Gear Review – KEEN Newport Pants

A month ago I signed up to be a “wear tester” for KEEN’s new line of pants (full disclosure, I get a free pair of shoes and socks out of the deal).  The goal of the testing program is to wear the pants doing the things you do and report back on how they fared.  Well, they fared pretty darn well.

The first thing you notice when trying them on is that they don’t slide on easily.  The reason is that the legs aren’t straight like every other pant I’ve ever owned.  Instead, they are shaped like, well, like legs.  From day one they feel like they are broken in and contoured to your body.


Another feature of their construction is a gusseted crotch.  For my first big test of the pants (and specifically the crotch part!) I wore them to help out with my son’s flag football practice.  They needed a designated snapper, so the pants got a good workout.  For pants that aren’t baggy or spandex, I was really happy with their performance.

The next test was a combo: work + climbing.  The work part is easy – not much challenge for a pair of pants when I basically just stand at my computer all day.  The key takeaway though, it’s nice to have pants that look good at work and then can be worn right to the climbing gym.

My cousin and I have been meeting once a week at a gym near my work, and it’s been great.  The problem is that I am not great, so my legs have been knocked about pretty good.  And I did it again – I ground my knee into a rock.  But the pants were unscathed.  The pants move like loose sweatpants, but are much tougher and not sweaty.

One of the nice attributes of these pants is big pockets.  I like that the thigh pockets don’t stick out from the leg of the pant like cargo pants, but they are still big enough to fit a bottle of water.  One of the thigh pockets is zippered, which is nice for securing a cell phone.  The regular front and back pockets are also unusually deep.  I have pants with front pockets that coins and keys fall out of when I sit in the car – never going to happen with these pants.

tentFor the ultimate test, I wore my KEENs on a Boy Scout camping trip…where I was in charge of the kitchen.  After the Saturday night Thanksgiving feast I looked down at the pants and they were pretty trashed.  But like when climbing, the pants weren’t at all scuffed up in the places where I had scraped against an oven door or other kitchen perils.  The pants took everything I could throw at them.

What would I change?  I’m not much of a logo guy – and there are three.  I’m good with the K on the knee – kinda cool.  But the back pocket and center back belt loop are also branded, it’s enough already.

One other beef: I’m an odd number waist size (33).  KEEN’s not the only pant manufacturer to skip odd numbers – but it means I have to wear a belt.  OK, true confessions, the day after Thanksgiving gluttony they fit just right without the belt :roll:.  Hopefully the demand for these pants will encourage KEEN to offer them in a wider assortment of sizes…and I’d buy!

Cost: $95


Mini-Review: With the amount of trail running I do, I blow out the big toes of my socks a lot.  The KEEN socks that I’ve been wearing are individually Left/Right shaped, so it feels like with the extra room in the big toe of these socks will fix this problem.  Somebody remind me in a year, and I’ll write update on how they held up 😛

Mini-Review: Gutr

Hi, my name is Mike, and I’m a sweater.
No really, I sweat a lot. And one of my pet peeves is crap on my sunglasses – and there’s nothing worse than a nice big dribble of salty sweat on sunglasses. This has driven me to try lots of headbands.

On the bike I’m a fan of the Halo headband, but it’s pretty thick (maybe ‘wide’ is a better word), and it gets pretty saturated. Enter, the Gutr. It’s basically a silicone(?) headband with a profile shape of a ‘J’. The theory is that your sweat will collect in the gutter, and drip out the sides. Since it’s essentially just a strip of rubber, it doesn’t absorb any sweat at all, but rather channels the sweat to the side of your head.

In practice, I haven’t seen the bottom of the gutter get wet – I presume because the long part of the J isn’t laying flat against my face. BUT, I do feel the sweat dripping off the sides, and I have had clean sunglasses since using the Gutr.

One situation where I’ve had drips is when messing with my shoes out on the trail. Looking down can allow the sweat to pour over the top of the Gutr. When I remember, I first run for a few steps looking up into the sky – to empty out any pooled up sweat – and then lean down to do whatever. I tried the Gutr when I was on a bike trainer, and found that I’m too prone to glancing down (generally to check gearing), and I got a few ‘spills’. So for the bike, I’ll probably stick with the Halo.

Aesthetically, the Gutr is pretty understated (though they do have a camo version if you want to express your inner warrior!). It’s only about a 1/4″ wide. And in case you are wondering, it does NOT have to be super tight to work.

Cost: $16

Mini-Review: Snap+Map for iPhone

This is a helpful app for finding yourself in a map. For example, if you’re at a large zoo you can take a photo of their park map, then calibrate the app by dropping two points on it at known spots in the park (say, the main entrance and the front of the monkey cage). From then on, the app can show your position in the map.

Maybe a zoo wouldn’t be too much or a challenge, but how about a large ski resort? This morning I downloaded a PDF version of the trail map for Fremont Older preserve – a favorite trail running area of mine. I extracted an image of the map and mailed it to myself (easy way to get a photo to an iPhone). The Snap+Map app can use an existing photo, so it imported it and I was off. I ran to two easily identifyable spots (tops of hills) and dropped my two “Snap Points”. I continued my run, and stopped at a couple of other known spot, and checked the map – it showed me pretty close to where I was, within 100 feet.

When I got home I added another map, but used GPS coordinates printed on the map and hand entered the Snap Points. Since this task only has to be performed once (well, at least once per edition of the map!) I don’t mind spending the 10 minutes.

I also used their Upload feature, and sent my maps to their service – so others will be able to just use a pre-calibrated map. I can foresee maps of common tourist attractions (Disneyland, etc.) being readily available as more people use the app.

Of course, this app is IN NO WAY a substitute for a paper map, general navigation skills, and situational awareness. I wouldn’t download someone else’s map of a large trail run area and trust that I’d be able to find my way.

Cost: $1.99