The Skinny on Base Layers

As I have become a more and more ridiculous gear lover, it seems I have come to love base layers of every shape and size. As I have ticked off year after year attending the New River Rendezvous, I have become a big fan of the Mountain Hardwear Wicked Tee, and seem to wear them daily for climbing once the weather turns nice. Nothing beats a lightweight, soft and breathable base layer once you start sweating. But, soon I also caught on to polyester underwear. While your first vision may be of bad 70's outfits and your second vision may be sticker shock at the higher-than-cotton price, once you put them on and head outside in warm temps, you will be thanking yourself. The seamless design is barely noticeable underneath your harness or backpack, you will not be tugging at embarassing places to rearrange, and you will stay dry and comfy. I am a big fan of the boy short style. They are also great for travel since they dry in a jiffy and are anti-microbial. Try it, you'll like it!!

You Know You Are A Climbing Addict When....

1. You change your weekend plans half a dozen times during the week, in search of dry rock to climb.
Our plans for the weekend varied from a long weekend at The Red, a short weekend at the New, to finally a weekend at home. After rain, thunder, and even snow entered the forecast for our destinations, it was ultimately best to stay home! Luckily, we were rewarded by excellent climbing conditions both Sunday and Monday. While it may feel like less of a vacation to spend a long weekend at home, it is indeed nice to sleep in your own bed and nice on the wallet to stay put! Sunday at Rumbling Bald was a day for layering, as the weather vacillated from perfect short sleeve weather and a gentle hawk-soaring breeze, to needing to add a fleece and a shell on the way out when it turned chilly and blustery. Still, there was dry rock to be had and very few people around- a great day for climbing Seven Year Itch and Friday the 13th. Monday we enjoyed climbing in the Lake Lure area as well, but this time we needed some sunscreen despite waking up to a chilly morning. We snapped a few pics of Dave Sharratt doing a first ascent of an area aid climb.

2. You finish the weekend by checking out the weather for next weekend and start planning another climbing trip.

Let's hope there is more sunshine in the forecast for next weekend so we can have our pick of destinations. Of course, the comfort of home and the classic climbs of western North Carolina may keep us nearby!

PS- We found some climbing shoes at Rumbling Bald. Call the shop if you lost a pair!

Looking Glass Outfitters


Rain & More Rain

Saturday was a pretty nasty day for most sane outdoor endeavors. It was probably a great day to clean the house, if you were so inclined. By noon I was going stir crazy and suited up for a trail run along the Davidson River. It was raining harder than I thought as I drove into the Pisgah National Forest, but I stuck with my plan and parked at the Visitor Center and headed across the street and up the path leading along the Davidson River. As I settled into a rhythm of avoiding puddles and ignoring the swish of my jacket's hood, I began to enjoy my loop up the North Slope Trail. The weather was mildly acceptable for trailrunning so long as you had a good synthetic baselayer and a lightweight shell. The reward was that the only traffic buzzing by was our black lab Daisy, and I got to log a few more miles in my ENDs despite a nasty forecast.

How do you get outside despite the rain clouds??

Shoot me a wet weather story at:


Spring Reigns

I know it is much needed but the rain does hamper motivation. In lieu of this rainy nastyness, we have taken the liberty to head up to the New River Gorge, posting the best forecast, and hang with some friends. Pictures from that will follow next week. Until then, please view some of our greatest warm weather pics to promote some much needed, good weather psych! Enjoy.

Good weather is on the way and the days of summer approach. For all your adventures far and wide come see Looking Glass Outfitters at the shop, or shop online!

Photos Top to Bottom:
Phil Hoffmann, The Snaz, Grand Teton National Park: Photo: Nate Furman
Jessica Hoffmann, Love Jug (5.10b), Tennessee Wall, Chattanooga, TN. Photo: Phil Hoffmann
Deep Water Soloing, Summersville Lake, Fayetteville, WV. Photo: Dan Brayack
Phil and Jess, The Snaz Summit, Grand Teton National Park. Photo: Nate Furman
Fly Fishing, Teton River, Teton Valley, ID. Photo: Jessica Hoffmann
Jessica Hoffmann, Scenic Adult (5.11d) New River Gorge, WV. Photo: Dan Brayack


Banff Mountain Film Festival in Brevard

Come to Brevard College's Porter Center this Friday and Saturday night for the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Get your tickets sooner rather than later, as this show sells out and doors open at 6:00! Come be inspired! More info here

The weather for this weekend looks perfect for climbing, hiking, camping and more. Stop in the shop to see new spring merchandise. Also, this weekend only, get $20 off any full priced pair of Scarpas or FiveTens.


A TrailRunner's Guide to Spring Layering

As spring begins to vacillate back and forth from lovely temps to bits of snow, my trailrunning attire is really being put through its paces. It is a great time to run in Pisgah National Forest, so don't let the unpredictable weather hold you back! Here are a few key pieces to keep you happily passing mountain vistas and babbling creeks.

Base Layer
No matter the weather, my first top layer is always a baselayer. Mountain Hardwear's Wicked Tees are smooth and silky against the skin, but wick flawlessly to keep you dry and comfortable, unlike a sopping wet old, cotton tee.

Wicking Socks
Darn Tough & Smarwool making great socks for running that keep your feet comfy. Every time I veer from these standards and wear a pair of thin, cheapie socks, my toes get rubbed and I realize the error of my ways.

Trailrunning Shoes
Although I am no expert runner, I can honestly tell the difference between running in road shoes and running in trailrunners. Trailrunners have more aggressive soles to handle the varying terrain, and focus on supporting your foot through unlevel trails. Many have creative "socks" and "tongues" to keep pesky rocks and debris out of your way. A Gore-Tex version can be a great tool for keeping dry despite spring's showers, although I am running these days in a lightweight pair of ENDs that breathe and cushion well.

When I have my way and the weather is good, I skip an outerlayer, or quickly tie it around my waist once my heartrate gets going. But a layer like the Butter Zippity gives you a simple, stretchy wicking layer and the Transition Jacket offers a highly technical, lightweight softshell that sheds water, thwarts wind, stretches, and offers 360 degree reflectivity. Both are great to throw on for the beginning and end of your run on cooler days, making sure not to get cold as you warm up and cool down.

Hat & Gloves
Again, in my perfect world, I don't need these. But, it is nice to have a brightly colored hat to keep it clear to hunters that you are a trailrunner and minimize heat loss through your noggin. Chameece Gloves are lightweight enough to forget you are carrying them if the weather heats up, but keep the circulation going in your hands.

Whatever the weather throws at us, happy trailrunning!

Looking Glass Outfitters
Climb Globally, Shop Locally



Today's Adopt-A-Crag was successful thanks to a dedicated crew of locals and visitors who braved the miserable forecast. After donuts and coffee at Looking Glass Outfitters, we headed to The Nose parking lot and hiked in to this classic area, where many institutional groups flock throughout the summer months. Building on last fall's Adopt-A-Crag efforts, our main goal was to try to maintain impact in high use areas, encouraging visitors to contain their foot traffic at the cliff base as opposed to spreading it to greater and greater areas, which causes widespread erosion and a noticeable decrease of plant life. Natural reinforcements were put in near Sensimilia Sunset to minimize bank erosion.

A group of students from Unity College in Maine were the impetus for our Access Fund crag day, thanks to their desire to give back to the area they chose to spend spring break. Thank you for your gift and responsible stewardship! A big thanks as well to CCC vice president Zachary Lesche-Huie, Southern Mountains Rep Brian Williams, Peter Eiland and Asheville climber Ken Pitts, who all added to the effort and braved the rain. Thanks for taking care of our local climbing resources! We are headed to dry off!


Rain, Rain Go Away

After last weekend's fabulous weather, the forecast has truly gone amuck. I can't seem to find a crag within weekend driving distance with a good forecast. Oh well. The Adopt-A-Crag for Looking Glass is still on for tomorrow. Bring your rain gear to the shop (our peruse ours) Saturday at 8:00 AM and we will have a good time no matter what the weather does. Although, should we have to cancel, we will post information online and at the store. Looks like good weather to come see all the spring goodies from Mountain Hardwear that just arrived in the shop. The Butter Topper and the Offwidth Jacket are calling my name! Enjoy the weekend!

Looking Glass Outfitters
Climb Globally, Shop Locally


Get Hydrated! Elecrolytes by Nuun!

Having long ago abandoned buying bottled water and sports drinks in favor of sleek, eco friendly alternatives like SIGG and Klean Kanteen, we were delighted to stumble across a new electrolyte alternative called Nuun. Unlike many other sports drinks, this one is not loaded with calories, so your body gets the hydration you are yearning for without the sugar. Whether you are a cyclist, a triathlete, a climber or an avid trailrunner, we would highly recommend giving these addictive little tablets a try, and they are smartly packaged to fit pretty much anywhere. Drop one into 16 oz of water, admire the fizz, and enjoy. They are compact, easy to use, and don't fill up the landfill (or your recycling bin.) It is tough to decide between Tri-Berry or Lemon Lime as to which is tastiest. Come on in the shop and check it out!

Looking Glass Outfitters
Climb Globally, Shop Locally


Access Fund Adopt-A-Crag at Looking Glass

Meet us March 14th at 8:00 am at Looking Glass Outfitters for a day of trail cleanup on the trail to The Nose. Details here.


You Know Your Backpack is Shot When...

It can be difficult to determine the proper fit and lifespan of a backpack. However, this past weekend, Phil and I hoofed up and down the strenuous trail to Laurel Knob laden with a hefty rack and two ropes. Although we keep our rack as light as possible, the hike seemed particularly rough as I realized that my three year old backpack either was loaded with too much weight, or was loaded improperly, or the padding on the hip belt and shoulder straps had effectively died, or a combination of all of the above. The bad news is, I bitterly complained (in my head) the whole way to and from the crag and am still sore a few days later.

When I unloaded Phil's Black Diamond Sphinx from the car, I could tell a huge difference in his newer pack's padding. The good news is, while my backpack may have given me plenty of great memories on the Camino de Santiago and at crags all over the country, it is time for a shiny new one. I do have the satisfaction of knowing I go outside enough to honestly wear through my gear and being certain that my pack has served me well. Here are a few tips for fitting and using your backpack.

1. Breaking In Your Pack
Simply being sore from your backpack may not mean that your backpack is "dead" or fits improperly. I would strongly suggest that you gradually break in a new pack, or rather break yourself in to the pack, particularly if you are planning a long trip with significant loads. While you may be headed to a 500 mile excursion, your body may not be ready to hike long distances with a heavy load. Unless you hike with a fair amount of weight regularly, your body- everything from the skin on your feet to your hips and shoulders- needs to work up to carrying your fully loaded pack solid distances.

2. Don't Overload Yourself
At the Teton Valley Branch of NOLS, where Phil worked in Idaho as an Equipment Specialist for trips into the Bridger-Teton National Forest, The Winds, The Sawtooths, and more, they recommended that hikers carry no more than 15 % of their body weight. Keep an eye out for this rule of thumb to avoid unnecessary strain on your body. A overladen pack can ruin the most beautiful of settings!

3. Pack Smartly
Beyond just trying to keep it light, carefully consider weight distribution as you pack your backpack. A top heavy pack, a poking #4 Camelot, or a swaying trail rope can really alter your balance and put necessary strain on joints and muscles.

Happy Trails from Looking Glass Outfitters! I am off to get fitted for a new pack!

The Season's First Sunburn - Laurel Knob & Looking Glass

Well, after a bizare March snowstorm, nature has flipped an entirely different switch and made the weather utterly fabulous. As last week drew to a close, every outdoor lover was scrambling to get outside to enjoy temps in the 60's and 70's. Viva Spring! Saturday we headed to Laurel Knob, hoping the partly cloudy forecast would make for a perfect jaunt up Fathom. It wasn't to be, as the clouds were nowhere to be found. It was great to be in the sun and have the cliff to ourselves, but after a few pitches, we were truly frying and had to bail. Even if you don't summit Laurel Knob, Panthertown Valley is quite a treat, and Laurel Knob is quite physical just to hike in, climb a little, a hike out, so we were beat Saturday night.

Sunday we (and the crowds) headed to Looking Glass, and had a great time running up Dinkus Dog. The granite was sticky and the breeze was lovely, but I must say, I came home rather pink. Time for sunscreen!

Top Left- Climber on Unfinished Concerto
Top Right- Jessica on Fathom
Bottom- Phil on Dinkus Dog


Approach Shoes versus Hiking Shoes

So you have a day of hiking, scrambling or climbing planned and you are staring at your closet or perusing the internet for your shoe options, wondering which one do I need? As with many gear questions, it really depends on the situation, the terrain, the weather, and your individual tastes and needs. Here are a few rules of thumb that we use:

Is the trail particularly long?
When Jessica hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, she knew she would need a fully supportive hiking boot to get her 500 miles, so she opted with a leather hiking boot with Gore Tex to get her through nearly any possible scenario while hoofing over the Pyrenees and across Spain. While the boot she used is no longer available, she would compare it to the Scarpa Kailash for its versatility when carrying heavier loads and hiking significant distances.

Going Light?
For day hikes along the Art Loeb or long approaches like perhaps Laurel Knob, many pick a light hiker- something lighter than a boot, but more supportive than a sneaker. The Scarpa Oxygen is a good example of this category. Light hiking shoes succeed at keeping your feet happy on days when both the climbs and the approaches are a bit of a marathon, but not carrying a heavy duty multi day camping pack. Many models have mesh uppers, making them perfect for the dog days of summer in Pisgah Forest.

Is the approach Rocky?
When the approach is relatively short and it or the descent includes scrambling, there is no substitute for the stickiness of a true approach shoe. The ingenuity of climbing rubber is a big help when navigating down tricky gullies in places like Yosemite, when half the day seems to be negotiating your way back to the car, or the apron of the Sun Wall at Looking Glass. Many a burly climbing guide can be seen sporting approach shoes like the 5.10 Guide Tennie or the Evolv Escapist not only to the climb, but also up the climb, as they help beginners up moderate routes like The Mummy in Linville Gorge. Approach shoes typically have a pared down design, and can be ideal for stuffing in a Bullet Pack for multipitching.

Of course, some shoes defy conventional categories. Montrail has several hiking "boots" like the Namche and the Hardrock Mid that definitely blur the line between boots and sneakers. These mid hikers are great for those needing a touch more support, but looking to stay light and breathable. Also, the ground-breaking trailrunners from END have been spotted doubling as approach shoes and light hikers on the feet of certain well known climbers. Trail runners are great for travel, giving you the ability to run, hike, tour, and approach in one compact package.

Ultimately, the right shoe or boot for your situation depends on you! To find out what is best for your next adventure, come on in to the shop and we will be happy to find the footwear to get you on the trail!

Looking Glass Outfitters
Pisgah Forest, NC