Tag Archives: hiking

Unshoes Review – Minimalist Sandals Made in the USA

Unshoes Review

I’ve wanted to do an Unshoes review for some time, and I finally got my hands (feet) on a pair of minimalist Unshoes – super cool river/outdoor sandals made right here in Utah, and I’ve worn them for over a month now – plenty of time for a review. So here goes…

Unshoes Review

I’ve worn sandals, with almost religious zeal, since 1988 – around the time the original Teva sandals gained popularity. I made it about two years with open-toed versions before switching to a version with a toe strap and I’ve never looked back. Not everyone agrees, but I like the toe strap. 


Sometime in the early 90’s, with the Deckers Corporation distributing Teva sandals, some of us river guides had access to the Decker’s flip flop model. I started wearing flip flops and I’m partial to them to this day. I love slipping them on and off. If I’m on a river and worried about flipping a raft (seriously worried) then I just put on shoes. In a big whitewater swim you’re losing your sandals anyway. Big water doesn’t care if you paid a hundred bucks for them, if you know the rep, or how many straps they have. 


After 20 years of wearing flip flops (remember when we could call them “thongs” and not be misunderstood?) I’ve gone through dozens of pairs. Lightweight, beach cruiser ones won’t hold up to even a couple river trips, and all the heavy ones (i’m looking at you Chaco) are way too heavy.

A few years ago I jumped (for better or worse) on the minimalist shoe train, and I’ve been pretty happy with that decision. It’s allowed me to justify buying tons of new sandals and shoes. I even made my own sandals once. My minimalist shoe phase roughly coincided with my “made in the USA” phase, and both are still going strong. I have too many shoes, and I have too many bags made in the USA- most of which I’ve reviewed on YouTube at one point or another. 

Unshoes – the Review

That brings us to my Unshoes review. Unshoes are Minimalist sandals made in the U.S.A. Made in Utah, no less.

I’ve wanted to try out a pair and do an Unshoes review ever since I stumbled across them a few years ago on the internet. They’re based in Cedar City, Utah, they’re lightweight, simple, and they’re mostly affordable. 

For comparison, I’ve worn a combination of Luna Sandals and Chaco’s “Flip” sandal (flip flop) for the last few years. I also have the blown foam (?) Birkenstocks that I like for kicking around the yard – I call them “Birkencrocs” because while they look like the Birkenstock Arizona model, they’re just an expensive version of a Croc

From Unshoes I ordered the Wakova Feather model. It’s a lightweight sandal with a grippy sole, webbing upper, and a small elastic ring with a little “give” to make slipping them on and off a little easier.

Unshoes Elastic

They’re adjustable with a ladder lock buckle, although I pretty much adjusted them once and forgot about the buckle. This was my experience with the Luna sandals too – they have a buckle for adjustment, but I find myself rarely using it. Once the Unshoes are fitted and comfortable, there’s enough give in the system to just slip them on or off without really having to adjust the strap further. I like that. Futzing with buckles is a pain. 


I found them to be little “slappy” on the feet for the first couple days, but that went away as they broke in. The footbed is a little more solid or resilient than the Luna model I’ve been wearing for the last couple summers, so break-in has taken a little longer, but the Unshoes conform to my feet a little more each day I wear them, and they’re getting more and more comfortable. 

I’ve worn them on hikes, around town, and through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. I’ve even worn them in the mud, and while no sandal is ideal for deep, sticky, mud, I thought they did alright. I walked with care and when the mud got real deep I took them off – which I’d do with any sandal I don’t want to lose. 


As far as weight goes, to compare anything to the old Luna sandals I have is almost unfair – in fact, I can’t even compare my Lunas to anything Luna currently offers – the closest thing they have on their site to the model I have is the “Mono” – which is a Vibram Moreflex sole that’s 11 mm thick. They list the weight as 5.9 oz per sandal – the pair I have weights 6.8 oz – that’s the pair. Together. My old pair weighs only slightly more than a single current sandal. (On a very relevant side rant – it’s ironic that a guy who proudly calls himself “Barefoot Ted” is now the owner of a sandal company – a sandal company that every year comes out with heavier and more complex models. I’m all for success but the “barefoot” ideal seems to have been sacrificed along the way.) 


If the Unshoes bear a resemblance to the Lunas, it’s in the lacing/suspension/strap configuration. The main strap rides between the big toe and over the foot, almost like a traditional flip flop, but then it’s connected to the side straps. While the Luna design opts for a simple loop and wrap around the outsole, Unshoes opts for a more traditional route using a sewed side strap that’s bound between the two sole components with glue. At first glance users might think the stitching a better option, assuming it’ll hold up longer than the Luna design that has the potential to rub on the ground during use, but I’ve found the Luna wrap method has lasted quite long, and, in fact, seems hardly worn at all. Unshoes’ method of stitching does make the portion of strap that rides near the users’ ankle a little thinner, and possibly more comfortable, depending on personal preference. I can’t really say I like one more than the other – they’re just different. 

If the current Luna Mono weighs 5.9 oz for a single sandal, then that makes the pair together weigh 11.8 oz. Which means they weigh in at 2 oz more than the Unshoes Wokova Feather model I have. I originally thought the Unshoes were a little heavy compared to my old Lunas, but compared with current offerings in the fall of 2017, Unshoes are among the lightest sandals you can get your hands (feet) on. That’s a plus in my book. 


It’s a plus because anytime you wear a thin, soft, well-designed sandal for a length of time and then go back to the Chaco “Flip” (flip-flop) you realize that wearing a Chaco is somewhat like strapping a HumVee to your feet and going for a hike. Sure, they’re heavy enough to hold up to just about anything, but, like with a HumVee, there’s a trade off in groundfeel, comfort, and flexibility/freedom. I like the Chaco flip flops for getting the mail or shoveling the driveway in winter, but not for hiking. They’re too heavy. Way too heavy. My Chacos weigh more than my Unshoes and my old Lunas combined. 

Unshoes Review – the video


I had the opportunity to visit the Unshoes factory and meet with the owner Terral. It was a great experience and it’s always fun to meet the folks behind gear I like. They’re a passionate crew who genuinely cares about their product. Terral even showed me the first pair of sandals he made. 

You can check out more of a vlog-style video I shot of our visit to the factory here:

Unshoes are great sandals. Although they take a little longer to break in than something with a softer footbed, they’re lightweight, comfortable, relatively easy to slip on, and they’re made in the USA. That’s about everything  I look for in a sandal. They’re also considerably cheaper than Lunas. 


  • lightweight
  • easy(ish) to slip on
  • Made in USA
  • grippy
  • toe strap


  • stiff footbed lengthens break-in 

Do you have a favorite sandal? A lightweight one? Do you know anyone that makes a durable, comfortable flip-flop? Why are you still wearing Chacos? Let me know in the comments below!


Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack Review

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack Review and Video

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack Review

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

Recently a buddy left his daypack at my place. Because it’s made in the USA, I couldn’t resist the temptation to review it. It’s called the Two Bit klettersack by Ogden Made. Ogden Made is a Utah-based company that has a modest range of gear from hats and t-shirts, to accessory bags and messenger bags. All the bags are made in the USA, and seem to share a simple yet functional design. ( I really want the Camo Snap-Back…)

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

The Two Bit Klettersack is a top-loader design with metal closure hardware to secure the top pocket/flap. There’s two water bottle pockets (one on either side), and an access zipper that allows access to the lower half of the main compartment. The water bottle pockets are on the smallish side, and definitely eat into the interior of the pack. The access compartment, although not really large, opens easily and provides welcome access to what you want – which, in a top-loading pack, is always at the bottom. Every. Single. Time.

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

The measurements on the Ogden Made website add up to make this bag measure somewhere around 33 liters. It’s not really anywhere near that big. As far as comparable daypacks go, I’d say this slots in around the same size as the Topo Designs Mountain Pack, which I reviewed here. The Two Bit Klettersack really wears more like it’s a regular sized 23-26 liter daypack.

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

The computer compartment is accessible from the side zipper so users don’t have to access the top flap to get at the laptop. The back padding and straps are adequate for a pack of this size and not too padded. The straps are flat and wide, which I like.

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

Ogden Made also offers a camera module called the Monte that fits in the zippered access panel at the bottom of the pack. On the website it seems to swallow a modest amount of camera gear and still allow reasonable access. It’s a feature I’d like to try out at some point. It’d be interesting to see how much I like it over several months.

The Ogden Made bag seems like a valiant early effort from a Utah-based company trying to keep manufacturing here in the US, which I admire. I don’t really love the metal hardware for the top flap, finding it finicky and not that easy to engage. It’s not awful, and I agree it’s a welcome departure from the long-standing tradition of ITW Nexus side release buckles, but I which they were easier to use. The Two Bit Klettersack is a decent pack. I wouldn’t call it on par with some other, more refined bags; it falls a little short when compared to some of Topo Designs more recent offerings, or any of the GoRuck bags, but it’s a great start. It actually reminds me a little of the first Topo Designs daypack I owned, and Topo has really matured and refined their packs over the last few years. I hope Ogden Made can experience the same level of refinement and growth. It’s always good to get my hands on some gear made in the USA.

Check out the video below for a better look at the features and check out my Strayfoto YouTube channel for more made in USA stuff and daypack / luggage reviews.

Topo Designs Mountain Pack Review and Video

Topo Designs Mountain Pack Review

I picked up the Topo Designs Mountain Pack a few weeks ago (it was a gift actually) and I’ve been hauling it around every day. It’s a decent medium size daypack. I like the bright colors, and I like the main compartment access from the zippered front panel.


I usually carry a water bottle, a book, a jacket and a first aid kit when I’m out guiding and driving tours, and occasionally I’ll add a camera to the mix. The Topo Mountain Pack has held up well and been comfortable to wear. I think I could easily overpack it and it’d morph into a cylinder and be lame to carry, but as long as I’m careful it’s not too bad.


Like I say in the video review, I think the top panel closure is a little difficult to manipulate. I see these types of closures on lots of bags now, and while I think they look great, they’re a little more difficult to work than the good old-fashioned side release buckles. The shoulder straps too are a departure from some of the older Topo Designs bags I’ve had, and I like the earlier models a little more. The shoulder straps on the older models are actually thinner and a little more comfortable.


The Topo Mountain Pack is great backpack for folks that want a daypack that can do most stuff and still be fun to use. The laptop compartment isn’t anywhere near the level of protection offered by GoRuck, but it’s adequate for careful use. Topo Designs bills the Mountain Pack as as “one pack that can do it all.” I find that the Topo Designs can do just about everything well except be adapted for hydration bladder. A hydration bladder would easily fit in the laptop compartment and really allow this bag to go from travel to campus to the mountains seamlessly. I don’t know why most of their daypacks don’t have this feature. It’s a feature that GoRuck has incorporated into the outstanding GR1, and Topo could easily add this feature to truly make this “one pack that can do it all.”


Other than the lack of a method of putting a bladder in the bag, I really like it. It’s (according to the Topo Designs website) 21.5 Liters and about 11X17X7 inches.

Check out the video above and leave any comments about the bag or let me know if there’s any other bags you’d like to see reviewed.


REI Flash 22 Lightweight Backpack Review and Video

REI FLash 22 Lightweight Backpack Review


Check out the video review or keep reading for the old fashioned way… Thanks.

I’ve got daypacks, klettesacks, backpacks, knapsacks, shoulder bags, messenger bags, laptop bags and camera bags, but I never, for some reason, seem to have the perfect bag for any one thing. A few years ago Leah and I bought a couple REI Flash 18 backpacks for some light trail running. They’re good little bags, they hold a water bladder plus a little food and some light clothing. Perfect, right? No. Because I lost mine. Sure, maybe I loaned it someone or someone borrowed it without asking and never returned it… I don’t know. It’s gone. That much I do know. As much as I love Topo Deisgns bags, none of them are really lightweight and none of them are set up to accommodate a water bladder. I’m usually fine with a water bottle on a hike, but if I’m running I like to have a bladder. It’s easier to access and easier to carry and often it’s lighter once it’s empty – it certainly takes up less room once it’s empty than a water bottle does.


At any rate I started shopping around. Bad idea. Now I’m pretty sure in the not too distant future I’ll have a Nathan’s Vest and an Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 in addition to the REI Flash 22 I ordered. I settled on the REI Flash 22 mainly because of price. It’s cheap. Not necessarily cheaply made, but it’s certainly an affordable bag. I ordered it from REI as a year end closeout and got it for about $38.00. Much cheaper than anything Ultimate Direction is offering.


I waffled back and forth between the REI Flash 18 and the Flash 22 for a little while – the 18 was even cheaper than the 22, but I’d had it (and secretly I hoped (still hope?) that I’d find it again) and decided I wanted a little more room in the pack department. The 18 is (I believe) so named because its capacity is ~18 liters, and the 22 is ~22 liters, so it’s a little larger. Also I was hoping for something that’d do double duty as stuffable, but full-featured daypack for travel. I wanted something that I could put a bladder in and go for a run, but that I could roll up and stuff in a larger bag to travel with – kind of a destination backpack that wouldn’t take up as much room or weigh as much as the 1000 Denier Cordura Topo Deisgns Pack that I usually take with me.


I originally ordered the gray Flash 22, but only because the black was out of stock. I’ve got a thing for black bags. Most of my bags are black and I wanted one that matched. No luck though, as the closeouts were only available in gray. I ordered the gray one and a couple days later I noticed the black one was back on the sale list so I ordered it as well. My original thought was that I’d just return the gray one and keep the black one. I was quite surprised a week later when the black one was going back – not the gray one.


The gray one is so much easier to look inside. One can open the top of the bag and actually see the contents. The black one is dark enough to qualify as a black hole. Anything you have in the bag will never escape the event horizon of it’s mouth – not due to gravity but simply because you won’t ever be able to find anything in the dark. After looking inside both bags (a feature that I tried to show in the above video) I opted to keep the gray one.


It’s a good bag. It’s lightweight, it’s easy to use, and it fits well. It doesn’t bounce too much when running, but it’s not as secure as an ultrarunning style race vest would be. I’ve run with my Camelbak bladder about half full and while I find the sloshing noise annoying, it’s secure enough. The main compartment holds a jacket and some camera gear – enough to keep me reasonably happy. It’s a decent lightweight daypack at an affordable price. I tend to prefer stuff that costs five times as much, comes with some pseudo-ethos and is made in the USA, but this is essentially just what I was looking for, and it was cheap.


Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Long Term Topo Designs Daypack Review

Topo Designs Daypack Long-term Review

I’ve added a second (much better) video review of the Topo Designs Daypack and it’s it’s up now on my strayfoto Youtube Channel, also embedded here:

Keep reading for the good, old fashioned, text and photo review.


I bought the Topo Designs Daypack in the summer of 2011, and I’ve used it almost every day since. I’ve hiked, run, traveled, and ridden motorcycles with it. It’s carried clothes, water bottles, jackets and the occasional tick with style. Not only is it my current favorite backpack, it’s one of my favorite bags of all time.

Topo Designs Daypack The Topo Designs Daypack is sleek, somewhat minimalist, and only medium-sized. The shoulder straps are wide and comfortable but not thickly padded. The back padding too is thin but adequate and comfortable. It’s not bulky at all. The pack itself is big enough to carry everything you think you need, but small enough to make sure you don’t take any more than that.

Topo Designs Daypack

I’ve owned a ton of backpacks over the years. I’ve owned ones with too many pockets, ones with not enough pockets, and everywhere in between. I’ve owned lots with too many straps. The made in the USA Topo Designs Daypack is the right combination just a few straps and bomber design.

Daypack backpack If I have a complaint – I do occasionally wish it came with a provision for carrying a bladder/hydration system. Especially when riding a motorcycle. I’m usually a water bottle type hiker, and don’t mind taking a break to enjoy the scenery, take some photos, and fish some water out of the pack. But with a helmet on, a hydration system and a hose makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t change anything other than a slot in the top for a hose to pass through. I suppose I could add my own, but like I said, it’s a small complaint.strayfoto

Topo Designs Daypack

If you look close you’ll notice I’ve actually posted photos of two different Topo Designs daypacks. The first one I ordered was an early model with steel hardware. I wasn’t happy with how much the shoulder straps slipped while hiking or running. I contacted Topo Designs and they replaced it immediately with a newer model with plastic hardware (I think they all come with plastic hardware now) that slips much less (not at all, really). If you look closely, you’ll notice the replacement pack has an upside-down logo, and we’ve often joked that makes it much more rare and valuable. Either way, it functions well and gets used daily.

rucksack daypack

When I travel with the backpack, I usually carry my laptop and accessories in the bag, and then use it as a normal rucksack once I get where I’m going and I’m able to leave my computer behind.



I actually own three Topo Designs Bags. In addition to the daypack, I’ve got the Mini-Mountain Bag (which I review HERE) and the duffel, which I like as well. Everything I have from Topo Designs is well-made, well-designed, comfortable to carry and, above all else, functional. I’ve had some people notice the somewhat “retro” look of the bag – I’d argue it’s more classic/functional than retro. Its made to work, and it’s design is simply dictated by its function. It’s not “retro” it’s classic. It’s classic because it works, and it works well.


Below is a short video walkthrough of the backpack. Thanks for looking, and be sure to check out my reviews of the Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag, and the Topo Designs Field Bag, which I use as a great little camera bag. I’ve also just added a review and video of the Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase as well. 




I’ve written and illustrated two children’s books that are now available in print and digital versions; Coyote Life, and The Cat’s Glasses. If you’ve got kids, check them out. If you enjoy them, please leave a review, tell your friends, etc. Thanks.

The Cat's Glasses

Kid’s Books: The Cat’s Glasses

Does your cat need glasses? How do you know? Follow one little boy as he tries to find out in The Cat’s Glasses by Quinn Hall

Find out more on MagCloud

Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Kid’s Books: Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Coyote Life is a short, rhyming children’s book about coyotes in the Southwest.

Find out more on MagCloud


Don’t forget to check out some of the fine art prints for sale in my Etsy shop.


My wife Leah also makes and sells some pretty cool leather stuff like minimalist wallets and camera straps. Check out her Etsy store for some cool gear. minimalist leather handstitched walletCamera Strap by Aestus Gear

Photography T Shirts and Stickers at Redbubble:

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