Gadling gear review: Outdoor Research women’s Frescoe Hoody activewear

women's activewearI love hoodies, and ever since I was old enough to waddle around in my brother’s hand-me-downs (which unfortunately included his tighty-whiteys, until I was old enough to realize that, while my mom’s thriftiness was admirable, clothing your daughter in boy’s underwear was not), I’ve worn them. The versatility, quirky style, and marsupial-like comfort a great hoody can provide make it an unbeatable wardrobe staple for travel or at home.

When I started running a decade ago, zip-up sweatshirt hoodies were my favorite layering accessory. Unfortunately, they’re bulky, and one of the reasons I took up running was so I could exercise while traveling. Thus, like most active women, I require workout gear that fulfills my various needs.

That’s why I love Outdoor Research’s Frescoe Hoody. This lightweight pullover debuted last spring in the Seattle-based company’s women’s apparel line, just in time for me to give it a test-run on a monthlong backpacking trip through Australia.

For this particular trip, I needed a piece of activewear that could perform well in a variety of climates (it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere). It also needed to serve as sleepwear in a Sydney backpacker’s, and at a friend’s Arctic-like, 120-year-old stone cottage in the rainy Barossa Valley. Most important: I would have little opportunity to do laundry, so the hoody needed to, as advertised, deliver moisture-wicking, “quick-dry performance,” and remain stink-proof.women's activewearThe Frescoe Hoody is made of Dri-Release® E.C.O. fabric: 83% recycled polyester, 15% organic cotton, and 2% Spandex. New for 2011 is Built-in FreshGuard® odor neutralization. I have no idea what that last part means from a manufacturing standpoint, but it’s a huge selling point for someone (that would be me) who has been known to travel for weeks at a time in climatic extremes ranging from tropical jungle to high-altitude blizzard, sans access to laundry services. My test hoody didn’t have FreshGuard, and still miraculously kept stench at bay.

Pros

I confess that when I first received my Frescoe in the mail and unpacked it, I was dismayed by both the color (see Cons) and size. Although I’d ordered an XS (sizes go up to L), the “relaxed fit” was still generous. I’m 5’2″, and wear a 32A bra, so the V-neck (which is double-layered, to help prevent gaping, I presume) was a bit too low for me, but I’m used to that. How the flat-chested do suffer.

  • From the first time I wore it, however, I decided I loved the Frescoe’s slouchy design, in part because the bottom hem has a wide, flattering, slightly stretchy band. It’s slimming, but also retains body heat. The fabric is soft, light, and unbelievably comfortable, and the hood stays put but doesn’t constrict (there are no drawstrings). When I got too warm on a run, the hoody was easy to whip off while maintaining my pace, due to its loose fit. Once tied around my waist, it didn’t hinder my movement with weight or bulk.
  • women's activewear
  • What really made me fall in love with the Frescoe, however, are two fantastic features: a tiny, hidden zippered pocket ideal for holding keys, a Chapstick, and a couple of bucks, and cuff fold flaps. For cold-handed types like me, these are ideal when it’s too warm for gloves.
  • I’ve worn my Frescoe in Seattle drizzle, hiking and camping in Shenandoah National Park, and on the windy beaches of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. On that trip, I was only able to do laundry once, 10 days into my trip. Yet the top survived daily runs for two weeks, before being crammed in my backpack for four days while I was in the blistering heat of the Ningaloo Reef region in Western Australia. On day 20, the Frescoe emerged, still smelling reasonably fresh, to accompany me on a long run around Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. I even slept in it that night because it passed the “sniff test.” What? Like you haven’t done the same thing.
  • The $55 price tag may seem a bit steep for what is essentially a glorified long-sleeve T-shirt. But when you take into consideration the bells and whistles, performance ability, durability, and responsible manufacturing materials, it’s a steal.

Cons

  • At 11.8 ounces, the Frescoe isn’t as lightweight and compressible as some activewear, but it’s not bad and it kept me warm. Given how well it performs, I don’t mind a little extra bulk in my baggage.
  • women's activewearMy only other nitpick are the colors. I admittedly have a pet peeve about women’s gear that only comes in impractical, pastelly or bright hues. I do, however, like the little flower graphic on the Frescoe’s right hip. New 2011 shades (available starting in February) include Mist (light blue), Fuschia, Mandarin, and Mushroom (brown-grey).

My own hoody is Fossil, a not-terribly flattering greyish-green that makes me look somewhat cadaverous. It’s practical, however, and never shows dirt. If OR could make this baby in charcoal, burgundy, forest green, or black, I’d buy another one in a heartbeat to wear on the street, or while tossing back an apres-ski cocktail or four.

In summary, I was really impressed with the Frescoe Hoody. It delivered on its promises to stay dry and not get stinky, and the hidden zip and cuff fold features totally rock for practicality, cleverness, and cuteness. I highly recommend this top as a multi-use travel wardrobe staple. P.S. It’s also great to wear for lounging or while typing up Gadling posts.

Jog at rest stops – Road trip tip

When you pull into a rest stop to refresh, include a 3-5 minute jog or brisk walk.

It helps relieve the stiffness from sitting in the car and gets the blood pumping. It also provides children an opportunity to run and scream.

When you finish, do a quick stretch. Now you can be awake and alert for the road.

[Photo: Flickr | MikeBaird]

SkyMall Monday: Trekdesk Treadmill Desk

Things can get pretty hectic at the SkyMall Monday headquarters. Between testing SkyMall products, planning trips and spying on people using a tissue box, we never really have time to take care of ourselves. With summer bikini season right around the corner, we know that we need to start shedding the pounds and getting into shape for the beach, pool and large puddles. Finding time to exercise is a challenge, however. Like most people, we’re busy, love junk food and hate sweating. But something has to give. Compromises must be made. Time needs to be used efficiently and comically to ensure that we make you laugh and also fit into our favorite banana hammocks. How do we balance our busy work days with our need for fitness? We multitask. SkyMall knows that anyone who is only doing one thing at a time is wasting that time. That’s why they’ve combined the fun of working with the joy of exercise. The Trekdesk Treadmill Desk is two great tastes that taste great together!Combining work and exercise is not a new concept for SkyMall. We’ve been topless at our desks rocking the Springflex UB for over a year now (and we’re ripped…but our TPS reports are sweaty). But it’s time to start thinking about cardio. In order to improve our stamina and make us 78% more winded while on conferences calls, we need to run while we crunch numbers. In business, it’s all about ABC: Always Be Cardiovascularlyworkingout.

Don’t believe that you can focus on your job while also sprinting on a treadmill? Well, while you stare at you Successories poster and wait to get laid off, we’ll be hitting our stride in more ways than one. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the product description while I catch my breath:

No time for exercise? Improve your health while walking and continue to make conference calls and update spreadsheets. Lose weight, reduce stress, strengthen back/leg muscles, stay healthy, alert and energized. Includes 4-level file/phone tray, manuscript stand and two cup/utility holders.

Are there possibly two better activities to pair together than walking and updating spreadsheets? They go together like peanut butter and thumbtacks! Plus, with two cup holders, you can stay hydrated with your favorite energy drink and off-brand bourbon.

Look, you can sit at your desk all day, balloon in weight and die faxing someone else’s expense report or you can get off your ass, break a sweat and fax that expense report at the same time. Sure, dialing may be difficult while you’re running and typing will be next to impossible. But you’ll look great when you have all that free time at the beach after you’ve been fired for getting a charley horse during the big merger presentation.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.


Six ways for road warriors to stay in shape

Business travel can be brutal on your body. One night, you’re out with clients, sipping that extra cocktail and scarfing down dessert – you don’t want your client doing these things alone. The next day, you stuff fistfuls of French fries into your mouth between meetings and devour a fast food “snack” as midnight is closing in. The project needs to stay on track, so you eat what you can while you work, and sleep is out of the question. This happens over and over … making it close to impossible to take care of yourself while you’re on the road. Before you know it, you’ve gained (or lost) too much weight, dark circles are forming under your eyes and your complexion has gone to hell.

There has to be a better way …

All is not lost. There’s plenty you can do to take care of yourself while living the road warrior life. None takes too much time (important, since you don’t have any), and your bag won’t have to get much fuller. If you decide you want to recapture some vigor while traveling frequently, check out the six tips below.

1. Decide you need to make a change … and mean it
When I was a management consultant, I came across plenty of lists like this one. Occasionally, I’d give something a try, but the path of least resistance always won. None of those writers seemed to have any idea how hard it is to motivate yourself in the land of the 16-hour day, endless meetings and crushing workloads. For the first few weeks, you have to make the clear and difficult decision to knowingly turn your life for the worse. After that, it starts to get better.

2. Workout “lite” is your only option
Short workouts will probably be your only option. So, don’t plan to hit the weights for an hour or more. Instead, stick to cardio. If you run, use the treadmill in the hotel gym instead of turning to the streets. Cardio machines (e.g., treadmills and exercise bikes) have the added advantage of multi-tasking: you can read reports (or the newspaper), check your Blackberry or take notes on what you need to do that day.

3. Make time to walk
Short walks during the day give you a chance to clear your head. Step outside a few times and walk around the parking lot. Each jaunt shouldn’t last much longer than a leisurely trip to the bathroom. To recapture some productivity, bring something to read, or catch up on calls or e-mails. You’ll be moving your body, at least, and the change of pace will do you good.

4. Back to basic (training)
My drill sergeants always found a way to cram exercise into my life. While you probably don’t want to bust out a few sets of pushups during a conference call, their method for squeezing workouts into short periods of time can be helpful. When you can back to your hotel room, for example, do a few pushups and situps before you go to bed – maybe while you watch some television. Over time, you’ll find yourself doing more reps.

5. Watch the booze
When someone else is picking up the tab, it’s all too easy to have another glass of wine, especially if you’re accustomed to slurping vino from a box. All those team and client dinners add up, though, and you wind up paying for it in the end. At some point in the evening, switch to sparkling water or soda water with lime. It looks like liquor and feels different from the nonalcoholic stuff you normally drink. The best part: it’ll be easier to get up in the morning.

6. Roam when you call home
Having a family can make the road warrior’s life even harder. Any chance to call home becomes incredibly valuable, and just about anything else will be sacrificed when you want to dial those all-important digits. Instead of calling from your room, walk the hotel grounds while you talk. If you’re staying in your room, do some flutter kicks or toe-raises while you chat away. Don’t work out so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation, but do use more muscles than those in your jaw.

“Fairmont Fit” program supplies sporty guests with running shoes

Before every trip I tell myself that in between sightseeing, wine tasting, and multi-course gastronomic feasts, I’m going to get in some physical activity. Then I start packing my carry-on and, when things get tight, the workout clothes and running shoes are the first things to get cut.

Despite my good intentions, I’d rather pack an extra pair of heels or save room for some souvenirs than squeeze my bulky running shoes into my bag. And I’m sure I’m not alone. To make it easier on people like me, Fairmont’s “Fairmont Fit” program provides guests with a gently used pair of running shoes in their size to use for the duration of their stay.

Guests must be members of the Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program and pay $10 per stay for the Fairmont Fit program. The shoes need to be requested in advance; they are cleaned after every use and replaced each season. In addition to use of the use of the shoes (available at 56 Fairmont hotels), guests can also use Adidas workout shirts and shorts or capris, yoga mat and stretch band, and an MP3 player loaded with 1,000 songs.

Who am I kidding? I’m not going to go for a run even if the hotel does lend me some kicks. But for the more dedicated, it’s a great way to pack light and still be able to maintain your workout routine on a trip.

[via Travel+Leisure]