Right NAU!

29 12 2009

If you haven’t heard of this company, you need to check out NAU (pronounced “now”).  Nau is a unique clothing manufacturer with a strong social conscience.  They aptly describe their products as “urban + outdoor apparel…for modern mobile life.”  I don’t know if they define their mission statement as such, but if you look on their website, they have a statement that sums it up nicely:  ”…to redesign fashion and to redefine business so that each become a powerful force for change. One small step towards unf*cking the world.”  Well said…and…they make amazing stuff!

I have always thought of NAU as a group of idealistic friends with a wide range of talents who started talking about some ideas one day over coffee or drinks and actually decided to act on them.  I imagine this conversation having to do with gear they liked and didn’t like, social issues that they cared a lot about, and how they thought that they could actually do something about it – and do it better.  Well they have!

I’ll get to the premise behind the company in a bit, but let me start by talking about how good their stuff is.  When you buy something from Nau, you’re not just buying some environmentally / socially aware karma, you’re buying some of the highest quality and best designed clothing on the market.  The stitching is impeccable, the cuts are precise and the fabrics are robust, comfortable and long lasting.  Between my wife and I and all the Nau clothing we have, this has been consistent throughout.

Nau’s style is unique as well.  “Urban + Outdoor” is right on.  The first thing that comes to mind is the colors.  Most of the collection is earth tones, or muted shades of brighter colors.  If you’re looking for something flashy, go somewhere else because that is not what Nau is.  If that sounds boring, it’s not.  The styling fits the ideology and look they are going for.  They have everything from base layers, to shirts and sweaters, to jackets, pants and accessories such as hats, scarves and bags.

On top of all that, you are buying socially aware karma after all.  Nau leaves no stone unturned when it comes to being a socially responsible company (I really encourage you to check out the section on their website about this).  This is what initially drew Amanda and me to Nau.  They take everything in to consideration from the fabrics they use, to the working conditions of the factories that produce their products, to how they ship products and more.

I had (have) a lot more to say about Nau but it was getting exhaustive and to be honest, their website is great and gives you the run-down on the company.  I mainly want to get the word out about the company and vouch for the amazing quality.  The website also has a store locator but I know in Chicagoland, you can find Nau at Uncle Dan’s.

In the nature of full disclosure, I do have to mention one downside to Nau.  It is expensive!  Fortunately, they acknowledge that and address it on the website.  I have said it once and will continue to say it forever, that you get what you pay for.  With Nau, you’re getting great quality but it comes at a price.  Luckily, they put their stuff on sale quite often.  Amanda and I have never bought anything at full price and that is on purpose.  You can sign up for email alerts or check the website every now and then and there is almost always something on sale – even items that are currently in season.  (Sorry Nau, I love you guys but if I’m going to keep credibility, I have to mention that…)

So now a brief gear review:

When Amanda and I climbed Kili, Nau went along.  For the summit attempt, I wore a base layer Nau shirt (which I can’t identify on their website now unfortunately).  It was comfortable and helped keep me warm.  I also took a pair of the Twill Chin-No pants that I wore at night around camp.  On one of those nights, one of my travel mates and I were playing with our cameras and we took the following picture.  This is me, swinging my arm in a circle holding my headlamp and a (roughly) 12 second exposure time.  Nau was having a photo contest for people to submit pictures of themselves in Nau clothes.  Well, I sent this picture in a got a free Shroud of Purrin Hoody valued at $290.00.

Nau Pic

Fun on Kili

This jacket is pretty awesome.  When you pick it up, it feels like a glorified wind-breaker, but it is so much more.  It’s lightweight, virtually windproof, water-resistant and super warm.  It is lined with something that they call “feline-soft interior fuzz” which is basically a shaggy micro-fleece so it is super soft and really warm.  I am not a big fan of large and bulky clothing or jackets.  This one combines lightweight and warmth like nothing else I own.  I can wear a sweater underneath it and be as warm as if I had a heavier coat on and be more comfortable.  Now, with some of the extreme weather we have in Chicago, this jacket won’t get me through the whole winter, but it can get me through a lot of it!

So check out Nau!  This is a great company and when you buy from them, you are not only getting great gear but you are supporting a greater cause.  I made a lot of references to their website and that is because it is exceptional too.  You can see their products but also become educated.  Way to go Nau…keep up the great work and keep on producing great products!

Nau go outside…I’ll join you once I recover from the flu!



My Boots…

26 10 2009

Amanda and I orignally planned to make the Kili trip in the fall of 2008 but about a month before we were to leave, she got a new job and didn’t feel comfortable taking off for two weeks right after starting. So we pushed the climb date back a year to Sept. / Oct. 2009 and off we went. One of the first things that we considered when planning the trip were our boots. Having not been hiking in a couple of years, neither of us had a viable pair to wear on the mountain so, knowing that we wanted to climb Kili eventually, at the beginning of our first winter in Chicago, we each got new boots. We bought them then for two reasons: 1) to have time to break them in sufficiently before the climb; and 2) to walk our dogs in the terrible weather that we have in Chicago during the winter time.

After some solid consultation from a knowledgeable salesman at REI, I settled for a pair of Montrail Torre GTX boots. I would like to say that I tried a whole bunch of different pairs and did an extensive comparison but I didn’t. Like I said, the salesman was knowledgeable and although he hadn’t climbed Kili before, he knew of the conditions and these were his recommendation. They fit and were comfortable and I was sold.

The boots performed wonderfully on the mountain and I got a ton of usage out of them while walking my dogs through the snow, rain, sleet and all around cold. At the risk of emasculating myself, I have pretty sensitive feet and ankles so I had to not only break the boots in, but figure out how to tie them comfortably. The upper would sometimes rub the tops of my feet and Achilles tendon painfully if I would tie them too tight. If I didn’t tie them tight enough, I would get snow and rocks in them. Once I got that down, comfort was never a concern.

The boots were sturdy and on the mountain they were the perfect shoe. Mountaineering boots weren’t necessary because Kili is fairly pedestrian in terms of technicality. I took a day hike with my light hikers on day 4 of the trip and noticed a major difference and was glad to put the boots back on. They offered a sense of security in the soles and around the ankles. To top it all off, even though I felt like I had broken them in sufficiently, I just knew I was going to get some blisters…Nope. Not one! On the way down (which is arguably harder than going up) I did get some hot spots on the outside of my big toe but I made it all the way up and down with no feet issues thanks to these boots.

There were only two negatives. First, the boots did not keep my feet warm on summit day. That could have had a lot to do with the fact that I got really sick and my body was revolting against me for making it go to such altitudes, but by the time I got to the top, my feet felt like cinderblocks because they were so cold. I also believe the socks I wore were adequate for the situation. Also (and this is really little) the shoe laces that came on the boots were lousy. The both tore on the mountain and were all around flimsy. Luckily I had planned for this and had packed a new pair.

You may or may not have noticed that I am speaking of these boots in the past tense. There is a good reason for that…I left them behind. No, I didn’t forget them or throw them from the Soviet-era bush plane that took us from Moshi to Nairobi, I gave them to one of our guides. Although the guides and porters that work for the company we went with are the best paid and well treated on the mountain, they still operate with some pretty sketchy gear. To these guys, gear is their livelihood. I felt like it was the very least I could do to leave some of my gear behind if it would help these guys out. Even though those boots cost me about $165 USD, I knew that I could go home and head back to the gear store and buy a new pair.

This is a picture of Peter, our guide who helped me to the summit after I got sick, with my boots on. There isn’t anyone that I would rather have those boots. He is a fantastic guy and my hope is that those boots will assist him in guiding many more people to life-changing moments of their own. I will post sometime in the future about these guys but if you ever plan to make this trip yourself, PLEASE plan to leave some of your gear behind for them. If you can afford to make this trip in the first place, you can afford to replace some gear if you need it again.

Dan and Peter at the end of the climb

Dan and Peter at the base of Kili

In a stoke of luck, I was checking out Steep and Cheap the other morning before taking my wife to work, and what was there…these boots for $100 off. So, thanks to my wife’s generosity, I bought the boots again and will be getting them in the mail soon. More on Steep and Cheap in a later post.

Peace, DR