Review: Chaco Z/Cloud 2

By: Shey Kiester | June 3, 2017

The Z/Cloud 2 is a classic Chaco with somewhat of a cult following. This shoe has traveled with many an avid outdoor wanderer for years and years, and its durability was among the highest in our test.


As has almost always been the case, Chaco shoes have a reputation for having comfort that varies from user to user. While the sole is stiffer than any other model tested, most of our testers saw this is a huge pro. The tough sole protects from variable terrain underfoot and provides a shoe that is built to last.

With that, more flat-footed tester felt frustrated by this model's high arch that will not break into a flatter foot. We recommend trying this model on before you purchase. Despite some debate about whether or not the Chaco Z/Cloud's sole was optimal for a broad enough swath of users, our tester unanimously declared the Chaco's strap system as one of the most comfortable in the test. 

Despite some debate about whether or not the Chaco Z/Cloud's sole was optimal for a broad enough swath of users, our tester unanimously declared the Chaco's strap system as one of the most comfortable in the test. 


The stiffness of the sole was advantageous when it came to the stability of the shoe. The footbed securely cups the outside of the heel and supports the arch (for better or for worse…). Users agreed that the toe loop (which is absent from some Chaco models) did provide more stability for the sandal, as it eliminated the possibility of your foot sliding forward. The heel-toe drop of the shoe was more significant than most of the other sandal models we tested. This spec was unimportant to some testers and unwelcomed by others. It gave the heel of the shoe a particularly clunky, insensitive feeling. 


Review: Vasque Breeze III

Now on its third version, the Breeze is one of Vasque’s most popular hiking boots. It features a rare combination which merges a ruggedness needed for long days on the trail and a sneaker-like comfort that’ll keep your feet happy for miles. Through the years, the company improved the Breeze boot, adding a slew of new features while retaining the staples that made the boot a market leader. This consistency is evident in the  Vasque Breeze III, the latest iteration of Vasque’s signature hiking boot.


Known for packaging backpacking-worthy features into a boot that fits like an athletic shoe, Vasque’s Breeze III continues this tradition by offering ample ankle support for day and multi-day hikes. We walked through slippery, slushy snow and root-filled trails with no concern of turning an ankle.

That’s the beauty of the Vasque boots — they manage to stay comfortable on the ankle while providing sufficient rigidity for most trail conditions. The metal lacing system, especially the hooks in the ankle, aid in this stability by allowing you to pull that part of the boot tighter if needed. It also allows you to lock your ankle securely in place to prevent slippage while ascending steep terrain.


Smartwool: "One of Best Wool Brands"

For those who haven’t found wool and incorporated it into their daily, year-round life, we recommend making a change. The best part is, it’s never too late to start loving wool. Dubbed as “nature’s own tech fabric,” the wool comeback dates back to the last couple decades, dissolving any preconceived notions that wearing wool is nothing more than an itch-filled experience. Frankly, it’s time to forget about those sweaters your grandmother made for you.

Smartwool — a brand from Steamboat Springs, Colorado — has been in the wool-making business for an astounding 23 years. Easily identified by its logo of a happy person wearing socks, its designs lend themselves to a broad customer base with wearable and almost lifestyle-driven styles. However, the company does produce more technical pieces, like Conrad Anker’s Ph.D. mountaineering socks, for hard-core users. Recently, it also started using wool as insulation rather than just a baselayer.


Smartwool Featured on Business Insider

Picking out a pair of socks is one of the most menial tasks we can think of, but it matters — especially when you're going hiking. Choose the wrong ones, and your feet will be soaked in sweat and covered in blisters.

If you're looking for a new pair for your next outdoor adventure, you should pick up one made of wool. According REI, wool is the most popular natural sock material, because it's warm, cushioning, and retains warmth when wet.

Since its inception in 1994, Smartwool has specialized in making comfortable, versatile wool socks and accessories, and its hiking socks are some of the best ones money can buy. Each pair is made with merino wool that keeps your feet dry and regulates your body temperature, and isn't itchy. Each pair comes with a flat knit toe seam and extra support around the arches, so you'll stay comfortable as you're trekking through peaks and valleys. 


First Look: Vasque Lost 40 Boot

The traditional mukluk-style boot wraps the foot and lower leg. Its flexible upper cinches tight around the calf, laces crisscrossing on leather from the ankle before wrapping up high.

This winter, Vasque adds to the genre with its Lost 40 winter boot. A hybrid mukluk, the boots have a Vibram sole and modern add-ons like softshell synthetic material and aerogel insulation in the midsole sandwiched with EVA foam.

I tromped in them for a month for this review. Temps ranged from below-zero to a slushy, 35-degree day. Overall, I like the boot, though with a few significant caveats around performance and fit.

Vasque Featured in Men's Journal

Vasque Coldspark UltraDry

Light but sturdy, this leather-and-soft-shell kick is ideal for wearing with snowshoes. Weighing in at a svelte one pound, two ounces, each boot still packs in 200 grams of Thinsulate, which will keep your feet toasty in frigid temperatures. Add in a membrane that leaves moisture on the outside and you have the perfect shoe for traversing the powder. [$140;]

Powder Reviews SmartWool’s Double Corbet 120 Hoody

The weather in my Colorado hometown is unpredictable. I saw it snow on the 4th of July once. Such is life in the mountains where we always say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Because it’s guaranteed to change.

SmartWool’s Double Corbet 120 Hoody is ideal for varying conditions. On my most recent trip back home, I was up early to beat the crowds up one of my favorite trails. Temps were low despite the bright sky overhead, and this jacket’s wind protection held up extremely well. It didn’t whip in the gusts like a traditional windbreaker shell, and in typical Smartwool style, it was extremely cosy. With the hood up and toggled down, I was perfectly cocooned and protected from the blustery winds outside.

SmartWool’s warmer weight insulation, 120g of SmartLoft wool, was plenty warm while the Merino lining kept my body temperature from spiking when I started to warm up on the uphill. Merino is also great for managing moisture, which is a nice way of saying that it keeps you from stinking like cold sweat.


Stanley Bringing Bulk to 2017 Line

The clang of bashing metal rings through the conference room. It’s a Tuesday morning in Seattle, and Stanley’s director of global product management swings a prototype insulated bottle against a metal growler.

He is making a point. Eric Shear, Stanley’s zealous product manager, set the growler (a competitor’s brand) and the matte-black Stanley “Master Series” bottle onto the table. The growler was mangled and deformed. The bottle didn’t have a scratch.

The demonstration was part of a sneak peek at the brand’s 2017 line – in short, Stanley is bulking up its summer bod with what it dubs the Master Series: heavier, burlier vacuum-insulated vessels.

Stanley Master Series

The upcoming line won’t ship until next year. It consists of a 1.4-quart vacuum-insulated bottle and cup; a 25-ounce bottle and cup; and an 18-ounce travel mug. Each is noticeably heavier than its Classic Series predecessor.

The 1.4 quart bottle tips the scales at an impressive 1,264 grams, or just a few ounces shy of 3 pounds. That’s 30 percent heavier than last year’s model. (The 25-ounce bottle, at 877 grams, is almost 50 percent heavier than the original version).

The heft comes from thicker steel. The Master Series uses 1mm-thick stainless on all products, while the thickest Classic Series uses 0.7mm. The extra 0.3mm may not sound like much, but it makes a difference in durability.

The Future Is Heavy

Fans of the century-old Stanley brand might wonder why the company, which has staked its name on lifetime guarantees on all its products, would emphasize even longer-lasting products.

According to Shear, the new product line is meant for professionals working in extreme conditions who need items that can take “unbelievable punishment.” The company’s promotional materials show the Master Series used by Wildland firefighters.

But Stanley is also responding to a growing industry trend – durability and substance. Whereas once market research suggested that consumers demanded lighter weight, more affordable camping accessories and drinkware, now all signs point to heavier and bulkier cups, coolers, and growlers that are literally worth their weight. That is what Stanley cites as justification for the increased bulk in the 2017 line.

News from Pearlfrog

The Sullivan-Bishop Agency LLC is on a tear.  We are thrilled to tell you about our changes.

But, changes not-withstanding, there are these constants… Allen will continue to knock it out of the park with all that he does for this territory.  As a partner in our agency, he provides us vision as well as his uniquely boundless energy and enthusiasm to complement and shape our evolution… Tony Lee is our backbone, our manager for every must do initiative.  We are blessed that Tony contributes his all so able and on point efforts to our success…And Zach is our future, smart and motivated.

Mike said to Allen some months ago that “seat of the pants doesn’t get us best in class anymore.”  If Pearlfrog is going to genuinely be an asset to their retailers and to their vendors then we have to be newer, we have to be smarter, we have to be more thorough and more involved.  We have always endeavored to improve our contribution to your business.  Here are our next steps…

Gotta love technology!  We've partnered with Peter Pawlus at REPatron to help upgrade our internal sales agency systems and b2b website(s).  We are in the midst of it already (does it ever really end?) and have launched our new website if you want to check it out. Peter spent 14 years in bicycle retail and then went to get his tech on while working at Google. Our agency will be a testbed for new tech as we continue to grow and innovate for our retailers and our brand partners. Stay tuned!!

Brad Frenette joined us in January as a dedicated tech rep.  Our agency tech rep is a key member of our team and represents our commitment to excellent service in your store.  Brad was so good at his job we felt compelled to give him more responsibility and more room to grow by making him a writing rep, managing his own account list.  Some of you have already worked with Brad in his new role this booking go-around.

Our next big move has been to add Katie Roberts to the agency.  This is big, big news!  Katie comes to us from SmartWool where she was the Sales Operations Specialist.  She was a key member of Ops and is going to be missed at SmartWool.  We did not steal her; we were just here when she wanted to make a change.  Katie brings analytical skills and dealer services experience that will transform how Pearlfrog assists you with inventory management, sales turn trending, open order analysis and general operational liaison duties.  If you have been working with Liz, on September 1 you will begin working with Katie.

Thanks Liz !

Thanks Liz !

Liz Campbell moves on and will retire from our hectic world to the more placid world she surely has earned.  Thank you Liz, you saved our bacon with your contribution.

But there is more news yet.  Allen, Sue and I are delighted to announce that Rob Morales has joined Sullivan-Bishop as a principal member of the agency.  Many of you know Rob; he has been a prominent person in the outdoor market in Texas for many years.  I have known Rob for perhaps twenty years.  He was a store manager and buyer for Whole Earth Provision Co.  He eddied out of our business for a while to be a full time Dad until he came back to the business with Backwoods, as a buyer, as Purchasing Director and finally as Backwoods COO.  Rob has decided to move his chair to the other side of the table as a rep.  Pearlfrog is indeed blessed that a talent as able as Rob would join us.

Rob will work from the Wimberley office, sharing the space with Mike, Sue, Zach, Dolly and Winston.  He will be working very closely with Allen, Mike and Sue as the agency reinvents itself.  

Folks, the Sullivans are on the slippery slope to retirement.  We are taking this understudy approach to our transition to provide a seamless change-over.  Allen, Mike and Sue will school Rob in the ways of our world and the what and the why of where we are.  Rob will bring the agency a bright new outlook and modern skills that will splice with Allen’s extraordinary acumen collected over this decade plus.  Sue and I will bring forty years of experience and all the wounds and wins that means and we…Allen, Rob, Sue and I will weave all this together to reinvent this agency.


Contact information:

Rob Morales, 512-964-8452,,
Katie Roberts, 970-819-6285,

Allen Bishop,
Mike Sullivan,
Sue Sullivan,
Tony Lee,
Zach Weyerman,
Brad Frenette,

Smartwool Launches Industry’s Retail Associate “Insider” App

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (July 25, 2016) — Smartwool recently debuted its new Smartwool Insider app, an innovative tool for retailer partners. The Smartwool Insider Program is designed to strengthen the brand’s personal relationships with wholesale retail associates via a mobile native app that features engaging Insider specific content and program exclusive rewards.

“Our Insider app showcases products and culture in order to better connect with retail associates,” said Dane Howell, Smartwool vice president of US Wholesale Sales and Marketing. “We know that one associate can make a huge impact. Insiders boost brand awareness, support wholesale partners and drive demand and sell-through—they are critical to success and we knew we could connect in a better, more meaningful way with them.”

The Smartwool Insider app takes an education-through-entertainment approach. It informs gear-savvy, information-hungry sales associates with regularly refreshed videos, product insights, and news stories. It provides a rewards-based, intimate learning experience and the ability to communicate directly with Smartwool employees, participate in challenges and contests. The more an associate interacts with the app, the more exclusive Smartwool Insider gear he or she will earn.

The app is powered by hubEngageTM and access to the program is by invite only a unique code provided by Smartwool sales reps and Field Service Clinic during clinics.  Codes can also be requested via email at
About SmartWool

Based in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Smartwool is a 22-year-old apparel brand whose products are inspired by living and playing in the mountains. All Smartwool® products come with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and are created to get the most out of the inherent benefits of Merino wool. For information on the full range of Smartwool products or to find a dealer near you, please log onto Smartwool, a division of VF Outdoor,LLC, is a brand of VF Corporation. For event and company updates visit us on Facebook or Twitter





The Smartwool Insider App is exclusively for employees of SmartWool retail partners. Users must have an access code to activate and access the app. The content within the app is an “Insiders” look into the SmartWool brand, heritage, products and culture; and is a fun and educational way to regularly interact with the company. The app features a Newsfeed with regular updates from the company, a video library, quizzes and feedback interactions, tech sheets and infographics, challenges and contests; and direct chat access to the SmartWool Field service Rep assigned to their territory.

The SmartWool story started on a rugged Colorado ski slope with the belief that toes didn’t have to be cold. One simple pair of Merino socks challenged the conventional wisdom and forever changed the way outdoor enthusiasts looked at their feet. It’s not just about the Merino, though. It’s what we do with it that makes SmartWool different. For over 20 years, we’ve been pushing the boundaries of Merino to create smarter, more capable products from head to toe.

Eric Larsen's Tips for Sleeping Warm

It’s one thing to be cold at some point while skiing, snowshoeing or hiking in the winter, but for most people the thought of sleeping in a tent in winter (or any temperature below freezing for that matter) is a deal breaker. While I may be a bit biased on all things cold, ice and snow, I do feel that there are a few basic steps you can take to ensure every night in the tent is a warm one—no matter how low the mercury drops.

1. Stay Dry – Your clothes or sleeping bag … they both work best when your body can keep a warm layer of air close by. Add in sweat, wet socks, or a damp shirt and that warm layer of air is replaced by heat-sucking water. Do yourself a huge favor by starting out your night in completely dry clothes (and sleeping bag). 

 2. Use Your Sleeping Bag Properly – staying warm means not letting valuable heat from inside the bag escape. Sleeping bags are designed to be zipped and cinched. Make sure the draft tube is aligned properly along the zipper. Also make sure the actual zipper is all the way closed. For extremely cold nights, cinch the hood and draft collar into a small opening around your mouth and nose.

 3. Wear More – I’ve never really subscribed to the theory that you should sleep in as little clothes as possible while inside a sleeping bag. It is true that if you wear too much you will overheat and sweat which goes directly against tip number one. Regardless, if you find yourself getting chilled, add another layer. Also, I’m a huge fan of wearing a balaclava and / or hat.

 4. Insulate from the Ground – I should actually put this at the top of the list because it is so very important. You end up losing way more heat through conduction (direct contact with the cold ground) than convection (air). Therefore, it is important to have a good sleeping pad. In very cold weather (below zero) I will even use two pads—a RidgeRest SOLite on the bottom and a NeoAir XTherm Max on top. Also remember to re-inflate your inflatable Therm-a-Rest mattress early in the evening as air that was initially blown into it will cool, shrinking the volume of air inside the mattress. 

5. Add a Blanket! -  This fall I was climbing in Nepal—we didn’t want to bring two sleeping bags—a warmer weather bag for trekking in and a second extreme cold weather bag for above 14,000 feet. Therefore, we opted for a simple solution, we used the Altair down bag for most of the expedition, but added a Regulus Blanket as an additional layer when it got cold.  

 6. Eat – On the trail food is fuel. It helps keep you going and it helps keep you warm. I usually keep an energy chew/bar close when I’m sleeping. A few bites midway through the night is like putting another log on the fire.

 7. Go to the Bathroom – In cold weather most people are reluctant to get out of their warm sleeping bags to go to the bathroom; however, it’s important to heed nature’s call because having extra “fluids” in your body is actually wasting energy that could be used to keep you warm.

 Bonus Tip:  For longer adventures and consistent below zero weather, try using a vapor barrier liner as it traps in heat but more importantly prevents moisture from getting into your sleeping bag.