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fall in tahoe gear reviews Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Favorite Gear for Fall Hikes in Tahoe

Fall is such a great time to go hiking in Tahoe. The mornings are crisp, the afternoons are sunny, the air is (hopefully) clear of wildfire smoke, and the trails are less crowded. Most of the fall hikes in the Tahoe area can be done with pretty simple gear – basically hiking clothes and the ten essentials. While hiking clothes and equipment can be really expensive, they don’t have to be. Below, I share some of my favorite gear at a variety of price points.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The temperature can swing pretty wildly throughout the day, so having layers is critical. In the fall, I usually wear a sweat wicking, tech tee – either a Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily ($45) or the REI Coop Shift which goes on sale frequently. I think I paid less that $20 for mine. Next up is a long sleeved, light layer. Since last summer, I’ve been all about sunshirts for this layer. I love not having to re-apply sunscreen on long hikes! I have the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoody ($69). I love the slim fit, back zipper pocket, and the hood that adds even more sun protection. For a cheaper option, I also have the REI Coop Sahara Button Down (currently on sale for $36). I actually bought the men’s version for extra length (I’m 5’11”), and I am very sad that they didn’t have the plaid options when I got mine! We don’t tend to have a lot of rain in the fall here, so I usually skip a raincoat in favor of a slightly water resistant windshirt. I bring my Patagonia Houdini ($99) basically everywhere. Right now seems like a great time to buy a wind breaker – there are a ton of options on sale at REI right now. This Ultimate Direction Breeze Shell for $31 seems like an amazing deal! For early morning, evening, and late fall hikes, I also add a vest. I have a Marmot down vest that’s a few years old – the Women’s Highlander ($123) seems to be the current version. If you don’t want down, they have a synthetic Women’s Featherless Avant ($105). REI Coop also has a down vest, currently on sale for $56.

Fall Hikes in Tahoe Clothes // tahoefabulous.com

My bottom layers tend to be way more simple! If the temperature is above 45 degrees, I wear shorts. I usually stick to running or athletic shorts – I’m not sure if I even own “hiking” shorts anymore. I alternate between the REI Coop Active Pursuits 4.5” ($40). They frequently go on sale, and I think I paid around $15 each for mine. This summer, I bought long spandex shorts for yoga, and I discovered how much I love hiking in them. I bought this 90 Degrees two pack ($40), and they’ve held up really well. I like the high waist to reduce rubbing from a backpack, and the legs are tight enough that they don’t roll up, but don’t dig in. On colder days, I wear leggings, usually cheap ones like these CRZ Yoga Naked Feeling Leggings ($24), so I don’t feel too bad about snagging them on a bush or scraping on a rock. These ones have held up really well for the price, though! 

I exclusively hike in my trail runners at this point, even in pretty rocky terrain. My current favorite is the Salomon X-Mission 3. It fits my duck feet (wide forefoot, narrow heel) really well, and I have been very impressed with how well they’ve held up over the years. They’re currently on sale for $86 from Salomon, and you can find them even cheaper in limited sizes on Amazon and at REI. The other trail runners I’ve had and liked were the Saucony Peregrine ($120). They were comfortable and stable, but they wore out faster than my current Salomons. The Saucony Peregrines are also on Amazon for as low as $72.

Fall Hiking Gear Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Since I want somewhere to stash my layers and need a way to carry my safety gear, I need some sort of pack. If I’m planning on a shorter hike or doing any trail running, I use the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta. I have version 4.0, which is on sale on Amazon ($70) and REI ($87). This is an incredible deal, and the 4.0 version is awesome. In fact, when I bought mine from Tahoe Mountain Sports, the woman helping me said she preferred the 4.0 over the 5.0 that was about to come out, because of the additional pockets in the 4.0. The Ultimate Direction Vesta 5.0 ($139) is available now, too. For a longer day hike where I want more food and water, I repurpose my mountain biking hydration pack, a five year old Camelbak Solstice ($135).

I haven’t always been the best about carrying the ten essentials on familiar day hikes, but something unexpected could happen anywhere. For navigation, I tend to rely on my iPhone and the Trailforks app. There are some GPS tracking watches that have route uploading capacities and navigation aids. Greyson has an older version of the Garmin fenix ($690), but we haven’t really figured out how to use that feature very well. For sun protection, I ALWAYS have sunglasses with me. I’m hard on my sunglasses, so I like ones that aren’t too expensive but can handle some abuse. For warm weather hiking, I love the Goodr OGs ($25) because they have a non-slip pad on the bridge of the nose. For sunscreen, I stick to the ones with physical blockers like thinksport ($9).

I have a small first aid kit like this Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight one. Be sure to check in on it every six months or so. More than once, I’ve discovered that the band aids are gone when I really need one! In addition to the water I carry, I also have a Lifestraw ($15) for emergencies. Also in the category of things I hope that I don’t have to use, I have a lighter and matches, a space blanket ($5), and a Petzl Tikkina headlamp ($20). 

Later this week, I’ll share some of my favorite fall hikes to do in the Tahoe-Truckee area, so be sure to check back! Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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gear reviews Packrafting Tahoe Fabulous Life

Packrafting Gear List for New Paddlers

I am by no means a packrafting expert, but Greyson and I have been out and about on them enough to figure out some helpful gear for beginners.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

Obviously, the most important things are a packraft and a paddle. We both have the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-bailing packraft and the Werner Skagit 4-Piece Paddle. (Note: Werner appears to have discontinued this paddle, but the Kokopelli Alpine Lake Paddle seems pretty similar for $125.) You can check out my first impression review of my packraft and paddle here.

Since then, I’ve collected a few things that make packrafting more safe and enjoyable. First up, a personal flotation device (PFD) is critical, especially if you’re planning on doing anything more challenging than Class I. I bought the NRS Ninja which is unisex, not women’s specific. For me (broad shoulders, not a ton of boobs) personally it fits fine and is comfortable, even for long-ish paddling stretches. If you need a women’s specific fit, I’ve heard good things about the NRS Siren.

The BEST thing we’ve bought for our packrafts so far was the rechargeable, battery powered Kokopelli Feather Pump. While it’s not too hard to inflate the packrafts using the inflator bag the raft comes with, it is SO MUCH easier with the pump. It seriously takes less than 2 minutes using the pump, and it can be used to deflate as well. Sadly, the Kokopelli Feather Pump is currently out of stock, potentially until next year. It looks like there are some knock offs out there like the Go! Pump or the GIGA Pump that appear to have the correct adaptor, but I don’t have any personal experience with those ones.

Another product that has been super useful for setting up and breaking down the packrafts is the CGEAR sand mat in the 8’ x 8’ size. We’ve had the small version for years and used it mountain biking and camping to keep our feet clean while changing. The larger version is big enough to roll out the rafts and keep them a little cleaner, before and after paddling.

We haven’t taken the rafts on any overnight trips yet, but we have hiked in to access the water, and it’s pretty annoying to carry the rafts, paddles and miscellaneous gear in your arms. To help solve this and for future backpacking, we bought the Six Moon Designs Flex Pack. The Flex Pack is a lightweight, but strong fabric “frame” that a large dry bag fits inside. It’s also got various pockets and attachment points to hold and strap on gear. You can customize the Six Moon Designs Flex pack by choosing specific shoulder harness and hip belt sizes to get that perfect fit. Grey and I weren’t 100% sure on sizing, and he reached out to Six Moon Designs, and they were super helpful with making sure we got the correct sizes. So far, we’re loving the packs. They’re comfortable, versatile, and pretty easy to set up and pack. The one downside is that there’s not a great way to store an accessible hydration source. You can order the pack with a Six Moon Designs dry bag, which is 50 liters, comes with 4 lashing points, a roll top, welded seams, and a side air release valve. If you already have a dry bag you love, you can order just the pack.

Packraft Accessories // tahoefabulous.com

For packrafting clothes, I typically wear a sunshirt and board shorts over a swimsuit. The sunshirt is definitely a must have – they’re lightweight, cool, and block the sun without needing to reapply sunscreen. I have and love the Patagonia Women’s Tropic Comfort Hoody. It’s even got a small zipper pocket that’s perfect for ID and a credit card! On the bottom, I like the Patagonia Women’s Wavefarer Boardshorts – they also have a zipper pocket.

Depending on how much walking I’m doing, I’ll wear either classic Chacos or the heavier duty Salomon TECH Amphib water shoe. Finally, we have a mesh duffel bag to store all of the bits and pieces of gear and packrafting accessories. The mesh is really nice, because it helps the gear dry out a bit more after packing. Ours is from Kokopelli, but it seems like they’re not making it anymore. There are lots of other great ones out there, like this one by Seattle Sports. If you’re having trouble finding one, try searching for “dive bags”.

I hope this gear list is helpful for those of you just getting into packrafting, like we are!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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california gear reviews GoPro Videos Packrafting Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe summer

VIDEO: Packrafting on Donner Lake

The water level on our local rivers was pretty low this spring and early summer, so Greyson and I played around with paddling our Kokopelli Nirvana Whitewater rafts on Donner Lake. Can you packraft on flat water?

Check out my first impression review of my Kokopelli Nirvana Whitewater Packraft here.

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fall in tahoe gear reviews Gravel Biking Hiking shoulder season fun Tahoe Fabulous Life Yoga

Favorite Fall Activities

Fall Favorites // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Running 
Fall is the perfect time to get out for a trail run on one of the many awesome hiking trails in the Tahoe-Truckee area. Click here for a list of my favorite fall hikes – all make great trail runs as well. Another trail I love running in the fall, but is the trail to the top of Donner Peak. It’s about 4 miles round trip, and I usually run the flats and downhills and power hike the strenuous uphills.

Donner Peak Trail Views // tahoefabulous.com

As far as gear for fall trail running, I’ve been loving my Ultimate Direction Womens Ultra Vesta for a running specific hydration pack. It’s lightweight, comfortable, has TONS of pockets and can do bottles in the front pockets and a 1.5 L bladder in the main compartment. It’s really lightweight and comfortable, and it has lots of little straps to adjust and tighten it down. If I’m running in the mornings or late afternoons, when it’s chilly but not too cold, I usually go with a lightweight, long sleeve top, like this Smartwool merino one and shorts. My favorite running shorts are the Brooks Women’s Chaser 5″ and the REI Co-op Active Pursuits.

Fall Trail Running Gear // tahoefabulous.com

Gravel Biking
I’ve had my gravel bike, the Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo Trail for about a year, and I’m now a huge fan of gravel biking. I use mine for a bunch of things – bike commuting, riding mellow mountain bike trails, and true gravel grinding. There are miles and miles of gravel roads in the Truckee area. If you’re looking to do some exploring, I’d recommend checking out the Prosser Creek Reservoir area. For a slightly more challenging ride, check out the Elizabethtown Meadows Trail.

Elizabethtown Meadows // tahoefabulous.com

I’m able to use a lot of the same gear for gravel biking that I already owned, which has been nice. I did switch to a  lighter weight, lower profile road helmet, like the Giro Saga. It’s more comfortable than my mountain bike helmet when I’m leaned over the bars. I also wear really basic mountain bike shoes, like the Shimano ME2. They’re fairly light weight, comfortable for long rides, and easy to walk on and stable on uneven surfaces. I don’t like wearing a full hydration pack on the gravel bike, so for really short rides close to home, I’ll just do a water bottle and a FlipBelt. For longer rides, I’ll add a saddle bag, like the Evoc Saddle Bag Tour. Greyson has the Salsa Exp Series Top Tube Bag, which is really nice for storing extra gear on really long rides.

Gravel Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

Yoga
This fall, I’ve gotten back into yoga. As the days are getting shorter, and it gets harder to go for a ride or hike after work, it’s nice to do something active that’s not the gym. I got the prAna Indigena Natural Yoga Mat as a gift, and I love it. It’s held up well, it grips well on the ground and my hands don’t slip. Since it’s made from natural rubber, it doesn’t off gas that gross plastic smell, even when brand new. For leggings, I really like the Athleta Elation Tight in Powervita. In the “Tall” length, it’s one of the few pairs I’ve had that are actually long enough. The Elation tights aren’t very thick or compressive, so if you’re looking for that, I recommend the Outdoor Voices Warm Up Leggings. During yoga I prefer more minimalist sports bras, like the Smartwool Seamless Strappy. If you’re visiting the Truckee area and looking for a yoga studio to visit, I highly recommend Truckee Yoga Collective.

Yoga Gear // tahoefabulous.com

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Categories
gear reviews Packrafting shoulder season fun Tahoe Fabulous Life

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self-Bailing First Impressions

After talking about it for literally years, Greyson and I took the plunge this summer and bought packrafts! Specifically, we bought the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing ($1,200). We’ve had them for a few weeks now and taken them out a few times, and I’ve got a good enough feel to give my first impressions.

Kokopelli Nirvana Packraft Review // tahoefabulous.com

Kokopelli Packrafts describes the Nirvana Self-bailing as:

The first-ever self-bailing packraft, the Nirvana is engineered to keep you above the water with our industry leading self-bailing packraft design, which allows water in the boat to drain automatically as you crush that rapid. Designed with a narrow trim, aggressive rocker on the bow, and a large-volume stern which the Nirvana performs best in Class 1 – Class 3 and offers excellent stability.

We did a lot of thinking about which specific model we wanted to buy before purchasing the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing. We knew that we wanted packrafts that could handle a little bit of white water, we wanted bottoms with some padding, and we didn’t want spray skirts. We also were leaning towards Kokopelli as a brand, mainly because REI carries it, and we both have REI rewards credit cards. We narrowed it down to the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing and the Kokopelli Rogue-Lite. We were initially leaning towards the Rogue-lite, mainly due to the lower weight, cheaper price and the fact that it is supposed to do better in flat water than the Nirvana.

Kokopelli Nirvana vs Rogue Lite // tahoefabulous.com
Kokopelli Nirvava (top) and Rogue Lite (bottom)

My friend Kristen at Bearfoot Theory has the Kokopelli Rogue (which comes with a removable spray deck), and she mentioned in her packrafting the San Rafael River trip report that when not using the spray deck, they ended up having to frequently bail water. Once we took that into consideration and acknowledged that we probably won’t often do long slogs where we would be carrying them, we decided that the extra weight and cost was worth it for increased durability, the self-bailing ability, and the extra capability in white water. Along with the packrafts, we ordered paddles. We wanted ones that broke down into four pieces, and we purchased the Werner Skagit 4-Piece Kayak Paddle ($144) in size 220 cm, which is the size Kokopelli recommended to us. (Note: Werner appears to have discontinued this paddle, but the Kokopelli Alpine Lake Paddle seems pretty similar for $125.)

So far, we’ve paddled our packrafts on a lake, a mellow stretch of the Truckee River, and a rowdier section of the Truckee River. So far, I’m really happy with our decision to buy the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-bailing. First, it’s easy to get set up and inflate. The inflation system is pretty intuitive and goes much more quickly than I thought. We can get them set up in under ten minutes, and I imagine we’ll only get faster. You first inflate the floor and the raft most of the way using the airbag, then top off using your mouth and a hose attachment. Note: due to asthma, I struggle with this part, so Greyson usually has to do this. If you have breathing problems, you might struggle too.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

The seat is attached using straps and double D-rings, which I thought was pretty easy. There are also instructional videos to watch for the set up. One tip that I have is to set the seat much further forward than seems intuitive – you want some bend in your knees when seated. I ended up moving my seat forward several times the first time we took the rafts out.

As long as you’re decently athletic, the rafts are easy to get in and out of . I practiced “falling” out in the lake in water too deep to stand in, and I was able to get back in on my first try. As expected, the Nirvana doesn’t track very well in the flat water, especially with a bit of a headwind. I wouldn’t take this on a long trip on a lake, but it’s still fun to play around on.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

Our first river trip, we did the stretch of the Truckee River from the Truckee Regional Park to the Glenshire Bridge. This was maybe not the best choice for a maiden voyage, as it was rowdier than expected. I’m still learning how to paddle in moving water and I hit a lot of rocks, washed up on a lot of sandbars, and we had to get out and portage a particularly rocky section. I even fell out once! The Kokopelli Nirvana handled it like a champ, though. I was VERY glad we had bought packrafts with self bailing capabilities, because I’m sure I would have swamped several times without that. We’ve discovered that it’s important to top off the rafts once we put them in the water, as the air volume decreases when it gets cold. Depending on the length of the float, we have needed to top off again when the rafts start sagging. When I fell out, it was because I’d lost air, hit a rock, and the raft taco-ed.

For the second river trip, we went on the “Booze Cruise” section of the Truckee River, from Tahoe City to River Ranch. Now this section of the river can be floated in a gas station floatie while holding a Coors Light, so this turned out to be a great segment to get more comfortable on our boats. The packrafts tracked well through the moving water, even in sections with really low flow, and I was able to get a lot more comfortable steering. This paddle confirmed that the Kokopelli Nirvana is really stable in moving water – we were able to hop in and out easily when needed, and I hung my feet over the sides when I wanted to cool down.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

Once we finished paddling, we were able to easily pull up to shore both times. The packrafts are super easy to deflate and re-roll. The Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing weighs a little over 10 pounds and rolls to about 16″ by 12″, so it’s pretty easy to carry short distances, even with the paddle.  So far, I’ve just rolled mine up enough to carry in my arms and strapped it up using the seat straps. It can pack down to 12″ x 9″ x 6″, so for a longer walk, I could get it smaller and put it in a pack. After we got back home, we spread them out to dry before storing in the gear room. I like that you can store them rolled, so they don’t take up much room at all.

So far, I’m very happy with my purchase of the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing packraft! I really like how easy it is to get out on the water with just the packrafts, paddles, and a dry bag and quickly be having a great time. I think we’re going to purchase PFDs soon, for rougher waters and get the battery powered Kokopelli Feather Pump for front country paddling. While it’s pretty easy to fill the packrafts using the human powered bag system, this will let us inflate them in less than a minute with a cheap, easily charged pump. I’m really excited about this new way to get outside and enjoy the rivers.

If you have any packrafting suggestions – gear, routes, paddling tips, etc., please let me know!

Kokopelli Nirvana Self Bailing Stats:
Size:
Outer Length – 90 in
Inner Length – 57 in
Outer Width – 37 in
Inner Width – 15.5 in

Weight:
Packraft: 8 lb 6 oz
Backband: 6 oz
Inflatable Floor with Integrated Seat: 1 lb 3 oz
Inflation Bag: 3 oz
Inflation Tube: 2 oz
Compression Straps: 2 oz total

Packed Size:
Folded- 12 x 9 x 6 in
Rolled Size – 16 x 12 in

Recommended For:
Rivers, Creeks, Extreme-Low-Flow (ELFing) – Class 3

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Categories
gear reviews mountain biking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts Round Up

For years, I struggled finding women’s specific mountain bike shorts that were comfortable, durable, fit well, and had good coverage. Now there are more options than ever, and I’ve found some that I really love. I’ve rounded up and reviewed some of my favorites below.

Best Womens Mountain Bike Shorts // tahoefabulous.com

Sizing Note: I’ve found that women’s mountain bike shorts don’t tend to be “vanity sized” and I wear about a size up from my day to day shorts and pants. I also prefer my baggies (not chamois!) to be a little on the loose side, for comfort during a long ride. I’m 5’11”, 31.5″ waist, 38″ hips for size reference.

Best Overall Shorts
Patagonia Women’s Dirt Craft Bike Shorts ($149)
Patagonia hasn’t been in the mountain biking world for very long, but they got so much right with these shorts! I got them earlier in the summer, and I’ve worn them a bunch. They’re an awesome mix of great fit, comfort while riding, and durability. The legs are fitted enough not to snag, but not overly tight, and they are stretchy enough to have a good range of motion for pedaling, but they don’t stretch out very much over the course of the ride. The waist band goes up in the back, so I don’t have to worry about a gap of skin between the shorts and my jersey and is adjustable. They also come with a very high quality chamois which feels bulky while off the bike, but I don’t even notice once I start riding. Basically, the only downside is the high price, though I think the shorts are totally worth it!
Perfect For: Pretty much any ride you want to do – I recently loved wearing them on the Royal Gorge Rim Trail.
Size: 12, fits great

Patagonia Dirt Craft Womens Shorts // tahoefabulous.com
Patagonia Dirt Craft Women’s MTB Shorts

Most Comfortable Shorts
Shredly MTB Curvy ($105)
The MTB Curvy from Shredly are the first and only thing I’ve ever bought from an Instagram ad, and I’m so glad I did. The idea of putting a comfortable, yoga style waistband on mountain bike shorts is genius! Shredly was founded by a woman, and that show’s in the design of these shorts. They have a bunch of functional, accessible pockets AND come in a variety of colors and pattens from bright and whimsical (the Tina) to more muted (the Denim C). The shorts are long for a lot of coverage and are made of a tough, durable material. While this means they’ll be good in a crash, they’re also pretty hot on warmer days or long climbs. They do have zipper vents on the thighs which help, but aren’t enough for really hot and sweaty rides. The $105 price tag is fairly high, especially since the chamois is sold separately, but the quality is very high and they’re made in the US.
Perfect For: A day in the Mammoth Bike Park or a fall ride in Downieville
Size: 12, could size down

Shredly MTB Curvy // tahoefabulous.com
Shredly MTB Curvy Shorts

Great Value Shorts
Fox Racing Women’s Ripley ($80, on sale for $33-$62)
These shorts are a great value for bike shorts! Even full priced, they’re on the lower end price-wise for good quality women’s bike shorts. Plus, Fox releases these year after year, so you can frequently find older models on sale for a great price. They’re pretty basic and no frills, and only have one small, rear, zippered pocket. They’re very durable – I’ve crashed in mine and they’ve held up to wear and tear really well. The material is a little stiff and rough, especially compared to the higher priced versions. They’re not very stretchy, which helps them hold up, but also means the range of motion isn’t as good. They’re a tighter fit than, which is nice for not snagging on things, but also affects the range of motion. They also come with a chamois which I really like the fit of.
Perfect For: Riding the Donner Lake Rim Trail & Wendin Way Trail
Size: Large, fits great

Fox Racing Womens Ripley // tahoefabulous.comShorts
Fox Racing Women’s Rible MTB Shorts

These Don’t Look Like Bike Shorts
Club Ride Eden ($100)
While bulky, knee length bike shorts are great for protection from the branches, rocks, and bugs I encounter on the trail, they’re not really my style for wearing to the brewery after my ride. If I want a pair of shorts that goes a little more smoothly from trail to beer, I like the Eden. They’re definitely shorter than the other shorts and don’t scream “bike shorts” quite as hard. The short length makes them lighter for hot days, which is nice, but they lack coverage in the case of a crash. I’ve gotten some gnarly leg scrapes from wearing them on the wrong trails. The material they’re made from is very stretchy, so they’re super comfortable. However, they do tend to stretch out in the waist by the end of the ride due to this fact. They do come with a chamois, but I didn’t like how it fit. These shorts are great for casual rides, and I’m fine with slipping them back on after I change out of my chamois.
Perfect For: Mellow cross country rides like Elizabethtown Meadow Trail or Emmigrant Trail
Size: Large, could probably size down

Club Ride Eden Shorts // tahoefabulous.com
Club Ride Eden Women’s MTB Shorts

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Categories
gear reviews Lost Sierra mountain biking Tahoe Fabulous Life

What to Pack for the Downieville Downhill

Last weekend, Greyson and I headed north into the Lost Sierra to ride one of my all time favorite trails, the Downieville Downhill. It just seems to get more fun every time I ride it, and this time was no exception – even though the temps were in the high 90s! Riding such a long trail, far from services, and in the heat requires more preparation than a typical ride. Now that I’ve done the Downieville Downhill a handful of times, I’ve got a packing list down.

Downieville Downhill Packing List // tahoefabulous.com

Bike & Gear:
I’ve seen people ride the Downieville Downhill on all types of bikes – from modern enduro bikes to old school downhill bikes to full suspension fat bikes to a guy on a single speed hardtail last weekend! However, I think that for maximizing fun, you’ll want a full suspension bike with at least 115 mm of travel. I’ve ridden it multiple times on my 2016 Transition Smuggler, which is a short travel 29er (130/115), and though I would like a little more travel for comfort and confidence, it’s still very doable. Having good flat pedals and real bike shoes has made a huge difference for my comfort levels on some of the Downhill’s trickier sections this year. I’m so happy with my RaceFace Chesters and Five Ten Freerider Pro. The Freerider Pro women’s version isn’t just sized down, it has a women’s specific fit, (which can sometimes be a load of crap) and the narrower heel/wider toe box fits me super well, while the men’s version didn’t.

Downieville Downhill Gear // tahoefabulous.com

A hydration pack is a must for this trail (click here for my blog post with hydration packs recommendations), and I like to have one that can fit at least 2 liters of water in addition to all my stuff. This time, because it was so hot, I had ~2 liters of water in my CamelBak Solstice and some Tailwind in the bottle in my frame. I packed a few assorted gels, chews, and bars – I like to have more than I think that I’ll eat just in case. I’ve bonked HARD at Downieville, and I don’t want to repeat that experience. Also in my pack, I bring a tubeless plug kit, 1 or 2 spare tubes (there are quite a few sharp shale sections), multi tool, tire levers, and a pump. Someone in the group should have a first-aid kit as well.

I would highly recommend using a full face helmet, though lots of people don’t. I think a lightweight full face with a removable chin bar, like the Bell Super 3R, is the best of both worlds. The trails of Downieville get dusty pretty much as soon as they melt out, so goggles like the Smith Squad MTB are really nice to have. I also wear elbow padsknee pads and padded gloves for extra protection.

Downieville Downhill Clothes // tahoefabulous.com

For clothes, I tend towards more coverage, even when it’s really hot out. I like lightweight long sleeve jerseys, like the Patagonia Nine Trails or the Pearl iZUMi Launch for sun coverage, protection from overgrown trees and bushes, and protection. I’ve recently gotten a couple of pairs of longer baggies that I really like – the Shredly MTB Curvy and Patagonia Dirt Craft, for lightweight protection. Another piece of critical clothing is a very supportive sports bra like the Brooks Juno– the trail is rocky and bumpy!

Post Ride:
Downieville is a fun town to hang out in, so we don’t hit the road right away. However, it’s a small town with only a few restaurants and stores, and can be expensive and crowded on a busy weekend. This time, we planned ahead and brought our Yeti Cooler packed with snacks. We pre-made Tailwind Recovery and kept those cold while we were riding and they were perfect to drink right away. We should have packed beers too, but, if you shuttle with Yuba Expeditions, you’ll get a free beer from their shop at the end of your ride!

Before I even got a beer or food though, I rode directly to the confluence of the North Yuba and the Downie in downtown Downieville, stripped down to my chamois & sports bra, and jumped in to the refreshing water. Nothing has ever felt better. I usually pack a swimsuit, but forgot and regretted it – so bring one. After my swim, I changed into comfortable clothes and the Chacos that I’d packed, and I was so glad I didn’t have to change back into sweaty bike clothes or non-breathable shoes. We didn’t see much this trip, but there is often a fair amount of poison oak just off the trail in Downieville as you get closer to town. Since it might be awhile until you get a chance to shower for real, wipes to remove the poison oak residue like these Tecnu ones can be really useful.

The Downieville Downhill is an incredible mountain bike trail and worth a road trip. It’s a classic for a reason, and having the right gear will make it an even better experience. Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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gear reviews mountain biking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Hot Weather Mountain Biking

The weather is finally getting warmer up here in Truckee, and it’s already pretty hot down in the foothills. That means it’s finally time for summer mountain biking!

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Summer is really the high season for mountain biking in the higher elevations. While it’s significantly cooler up here, it can still get pretty hot during the day, plus the sun seems to beat down even harder at altitude and it’s easy to get dehydrated. There are tons of ways to deal with hydration while mountain biking, and I’m going to lay out some details, recommendations, pros, and cons for my favorites.

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Hydration Packs: Hydration packs are backpacks that contain a water reservoir attached to a hose with a mouth piece that you can drink out of without stopping to pull out a bottle or take off the path. Quite a few brands make hydration packs, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, price points, and designs, including mountain bike specific ones. While generally hydration packs have the reservoir oriented vertically, mountain bike specific ones often have the reservoir horizontally across the lower back. Other specific features that mountain bike hydration packs often have include additional armoring for crash protection, big hip pockets for storage, helmet clips, and a suspension system to help keep the pack off of your sweaty back. While it’s completely possible to wear a hiking style hydration pack while mountain biking, I prefer the bike specific styles. I actually wear my Camelbak Solstice hiking and on short trail runs, which it works great for as well.

Summer Mountain Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

I have and recommend the CamelBak Solstice LR ($88). Other popular, well reviewed mountain bike specific hydration packs are the Osprey Packs Raptor ($140), CamelBak M.U.L.E. ($82), and Dakine Drafter ($88). The pros for hydration packs are that they give you the ability to pack a lot of gear, the ability to carry quite a bit of water, they distribute their weight across your whole back for comfort and stability, there a lot of options at a lot of price points, and they can be used for a variety of outdoor activities. The cons are that they tend to be on the heavy side, they can be hot and increase sweating during the ride, and having more contact points give more opportunities for chafing.

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Waist Packs: Fanny packs are finally back in style, but mountain bike specific fanny packs are a little different than the ones I remember from the early 90s. They are a little bigger than the purse style packs, usually have some sort of hydration system – either a spot for a small bottle or a reservoir and hose, and a wider waistband for comfort and stability.

Summer Mountain Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

I got the Dakine Hot Laps 2L ($40) for Christmas, and I love it – see my detailed review here. Other well reviewed mountain biking waist packs are Osprey Packs Seral ($83), Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack ($59), and CamelBak Repack LR ($56). The pros for waist packs include that they are light weight, they allow for more air flow across your back, and that there are fewer pressure points that might cause chaffing. On the downside, you can’t carry as much gear or water, there are fewer quality options, and they move around more while riding.

Other Hydration Strategies: The simplest, cheapest way to hydrate on your bike is with a water bottle in your bottle cage(s). For really hot days, you can even get insulated bike bottles, like this one from the REI Outlet, to keep your water cold. This has the advantage of being really easy, but it limits how much water you can bring and some full suspension bikes have one or fewer spots to mount your bottles. Also, you’ll have to find somewhere to store your tools/tube/snacks/keys/phone/etc. There are also mountain biking specific hydration vests, like the CamelBak Chase ($75), but I’ve never tried any out, so I don’t have any opinions or recommendations on those.

Basically, if I’m going on a shorter, hot mountain bike ride, I’ll use my Dakine Hot Laps with a bottle in my cage and if I’m going on a long, hot mountain bike, I’ll use my Camelbak Solstice with a bottle in my cage. Often, I’ll put some kind of electrolyte drink in my bike bottle with plain water in my Solstice or in the small bottle in my Hot Laps. For shorter rides, Nuun Active tablets have electrolytes without many calories, and I like Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel when I need more nutrition along with electrolytes. Tailwind has about 100 calories per serving and is really easy on my stomach, especially when it’s hot out.

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Lightweight Gear: I tend to get really hot when I exercise, and I used to always want to ride in tank tops in the summer. But between getting scraped up in crashes and sun damage worry, I’m coming around to light weight, long sleeve bike jerseys. My lightest weight one is the Pearl Izumi Launch 3/4 Sleeve Jersey ($50) which I’ve had for a couple of years and really like it. Slightly heavier but incredibly tough is Troy Lee Designs Ruckus ($36) jersey that I’ve had for almost ten years and that has held up through a bunch of crashes. My newest light weight jersey is the Patagonia Nine Trails Bike Jersey ($59). I’ve worn it on a couple of rides now, and I really like it. It’s a little warmer than the others, but it’s still a great summer option. While I usually wear the same baggies year round, I reach for shorter chamois during the heat of the summer, like the Pearl Izumi Women’s ESCAPE Sugar ($60) and the REI Co-op Junction 5 Inch Inseam ($35).

Summer Mountain Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

While it’s tempting to skip gloves when it’s really hot out, I always regret that decision when my hands are still sweaty, but now it’s harder to grip the bars. I finally got lightweight gloves for this summer, specifically the Giro Rivet CS ($35), which I’ve used a few times and really like. I have SixSixOne Recon lightweight knee pads ($60) as well. If it’s really warm, I’ll strap them on my pack for the climb and put on for the downhill, but they’re also comfortable enough to pedal in if needed. Greyson also recently got the Kali Protectives Strike ($85), and he really likes them. Finally, having a lightweight helmet is a key factor in staying cool. I highly recommend the Bell Super 3R ($230), which is super ventilated and has a removable chin bar that you can take off for the climbs.

I hope this has been helpful when planning your hot weather bike rides!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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gear reviews mountain biking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Review

As someone who grew up in the 90’s, I was very into fanny packs in elementary school. That said, I was a little surprised when they became so popular for mountain biking. I thought they’d be too small and move around too much, but after reading a bunch of reviews and trying on several different models, I got the Dakine Hot Laps 2L for Christmas from Greyson. I’ve done quite a few rides with it, ranging from a short lap of a smooth flow trail to a 20 mile gravel/singletrack/road combo ride to a steep, rocky, and loose route. I’m really impressed!

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Bike Pack Review // tahoefabulous.com

When I was shopping, I knew that I wanted something without a bladder, ruling out the popular Osprey Packs Seral. I also knew that I wanted a way to hold a water bottle, so the low profile Dakine Hot Laps Stealth wouldn’t work. The Dakine Hot Laps 2L was one of the few packs that met my criteria, and it had great reviews.

Now that I’ve worn the Dakine Hot Laps 2L on a half dozen rides, I think that I can give my review on the bag. Even when packed full, the bag doesn’t bounce around when it’s worn and tightened correctly. For shorter rides, I’ll only use one water bottle, stored in the cage and not use the water bottle loop on the Hot Laps. In that situation, I center the bag in the middle of my back. If I am using the bottle holder, I orient it slightly to the side, so the heavy bottle is closer to the center of my back, which evens out the weight to reduce bounce and side to side sway.

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Review // tahofabulous.com
Photo from fanatikbike.com

For comfort and stability, tighten the hip belt really tight on the downhills and loosen it on the climbs, if possible. I don’t really like things tight around my waist, and I was worried that would be something I couldn’t handle with a waist bag. The Hot Laps hasn’t bugged me at all in that way, I think in part due to the fact the hip belt strap is wide, so it doesn’t have the “cutting in” feeling that thinner straps do.

For its small size, the Dakine Hot Laps 2L can fit a fair amount of gear. I’ve maxed out the storage to fit a multi tool, tube, phone, snacks, and thin additional layer (the Patagonia Houdini, which packs really small) or tube, pump, tool, phone, and keys, depending on the ride. This isn’t a pack to take if you’re going very far or alone. I’ve generally used it on rides that are short, close to home, or with another person who is carrying most of the tools (thanks, Greyson!). If I’m going on a longer ride or going by myself, I stick with my 10 L CamelBak Solstice.

I also love that my back gets so much less sweaty when wearing this pack. i’ve worn it on a couple of hotter rides, and I was so glad not to have the sweaty, bulky pack on. I think the Dakine Hot Laps 2L is an awesome pack for a specific purpose – shorter and hotter rides when you don’t want or need to pack a ton of stuff with you. I wouldn’t have the Dakine Hot Laps as my only biking bag, but I’m glad I’ve added it to my gear closet.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Categories
gear reviews mountain biking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review // tahoefabulous.com

At the end of 2018, my formerly trusty, now almost 4 year old Garmin Forerunner 910xt started to be not-so-reliable. It only seemed to track my rides on about one out of three outings. So I started shopping for a new GPS watch.

I wanted something that could track steps and heart rate without a chest strap, and I wanted something that I could wear as a day to day watch. I didn’t need something to track open water or pool swims, because my 910xt is still functional enough for that. I also knew that I wanted to pay under $300. I knew I wanted to stick with Garmin (bad experience with a Fitbit), and pretty soon narrowed it down to a Garmin Forerunner 35 ($169.99) and the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($249.99). The main benefits of the 235 over the 35 is that the Forerunner 235 has a color LCD display and the ability to control the music on your smartphone. While those features would be nice, it was not worth the almost $100 price difference to me. Additionally, the Forerunner 35 has a slightly longer battery life. I bought my Garmin Forerunner 35 in mid-January, and I’ve worn it nearly every day since then. The Forerunner 35 is a smart watch, GPS tracker and activity tracker, and I think it does a good job at all of these.

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review // tahoefabulous.com
Photo from Garmin.com

GPS Tracker
The ability to GPS track my mountain bike rides was the number one reason I wanted a new GPS watch, so this is the most important function to me. So far, I’ve worn it on two mountain bike rides and ten or so days snowboarding. (The downside of buying it in winter).

It’s worked great on mountain bike rides! It’s so much lower profile than my 910xt, so I don’t worry about bashing it in a crash nearly as much. I’ve bumped it into a few things just in daily wear, and there hasn’t been a scratch on the glass screen. I haven’t crashed my bike while wearing it yet, though. It also finds the satellites very quickly, usually within a minute, which means I’m not waiting around at the trailhead waiting to connect. After a ride is complete, the ride connects with the Garmin Connect app over bluetooth and uploads as soon as I get somewhere with service. I have my Garmin Connect account connected to Strava, and my ride appears there within a few minutes. This is a huge improvement over my old 910xt, which needed to connect over the ANT stick on my computer.

The automatic activity choices on the Forerunner 35 are Run Outdoor, Run Indoor, Bike, Cardio, and Walk. Unfortunately, the Cardio activity doesn’t connect with GPS, so if I want to track a non-bike or run outdoor activity, like snowboarding, I have to select run and manually change the activity to snowboard on Garmin Connect and Strava after uploading. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, just a little annoying. I wish there was an “Other” cardio option that launched GPS tracker.

Activity Tracker
The Forerunner 35 is an awesome daily activity tracker. It tracks heart rate, calories burned, activity minutes, steps and tells me to move when I’ve been sitting too long. I was curious about the heart rate tracker, because I know the wrist sensors aren’t as good as the heart rate straps (though it’s way less annoying to me!). After I’d had the watch for a few weeks, I went to my annual physical, and my resting heart rate measured there was within one of what my Forerunner 35 said! Where it does seem to be a little off is when I’m working hard – I think it tends to measure my heart rate as lower than it is. The calorie burn is based on your heart rate and activity throughout the day as well as the height and weight you set up in the Garmin Connect profile.

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review // tahoefabulous.com

I think the step counter on the Forerunner 35 is much more accurate than the basic Fitbit I used to have, which seemed to overestimate the amount of steps. I also really like that the step goal adjusts based on how many steps you take, creating an achievable goal to strive for. The Forerunner 35 will tell you to “Move!” if I have been sitting too long, which is great for someone with a mostly office job, like me. The Forerunner 35 tracks sleep and active minutes per week, though I don’t pay a ton of attention to those features. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can keep track with this watch.

Smart Watch
When you are in range of your smart phone, you’ll get notifications on the screen of the watch over Bluetooth. I get text, call, and email notifications – basically anything I set up as push notifications on my phone. Since the screen isn’t huge (0.93″ x 0.93″), I don’t see a large portion of the message, but usually there’s enough to get the gist. It’s not the most advanced smart watch out there, but it functions well enough, and I like that the smallish screen size makes it more wearable.

Additionally, I LOVE that the main face is just a basic watch. I haven’t worn a watch since college, but it’s so nice to check the time by just glancing at my wrist instead of digging out my phone. I do wish that it was easier to control which notifications came through on the watch. There are some push notifications that I want to come through on my phone, but not on the watch, like social media alerts for work accounts and new podcast downloads. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet though.

The battery life for the watch has been great for me. It supposedly lasts for 13 hours on GPS mode and up to 9 days in smart watch mode. I’ve never run it all the way to dead, I usually charge it overnight every 5 or 6 days. It also charges pretty quickly, within a few hours.

Pros
– Accurate GPS tracking that locks on to satellite quickly
– Tracked activities transmit over bluetooth to smart phone
– Wrist heart rate monitor tracks activity and resting heart rate
– Low profile is great for mountain biking or other outdoor activities
– Works well as daily activity tracker
– Good battery life
– GREAT value for its price, especially compared to other GPS trackers

Cons
– Silicon band gets stinky with daily wear
– Push notifications not easily customizable
– No GPS “Other Cardio” option

All in all, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is a great value GPS watch, especially for mountain biking. The activity tracker and smart watch features work well and are beneficial additions. If you’re looking for a lower cost GPS watch, I highly recommend this model.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!