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Review: 4 outdoor products for winter

Posted January 21

THE GREAT OUTDOORS — The winter sports season is in full force and the ski resorts have been getting solid snowfall, creating excellent powder opportunities. Overall, our state’s snowpack is about 130 percent of normal, which is much better than last year.

Whatever your passion, this is a great time to get outside and enjoy nature. Crowds are usually smaller, or even nonexistent, at many popular destinations during winter. You can experience new terrain created by the amazing snowfall and savor the solitude while you’re at it.

Yukon Charlie’s Pro II Snowshoes

PRICE: $139

GRADE: A

These rugged snowshoes are perfect for backcountry conditions. The lightweight 6000 aluminum rocker frames are made with a unique frame-bending process that renders them rigid and tough. These are actually the strongest frames made by Yukon Charlie’s, easily accommodating up to 250 pounds.

For many winter adventurers, it’s the bindings that make or break a pair of snowshoes. The Pro II has an “easy pull” system that definitely lives up to the name. The bindings will work with just about any shoes or boots, and the oversized release is accessible even when you’re wearing gloves.

As for traction, these snowshoes have forged steel crampons that deliver impressive bite. There’s also an integrated heel lift and rear heel plate system designed to improve your balance and reduce calf strain.

L.L. Bean Sonic Snow Tube

PRICE: $109

GRADE: A

If you’ve ever been tubing at Gorgoza Park, the Utah Olympic Park or any other lift-assisted hills, you know that the tubes they use are much tougher than normal. Given the beating they take on a daily basis, these tubes have to be rugged enough to last for years.

The pro-grade Sonic Snow Tube was originally designed for this kind of use at commercial tubing parks. It has a semi-rigid polyethylene base that slides effortlessly on either powder or packed snow, and can handle years of heavy-duty use. And there’s a built-in tow strap that lets you pull it back up the hill.

Weighing in at about 10 pounds, this tube is seriously a brute. The rugged inner tube is encased with a 1,000-denier nylon shell to guard against punctures. So, yes, you can take this tube on the kind of hazard-filled hills that always seem to be the most fun to ride.

Treksta Alter Ego Star Shoes

PRICE: $110

GRADE: A-

For starters, the Alter Ego Star delivers awesome traction. It’s got a HyperGrip sole that really grips surfaces and keeps you stable. At the same time, the sole is thin enough to deliver ample “ground feel.” These trail runners have a foot cradling system that Treksta calls NestFIT, which accounts for the contours of your feet for a really snug fit. The midsole is of the “barely there” variety, accounting for the dainty weight and ample ground feel.

The uppers have minimal stitching, giving the shoes a sleek look and also increasing the support they deliver to your upper foot. The woven mesh uppers keep your feet cool and allow for easy drying. The tongue is also minimalistic, which is nice for the overall weight, but might cause a little discomfort for some runners.

Outdoor runners who prefer to feel the terrain they’re traversing will definitely love these Treksta shoes. For those who want a more substantial sole and less contact with the ground, you’ll probably want to think again.

HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 PT Fish Finder

PRICE: Varies by retailer

GRADE: A-

This powerful new fish finder from Humminbird gives you all the features you’d expect from a high-end model, but now in a portable kit. It comes in a protective case with a non-skid bottom, so you can tote it around confidently. And while the unit is heavier than a lot of other portable fish finders, the weight results from the sophisticated features packed into it.

The HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 PT is compatible with just about any boat, because the transducer has a suction cup designed to attach to just about any wood, aluminum and fiberglass hull. So you’ll have maximum versatility that makes it great for year-round fishing.

Like some of Humminbird’s other fish finders, it has an 800H x 480V, 5-inch display with 256 colors. And because it includes a backlight, you can use it in just about any conditions. It has CHIRP DualBeam PLUS sonar with 4000 watts PTP power output, GPS chart plotting with built-in cartography and a microSD card slot for optional maps or for saving waypoints.

Grant Olsen joined the KSL.com team in 2012. He covers outdoor adventures, travel, product reviews and other interesting things. He is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." You can contact him at www.grant-olsen.com.

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