Let's Keep It Really, Really, Real
And Drop Some Disclaimers In Here Too
So, yeah, let’s be real. There are zero parts of me that started this blog, an Instagram or a Facebook page in order to get free stuff. Everyone who knows me knows I’m cheap. So yeah, I’m not going to argue with free stuff, but it’s just not part of my M.O.
When a company called KÜHL reached out to me in December (a first, by the way) offering some free gear for me to test on trail and write up a review, I honestly laughed out loud. I double checked to make sure I wasn’t accidentally in my Junk folder. I actually almost deleted it. But they knew my real name, they knew my email address and even referenced my website. I decided to take a risk. Why the heck not, right?
You Can Find These KÜHL Cats At Their Social Accounts, Right Here:
I emailed the nice lady, Lateefa, and was surprised when she emailed me back. It was a personal email, not a cut-and-paste job that I’ve now become accustomed to from other companies. This was the real deal. They were trying to promote their new pants to the hiking community and wanted to send me two free pair. And, on top of that, Lateefa said, I was free to search their website and pick two additional items that I’d be interested in testing out.
So there we have the disclaimer stuff – they’ve sent me this stuff free, in exchange for a review of their product. Even Lateefa in the email was clear – make it an honest review. If there are problems with the product, they’d like to know so they can improve. I think I can handle that.
Let me say too, I’m not the kinda guy to give star ratings. They make no sense to me. My 3 out of 5 might not be equal to your 4.6 out of 11. Right? I’m just going to tell it straight – is the product worth it or not, based on cost vs. what it offers me. Simple.
I Learn From The Documentaries I Watch
Like This Old One From The 90s, Wayne's World
In just the two short months since KÜHL reached out to me, my online following has grown a whole bunch and I’ve learned just how many companies will throw their product at you. And stuff that doesn’t even make sense. I’m trying to keep it simple. I’m a hiker. I love any gear or clothing that’s going to make hiking better and easier for me. But still, I need to draw the line somewhere. And free t-shirts, “valued at $150”, from weird chic designer companies who email me telling me they’ve checked out my IG page and “love my style” is just not something I’m in to. Ask my wife. I have no style. I’ve been wearing the same clothing since we’ve been together. And that’s almost a decade. Jeans and tshirts is all I need. But, if it pertains to me and makes my hikes and rock climbing adventures easier or more comfortable, let’s do it!
I'm Still Not A Believer
So, I run this whole thing by Johnny Mountaintop. I ask him to pick out one of the items. Not just because I’m not greedy, but because I feel like I’ve already got everything I need. And we’re a team. Well, and because having a second person reviewing product may be better than just one. At least in my head.
But I’m still not even convinced this whole thing is real. I send the email off with each of my & JM’s selections and put it out of my head. Three weeks later – BAM! – package arrives! Two pair of pants and the jacket for me (I was actually pumped for the coat, I’ve needed a lightweight, down-filled coat and was too cheap to buy one) and a really nice Merino Wool zip up shirt for Mr. Mountaintop
For me, it couldn’t have been better timing. Our team was planning a sunrise hike up Azure Mountain just after Christmas. And Lauren and I were travelling to Bali a few days later, which was going to include a very cool sunrise hike of Mt. Batur, a volcano in Indonesia. I’d be able to test the jacket and pants in sub-freezing temperatures and tropical, hot-as-balls temperatures within about ten days of each other.
Because I Haven't Promoted It Enough Yet
In case you haven’t had a chance yet to see that video of Lauren and I climbing Mt. Batur – with me wearing both my Spyfire jacket and Liberator pants – I’ll leave it right here. One last time. I swear. Enough of the shameless self-promotion already! Shut the eff up and tell you whether the products are any good or not, geez!
Here We Go: The Spyfire Jacket
What KÜHL Has To Say About It
- Seven Different Colors
- Sizes range from S to XXL
- Three Unique Fabrics
- 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex
- 100% Goose Down Filled; Non-force-fed, not “live-plucked”
And What I Have To Say
- I went with the Blackout color, duh
- I usually wear Medium and the Medium was a perfect fit; I’m 6ft, 180lbs
- The different fabrics make a huge difference in breathability and warmth
- I appreciate the down fill being humanely sourced; that’s your call whether you care or not, but you should
So, Is It Worth It?
The Spyfire jacket retails for $229US, or $279US in the Hoodie version. In Canada, where I live, only the Hoodie version of the jacket is available on the website and retails for $340. One thing I’ve noticed since joining the hiking community is this: hikers and outdoorsmen/women are willing to pay good money IF the product is built well, sourced well and lasts through whatever the elements can throw at it.
I’m inclined to say the jacket is probably a little expensive when you see that price tag initially. But I am also inclined to say it’s put together well, does the trick in the backcountry (so far) and is the comfiest jacket I’ve hiked in. If this jacket lasts me a handful of years, being beat up on trail, I’d lean towards saying the cost is worth it, but can understand if it’s outside your budget.
The Spyfire is loaded with pockets – two hand pockets, two chest pockets,a sleeve pocket and an internal pocket. At first, I thought this was overkill. Then I hiked in it and was happy they were there. A snack and your phone in the chest pockets leaves the hand pockets free to warm up your digits. I love the little flap placed over the main zipper, since I’m that kid who loves to test out how cold it is by putting my tongue on the metal – this thing prevents that. And I appreciate it. All of the pockets and the jacket itself feature Reverse Coil Zippers. I have no idea what that means, but I do know they are smooth, sturdy and quiet for a zipper. So, there’s that.
One of the best features is the different fabrics along the neckline and in the armpits, designed for stretchability and breathability. Both are nice touches and actually breathe really well. And I sweat a lot, right Johnny? Apparently the fabric is tear resistant too, but I haven’t snagged it on anything yet, so who knows.
Since I’ve only been hiking a couple years now, I haven’t really gotten in to the “Ultralight” gear thing. I can’t be bothered to switch gear out (yet) because it weighs 1oz less than another similar product. But I am definitely impressed by how lightweight this jacket is and how tiny it can fold up when I take it off to pack it away.
All in all, feature wise, I’m also going with worth it.
I may not have a ton of experience yet. But this jacket has been awesome in the cold and the warm. And both on its own and as part of layering system. If it’s within your budget, I’d say it’s worth it. Can you get something similar a little cheaper? Likely, yes, but maybe with some of the nice-touch features missing.
Up Next: Liberator Convertible Pant
What KÜHL Has To Say About Them
- Stealth zip-off system
- 5 pockets: 2 standard pockets, back pocket, hidden pocket on one leg and a cool cell phone pocket
- Fabric 1: DRYPOINT™: 77% Nylon /23% Cotton: combed, peached, super sueded for softness
- Fabric 2: 84% Poly 16% Spandex
And What I Have To Say
- Best zippers I’ve seen on a convertible pant, they look super hidden while wearing the pants
- Yes, there are 5 pockets. I find the hidden pocket a little overkill, but the cell phone pocket super handy
- As for fabrics – stats aside, they breathe well, repel water well and are easy to clean
Are The Liberators Worth It?
The Liberator Convertible Pants retail for $95US. They are not available on the Canadian website, tho there are similar pants at a similar price point. For me, before I’d gotten into hiking, I would’ve laughed at you if you rang me up a pair of pants at over $100. But, I get it now. Comfort, functionality, durability – it all counts. This one is a personal call, I think, for each person. This seems to be a pretty standard price point for these kind of pants. They’re multi-function for me already, having hiked and done some indoor rock climbing with them. Considering this, I’d likely say the price is worth it, but I wouldn’t be willing to pay any more than this.
The number of pockets feel pretty standard for a hiking pant, with the exception of the stealthy, hidden pocket on the right leg. It’s a great stash place for your keys, your wallet or, like me, your passport in a water-proof bag.
Truly, we all know that pants that turn in to shorts have always looked kinda goofy. Because the zippers on the legs always stick out like a sore thumb. It’s the pant leg equivalent to that spot near your crotch on jeans that makes it look like you’ve got a boner. (Yeah, that’s right, I just said boner in a product review. Companies, hit me up!) The best thing about these convertible pants – no sore-thumb-lookin’ zipper bulges here. The pants appear to be whole while wearing them. Bonus – this means I can also wear them out to dinner as “dress up” pants.
The extra stretch in the knees make these a great choice for rock climbers too. Tight pants on the wall can really make some of those moves difficult, but the extra slack here helps you out.
Honestly, it’s hard to review pants. The plentiful pockets are sweet. The zippers work well. They’re nice and warm, yet still breathe really well. Also, they are pretty lightweight for a pant with so many zippers. But again, I’m no Ultralight hiker. And they do convert in to shorts as best as any pair of pants I’ve ever seen. If that does it for you, that’s your answer I suppose. I’m going with worth it for myself, but again, I think they’ve maxed out their price point, I wouldn’t pay more than the current price.
I’m going with worth it, but just barely for me. They run a little close to my breaking point for pants budget. But, the pants/shorts combo pays off for those days when it’s warm down below, but cool at the summit. And the stealth pocket is a nice addition to keep my passport in, considering we hike mostly across international borders. If the price is a little steep and those features don’t tickle your fancy, I could understand the Liberators not being worth it for you.
Jokes Aside, Thank You KÜHL
Despite the fact that I prefer to write from a funny, sarcastic tone, this company still sent me hundreds of dollars worth of free clothing to test out. They asked for an honest review. But that was like 6 weeks ago. They haven’t pressured me to hurry up, they’ve been nothing short of awesome to deal with. I’ll always remember that KÜHL was the first company to reach out offering to help out Joe Wilderness. Thanks to KÜHL and a special shoutout to Lateefa, whom I’ve been dealing with through email.
Is This Review Too Long Already?
Or Can Johnny Mountaintop Get A PS Thrown In Here?
Johnny Mountaintop wore this Merino Wool 1/4 zip up shirt on our sunrise hike of Azure Mountain shortly after Christmas. Below are his brief comments on the shirt. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget you can get your own KÜHL gear at their website, right here.