacket, and some snacks for a day hike. It’s got lots of pockets, including 2 side mesh pockets for water bottles, plus a small and large compartment, and 3 pockets inside the large compartment of which one is for a hydration bag. There’s a hydration port and a little Velcro support on one of the straps to keep the hydration tube near your mouth. Even if full to bursting, it easily fits as a carry-on bag for airlines.

I like that it features mesh straps as well as raised mesh cushions on the back, so that air can circulate and it doesn’t cling to you. It’s pretty light weight, only around 550g empty, and it can carry a few kilos with no issue. There’s a waist strap and a sternum strap, and a decent amount of adjustability in the shoulder straps.

I have a relatively long torso, and on me I have to extend the shoulder straps to almost full length in order to get the waist strap sitting on my hips, so if I am not carrying much I just let clip the waist strap behind my back and hitch it up a bit higher for more comfort. At the same time, it’s adjustable enough that my wife can wear it too even though she’s shorter than I am, by just cinching the shoulder straps. That was a big feature for me – I didn’t want this particular pack to be mine only, since there are times when we are both out for hikes and I can take my bigger daypack and give her this lighter one.

Finally, it comes with a decent rain cover that’s easy to put on/off, and tucks away easily. If the bag does get rained on without the cover, it still keeps things pretty dry unless it’s been soaked for hours. The outer cover has some good florescent flashing on it, so it shows up well against headlights at night, which is good because I got a grey/silver one. The rain cover itself is a dayglo yellow so that works well too.

Would I buy it again?: It’s been pretty hard-wearing and looks near-new after 3 years of use. I assume I will get years more out of it so by the time I wear it out, Deuter will probably have come out with some new model. That said, I like the Deuter products and would definitely look at their line in future.


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 – Osprey Talon 22 daypack

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?: Osprey Talon 22 daypack

How much?: $150 CAD + tax, plus $35 + tax for the rain cover

Where, when, how do I use it?: I bought this recently, in spring 2020. Partly this was because I wanted a bigger pack for day hikes than the Deuter RaceX 12L pack that I also use. Partly it was simply because the Osprey was on sale, so I ended up getting it for about $60 off the combined price of the pack and the rain cover.

I’ve used it multiple times in just the first few weeks, for hikes as well as shopping runs, where BTW the extra bottle wine capacity (6-8 bottles versus 4-5 for the Deuter) is a useful feature. I’m planning to use it as my go-to day-hike pack. I like it for several reasons:

  1. It’s the right Goldilocks size, not too big nor too small.
  2. It comes in sizes, so I was able to get the long one that fits my long torso.
  3. It has a semi-rigid frame-like structure, meaning it’s stiff enough to feel like it’s got a frame but it doesn’t actually have one which keeps weight down
  4. The waist belt has side pockets, useful for little things like COVID-19 essentials (face masks and hand sanitizer), Clif bars, Swiss Army knife, etc.
  5. The outside mesh pockets are big enough to hold a 1L Nalgene bottle
  6. There are lots of pockets inside and out to organize your stuff, and it’s got a hydration sleeve with a port for the tube as well.
  7. It will hold a laptop no problem in the hydration sleeve.
  8. It’s relatively water resistant even without the rain cover, and really good with the cover on.

Compared to the smaller Deuter bag, the Osprey bag is heavier of course, but not by as much as you’d think. The Talon holds 22L in volume versus 12L, but it weights only 810g versus 550g, a decent tradeoff of weight for load, and you can carry up to around 8 or 9kg with it.

The biggest thing for me is the adjustability of the strap system. While I like my Deuter RaceX bag too, the Osprey just fits me better because it’s longer. I took it out for a 4 hour hike the other day, carrying 2L of water plus snacks with an ice pack, rain jacket, sun glasses, a seat cushion, and COVID-19 masks and hand sanitizer, so pushing 4kg with the weight of the bag itself, and once I had it adjusted it rode well up and down hills and stairs feeling light and comfortable the whole time. And that was on a 30C day when I was perspiring a lot – the mesh back system really helped.

Would I buy it again?: Yes, I like this bag. Since it’s new and I’ll likely get years out of it, by the time I’m ready for a new one Osprey will have some other model out. That said, I’d definitely look at their products 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 – Gregory Paragon 38 backpack

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?: Gregory Paragon 38 backpack. I think this model is being discontinued however, as the Gregory website has it on clearance. There’s a bigger 48 model still available I think.

How much?: about $200 CAD including tax

Where, when, how do I use it?: I bought this in the spring of 2019, because I was planning to start doing some long multi-day walks. By multi-day, I mean anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months. That said, this pack is more for walks with accommodation along the way than it is for pure backpack wilderness hiking. Think of things like the Camino de Santiago.

To date, while I haven’t taken it out of Ontario, it has been used for my 200km Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto walk. On that trip, I booked B&Bs and hotels for each night, so I was just carrying clothes, rain gear, shaving kit, first aid kit, an iPad, sundries, snacks, and water. Even so, my full pack weighed in at around 11 or 12 kg for the 6 day walk. I could have been more economical in packing, and with more planning and experience I am sure I could make it work for longer trips without adding too much if any weight.

I picked it because it fit well. Gregory packs are sized by length, and since I have a long torso I needed the medium/long model. When I tried it in the store, with a couple of 5 kg weights tossed in, I was able to adjust it easily to my frame and get the weight sitting on my hips. The belt system is good, and the straps allow you to adjust it pretty much however you need it.

This has an aluminum internal frame to carry the load and the material is relatively heavy nylon for durability. The back is meshed as are the cushions, and properly adjusted it will float a bit off your back so that there is some air circulation.

I like the storage. There are side pockets on the waist belt that are big enough for multiple Clif bars. The side mesh pockets can hold a 1L Nalgene bottle. There’s a big stretch mesh exterior pocket on the back that I used for my rain jacket and the rain cover. Inside, there are multiple pockets including one for a hydration bag, and the top cover has multiple pockets too that worked well for handy access to snacks and the first aid kit. I like that you can get into the main compartment from the top or from the bottom.

Another plus is that there are multiple strap and clip-on points. I used the ones on the bottom of the pack to strap on my walking poles, but I could still reach around and unclip the straps to get the poles while walking if I needed to. With a couple of bungee cords, you can use the exterior tie-down loops to hold other stuff too.

The pack kept my stuff dry in light rain, though I did have moisture inside the pack from sweating through the fabric. The rain cover works well in heavier downpours, and it’s a nice bright dayglo yellow so if I’m walking along a busy road I’ll use the rain cover just for the visibility.

The biggest con is the weight given the size. This is a 38L pack after all, yet it weighs nearly 1.5kg empty. There are lighter ones on the market that hold more, though they are also more expensive than this one.

Would I buy it again?: Not sure. I like the fit of the Gregory packs, and the versatility of the pockets and straps. However, if I could find something lighter with the same or greater volume, then I think I’d go for that as long as it wasn’t too much more expensive. All that said, if this model is discontinued then I’d have to look for a new bag anyway. I’d probably start with Gregory to see what they have, and if I couldn’t find what I needed then since I have an Osprey and a Deuter daypack, I’d see what those manufacturers had.


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 – Black Diamond Alpine FLZ trekking poles

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?: Black Diamond FLZ Cork-handled carbon-fibre trekking poles

How much?: $190 CAD + tax

Where, when, how do I use it?: I bought these in 2018, anticipating that I was going to start doing some long hikes. Since then, I’ve taken them out on several hikes of different lengths, the longest a 200km walk from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto which included about 88km of the Bruce Trail.

I wasn’t really a big believer in trekking poles. I had used borrowed ones before, in particular on a few hikes in Ireland. There, I was using just one pole because the owner had the other. It was useful when climbing bogging hill sides to have the extra “leg” but I didn’t think they’d make much difference on a flatter walk.

That changed when I used them on the Bruce Trail. The Niagara section is actually fairly moderate compared to the northern stretches of the Trail, but I found it a workout when carrying about 12kg in a backpack. Going up and down hills, cliffs, and ravines on rocky, uneven ground is tough, and the poles paid for themselves by saving me a couple of times from taking a header, spraining an ankle, or worse.

If you use trekking poles properly, adjusted for your height, you can transfer a fair amount of the work from your leg muscles to your arms which would otherwise just be swinging. That helps a lot both uphill and downhill. I also found them very useful going down hill on broken rock, to pick out which rocks seemed planted and which were loose.

I like the cork handles on these poles – I was walking in September but it was still in the mid-20s and I was perspiring a lot. Plastic handles would have become slippery, but the cork let you grip without feeling hot. In other seasons, the cork grips are still grippy even with gloves on in winter. These poles are “handed”, meaning there is a left and a right which you need to respect that so that the wrist straps sit correctly without chaffing. You can use them without the wrist straps, but it’s amazing how many times your hand comes off a pole so the straps mean fewer times bending down with a heavy pack on your back to pick them up.

The length adjustment and the folding mechanisms on these poles work pretty well. The pair I have extend to 120 cm, and that works for my height (175 cm). If you were taller, you’d probably want longer poles.

They are lightweight, since they are made of carbon fibre. They are plenty stiff however, and they’ve never bent or felt like they were getting wobbly even when I felt like I had most of my weight leaning on one pole.

I like the tips too. They have a smallish metal tip with a little plastic cap on it that works well on rock and rough ground, and they also come with a rubber cap that you can put on when on sidewalks or roads if the clicking bugs you. The metal tip with the plastic works well on snow, and you can get sharper metal winter tips if you need something even pointier. The standard baskets are fine for most seasons, even winter, but if you are facing deep snow you can get bigger baskets like you’d see on a ski pole.

Overall, I’m convinced. For everyday hikes around the city, I don’t bother with them. But for rough ground, especially with a pack, I’d go so far as to call good trekking poles a life-saver, and these Black Diamond poles fill that role really well. Granted, I’ve never used another pair so I can’t compare them to other makes and models, but these feel right and they work so that’s good enough for me.

Would I buy it again?: Yup. There used to be an advert in the UK for a brand of deck sealant, where the tagline was “It does exactly what it says on the tin”. That’s what I like about these poles – no fuss, they just work.


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 – 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.