Venture: Gear Review

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Brand: Merrell

Product: Moab Gore-Tex XCR

Price: $95

Available: The Outdoor Source, 3124 Kingsdale Center in Upper Arlington,

More info:

These shoes felt pretty good at the store, so I thought there was something wrong with my feet when they started to ache between miles two and five of an intro test hike. We're talking heel fatigue, arch pain and general discomfort.

Turns out, they just take way longer than normal to break in. And anyone with high arches should also invest in Dr. Scholl's Adjustable Arch Pain Relief insoles ($13 for two), which integrate well with these shoes.

From mile 20 onward, this has been the best pair of trail shoes I've ever owned.

A deep Vibram sole gives excellent traction, while a Gore-Tex lining makes them completely waterproof - two crucial elements for four-season hikers. They're tough, attractive, durable and eventually very comfortable.

Brand: Coleman

Product: 4L Hydration Waist Pack

Price: $25

Available: Target, multiple locations,

More info:

They're not always the hippest hiking gear, but waist packs (OK, fanny packs) are quite useful on day hikes when you don't want to shoulder weight or have pants pockets clanking around.

This medium-sized model has a main storage compartment with three zippered pockets and two holsters for 16-ounce water bottles, which are included. What's great is that the wide waist belt attaches to the satchel part at two points, hugging weight close to your body. This maximizes comfort and minimizes pouch movement and toppling.

The pack's great for holding water, snacks, camera and notebook on longer walks. Most recently, I've swung it around to the front and used it for fly fishing. It nicely fits and organizes two fly boxes, four tippet spools, nippers, forceps and a bunch of small gadgets.

Brand: Hurley

Product: Puerto Rico Men's Boardshorts

Price: $49

Available: Pacific Sunwear, multiple locations,

More info:

Those who have never tried on an amazing pair of board shorts tend to think that they're all the same. As long as they cover the unmentionables in a swift breeze, everything's just dandy, right?

Wrong. They can hang wrong, chafe your thighs, repeatedly come untied and lose their shape.

Hurley, a trusted name among surfers and other aquatic adventurers, raised the bar with this model. All the above problems have been mastered with smooth, ergonomic design, wonderfully soft interior lining and a strong, no-elastic waist.

And here's the kicker: a gusseted fly. Instead of the typical Velcro closure - which bunches uncomfortably and usually wears out - this suit employs a soft, thin fabric flap that hides nicely once you tighten the front string. It's genius.

New on the Ohio Adventure Map: Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

A collection of small lakes, marshes and fields, Pickerington Ponds Metro Park is a great place to picnic, sit quietly, watch birds and let your dog off his leash.

Instead of the longer, wooded hikes at Highbanks or Sharon Woods, the park's four distinct areas offer open spaces, great views and free spotting scopes to watch nesting birds and migratory waterfowl flying through.

Arrowhead Marsh, Ellis Pond and Blue Wing Pond each attract a good number of rarer species like wood ducks, hooded mergansers and canvasbacks. Just across the street from the naturalist office, ospreys man a hack nest on stilts over the water.

If you're looking just to eat lunch outside, the Glacier Knoll Picnic Area to the north has a bunch of tables in the shade.