Showers Pass VelEau, Sierra Designs DriDown Bag; Alchemist’s Heady Topper

Gear: Showers Pass VelEau
If you’ve ever worried that taking your eyes off the road or trail to reach between your legs to grab the water bottle out of your bike’s cage might lead to a situation in which various parts of your body are scattered across the landscape, know that you are not alone in your concern. The VelEau, a unique hydration system created by Showers Pass, aims to prevent a downward-facing face-plant. The VelEau puts your drinking nozzle right by your handlebars. A tube hugs the top tube of your bike with magnets and connects the nozzle to a reservoir that mounts under the back of your saddle. A quick glance (or even feel, once you’re used to it) allows you to find the nozzle with your hand, draw it to your mouth, and then retracting strings and magnets reel it and the tube back to your bike. Although this worked while road biking, I found it to be suboptimal for mountain biking. The drinking tube did not stay in place very well through the jostles of riding over roots and rocks, no matter how I adjusted it. A few other disappointments: the reservoir proves a bit hard to fill, due to the way it sits under the saddle. One must remove the reservoir entirely from its casing, including disconnecting it from the tube, in order to take it to a sink. And, once you take the reservoir out of its holster, it’s tough to get it back in. A quick-release connection between drinking tube and reservoir and an easier way of removing the reservoir from the holster could be simple, yet crucial improvements here. (You’ll have more success filling the reservoir with a garden hose or a pitcher.) Overall, this is a great concept that needs some refining.
$80; Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness, Williston

Gear: Sierra Designs Zissou 30 Degree DriDown Sleeping Bag

Down feathers: one of the best weight-to-warmth ratios of any insulation existing in the outdoors world. In case you don’t already know, one of the main problems that has plagued down since its discovery and extensive use for jackets and sleeping bags is that it becomes worthless when it gets wet (other than for a pillow fight maybe). Fear not, feather-lovers, a solution is at hand! I put this new bag (which contains down insulation with an innovative hydrophobic coating called DriDown) through the wringer … but not before I put it in the bathtub. I gave this thing a real soaking before sacrificing (or so I thought) a night of sleep on a 40-degree night. But, I was astonished. Not only did I not have a single cold moment during the night, but the bag was almost entirely dry by morning (so I actually never had to put it through the wringer). The bag kept me warm, and the heat of my body was enough to dry it. If you have ever tried this with regular down (and I don’t really recommend it), you realize that this advance is quite remarkable. Sierra Designs boasts that DriDown retains 34 percent more loft and 33 percent faster drying when wet, and I believe they may have actually undershot its true capabilities. DriDown leaves down without any competitor, including synthetics like PrimaLoft. No wonder the Sierra Designs Zissou got Outside magazine’s “Gear of the Show” award at the most recent Outdoor Retailer trade show.
$199.95; The Mountain Goat, Manchester; SkiRack, Burlington; EMS, Manchester, Rutland, South Burlington or online at

Beer: Alchemist Heady Topper
This fine brew is not for the faint-of-tongue in any fay, wape, or shorm … sorry … way, shape or form—it’s 8 percent alcohol. Prefaced by a flowery, high-pitched aroma, the hazy wheat-gold liquid and effervescent, lacy head bathes the tongue in hops, hops, and more hops. Yet somehow it remains sweet, well-balanced, and extremely delicious. So delicious, in fact, that this double IPA recently took the title in Seven Days’ Brew Bracket. I poured it into a glass for this testing, but on the can they recommend just drinking it straight to preserve the hoppiness. Also on the can, the brewer himself, local legend John Kimmich states: “Sometimes I wish I could crawl right into the can.” Yeah, I can get with that. This beer isn’t sold everywhere, and where it is carried, it often sells out. Try City Market in Burlington, Hunger Mountain Co-Op in Montpelier, Meulemans’ Craft Drafts in Rawsonville, Manchester Discount Beverage, and a few more locations listed at

Josh Gleiner

Josh Gleiner skis, bikes, hikes, and climbs through the seasons.