All posts tagged: gear

Review: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Swimrun

Finding the perfect summer travel shoe can be an overwhelming task. No one wants to tote around a suitcase full of sneakers and sandals, but it's hard to have fun on vacation with blisters or a limp. Can you hike all day and walk into a nice restaurant for lunch? What if your travel plans include a morning run? Will French people stare at me if I'm wearing these?

Is there a shoe out there that is at once durable, sporty, good for water, and good-looking? Or should I just give up and put my Chacos back on?

With one minor caveat, I can announce that my search is over. For the past few weeks, I’ve been running, hiking, wading through rivers, and meeting friends for lunch in Vivobarefoot’s Primus Trail Swimruns.

The Swimruns were originally designed for a Swedish race series called the Ötillö Swimrun, which can be described as an off-road triathlon sans the pesky biking portion. These versatile kicks are light, athletic sneakers that are designed to fit like a sock, with a breathable and draining mesh upper for when you go into the water and a durable, sticky, bright orange sole.

You don’t need to be a dedicated barefooter to enjoy these shoes, but if you plan on running in them, you probably should be. I’ve been running for ten years in successive pairs of Merrell Trail Gloves, and even I needed a little time to adjust to the Swimruns. But once you have, you probably won’t want to take them off.

Fun Run

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t exactly recommend barefoot running as a method of injury prevention. But anecdotally speaking, I took up barefoot running ten years ago as a way to strengthen my legs and feet while recovering from an ACL repair. I’m a lot slower now, and I don’t think I’d wear barefoot shoes if I still wanted to race. But I haven’t hurt myself since.

I’m not the only one at WIRED who loves barefoot running, and Vivobarefoot. Galahad Clark, the seventh generation of shoemakers from comfy shoe manufacturer Clarks Shoes, founded the company in 2004 as Terra Plana. They became Vivobarefoot in 2012, and they use innovative designs and materials to activate all the bitty nerve endings in your feet by letting them feel the ground. This can help you fire up ancillary leg and ankle muscles that may be dormant in a more supportive shoe.

The Swimruns slip on like a pair of wetsuit booties, or a pair of socks. I normally wear a size 8 in running shoes, but I had to size down to my casual shoe size in a 7.5. I have an extremely low-volume foot, but it was easy to cinch down the quick laces to accommodate them. The shoes also come with a removable thermal insert for extra padding and warmth if you need it.

I’ve been wearing them without socks for a few weeks, while running and hiking in and out of water. So far they haven’t started to smell, but I do take them off and dry them in the sun every afternoon.

If you've never done any barefoot running, it feels less like running and more like padding around a forest like a kitten. it will take you awhile for your feet to acclimate. Even if you're familiar with it, I suggest taking it easy at first. The Trail Gloves are one of the most stripped-down running shoes around, but even they offer a little more support. It took a week or two of extremely short, slow runs on asphalt, gravel, groomed trails, and un-groomed singletrack for the tendons in my heels to acclimate to the Swimruns.

I didn’t wear the shoes while swimming, but I do take my dogs out on and around the rivers of Portland, Oregon, a couple times a week. Sports sandals, like Chacos, are the water shoe of choice around these parts, but I have mixed feelings about them. Dirt and pebbles can wiggle their way under the soles of my feet, and I have to shake them out. Not to mention my tendency to walk into sharp sticks, or stub my unprotected toes on rocks.

The Swimruns, however, were a great alternative. On one outing, my toddler daughter and I walked out on a narrow wooden barricade that jutted into the Willamette River, only realizing, too late, that we had to negotiate several thickets of overgrown thorns. Rather than sign up for another prickle-and-scratch session, I opted to hop off the barricade and directly into murky, knee-deep water.

The Swimruns have protective, puncture-resistant rubber zones, so I didn't worry about bumping into, or stepping onto, anything sharp or splintery while wading back to shore with a squirmy three-year-old under my arm. The rubber is dotted with draining mesh holes, so when I got back on the beach, a few steps pumped all the water out of my shoes. Within a minute or two, my feet were dry.

Over the past few weeks, I've taken them through water, sand, dirt trails, and deep mud. After rinsing them off, they still look as good as new.

Wee Heavy

Though I loved these shoes, I have one minor gripe: they're not quite as light as the Merrell Trail Gloves. At 500 grams, or slightly over a pound for both shoes, they are just a few ounces heavier. If you're sensitive to that sort of thing, it's worth noting.

At least the extra weight doesn't keep them from compressing easily. For example, they fit in the top compartment of my small Matador daypack.

My family is planning a few trips this summer, in deserts and on beaches, traveling by car and by air, and I’m already planning on taking the Swimruns with me. The quick laces mean that you can easily slide them on and off. You can wear them with or without socks, for sprinting through airports or going on hikes. You can use them as water shoes to protect your feet while swimming or paddling.

And unlike some of Vivobarefoot's more wacky designs, these look like street shoes. I like the sporty black mesh and bright orange soles (the women’s version also comes in a more toned-down blue). At $135, they’re a little pricey but certainly not out of reach for many people, especially if you’re only planning on wearing one pair of shoes.

If you’re looking for a sporty travel sneaker that can double as a casual shoe, congratulations! The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Swimruns tick all the boxes. Plus, the locals won't judge you for your choice of footwear, so you can use all that empty backpack space to tote more snacks, instead.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

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Review: Salewa Ultra Train 2

When hiking, there are a few items that are non-negotiable: A backpack and a windbreaker; water, beef jerky and sunblock. Shoes, however, can be a surprising point of contention.

It makes sense to wear hiking boots when you go, er, hiking. But, when taking into consideration your individual preferences, the terrain you’re covering, and the season, it’s not always a given. I own several nice pairs of hiking boots, but in the summer, they go back in the closet. I don’t suggest backpacking in flip-flops, but unless you’re hauling your own body weight up a 40-degree incline, trail running shoes might work just as well.

If you want the light weight, breathability, and maneuverability of a running shoe without sacrificing traction and protection, speed hikers like the Salewa Ultra Train 2 are a good compromise. Developed for extreme athletes who want to cover a lot of ground in rough terrain fast, the Ultra Train 2 are what you’d get if you crossed a pair of running shoes with a pair of approach shoes, which are the shoes that rock climbers wear when they’re approaching a climb through rocky ground.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing the Ultra Train 2 for trail running, hiking, and tooling about town. If you’re looking to upgrade your hiking game from a pair of waterproof Converse, these might be your next pair of kicks.

In The Middle

Headquartered in the Dolomites, a mountain range in northern Italy, Salewa has been churning out premium alpine gear since the 1930s. The Ultra Train 2 is the spring version of the Ultra Train Gore-Tex. It has a breathable mesh upper instead of a waterproof Gore-Tex lining, although a rubber rim that extends all the way around the base of the shoe does offer some puddle protection.

The Ultra Train 2 look like a pair of trail running shoes. They fit true to your running shoe size—in casual shoes, I’m a 7.5, and in running shoes, an 8. Salewa sent me the tester model in a size 8 and they fit perfectly. I have a very low-volume foot, but the shoe fit snugly around my heel and midsole, with plenty of room to wiggle my piggies in the roomy toe box.

The Ultra Train 2 borrow many features from approach and climbing shoes. The first thing you’ll notice is the speed lacing system. It’s easy to use: just tug the pull on the lace end. Then, slide down the toggle to lock the laces in place and tuck the slack into the loop on the shoe's tongue. They allow you to tension the laces evenly for greater comfort, and take your shoes on and off quickly to switch between climbing shoes and hiking ones. I liked the speed laces because most of my summer hikes involve water, so, I'll be able to get the Ultra Train 2s off before taking a dip.

The second feature that is borrowed from climbing shoes are the stiff rubber rands, which is what you call the layer of rubber that runs around the outer rim of the shoe’s sole. Rands help you climb. You can use stiff rands and stiff shoe soles to propel you up sheer rock races, or protect your feet when you wedge them into gaps where, frankly, feet are not supposed to go.

I think rands are swell. The terrain that climbers have to cover isn't all that different from the terrain that all hikers have to cover, and the rands offered great protection from stubbing my toes on tree roots or accidentally swinging my heels into rocks or logs. The stiff anti-rock heel cup also protected my feet from more mundane hazards, like my daughter running her wagon into me.

The lugs are enormous and aggressive, made out of Michelin Outdoor Compound X (OCX), which is a material that the tire company uses to make mountain biking tires. They provided grip and traction on the slipperiest of surfaces, even if they were also the exact right width and depth to trap small pieces of gravel and sticks in the treads.

Despite the Ortholite insole, I found the shoe’s sole to be very stiff and hard. This can be partly explained by a protective rock plate in the front part of the sole, which prevents sharp bumpy things from stabbing themselves in the soft underside of your foot.

The fact that it was still easy for me to run over uneven ground with such a stiff sole can probably be attributed to Salewa’s trademarked 3F system. The 3Fs stand for three features: Fit, function, and performance. When you tighten the laces, you also secure a static system of webbing that runs from the insole, to the heel collar, and up to the top of the laces. As someone who has very thin heels and ankles, the 3F system helped secure a vulnerable part of my foot. My foot didn't roll in the shoe, even when running on trails that slanted sideways across steep slopes. As a bonus, I didn't have to pick any pebbles out of the top part of my shoe!

Despite these heavy rubber features, the shoes are still pretty light. Together, the shoes weigh a little over a pound. Even if they don’t have a Gore-Tex lining, they dry pretty quickly. When I soaked them in the sink around 11 a.m., they were dry enough to wear by 1 p.m. They have a neutral platform and a slight 8-mm heel drop. It’s not quite a barefoot running shoe, but it’s not far off from one, either.

To The Limit

The Ultra Train 2s aren't quite perfect. While I didn't notice the speed laces loosening while I was testing this shoe, it seems worth noting that I've had experiences with the toggle getting loose in the past. Within a limited timeframe, it's impossible to test the durability of the webbing that the laces run through, but sometimes this particular type of webbing frays as the thin laces scrape back and forth. Also, and this is a personal preference thing, but as I mentioned, they are really stiff. They work well on rocky terrain, but if you're cruising mainly on dirt and asphalt, you might want shoes with a bit more give.

But in pretty much every other way that counts, the Ultra Train 2s are bomber. On top of that, they're good-looking—you wouldn't feel out of place wearing these if you stop by a bar on your way home. If you're worried about getting gravel between your toes this summer, pick up a pair. They’re easy to slip on and off, suitable for both walking the dogs, and protective enough for two- or three-day weekend backpacking trips. At the very least, they’re definitely better than a pair of flip-flops.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

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With Sniffs and Licks, Petzbe Makes Social Media Nice Again

The CEO of Petzbe, a social networking platform that launched on the App Store last week, is a Brussels Griffon named Angus. Angus can often be found adorned in a stylish jean vest gazing stoically into the distance or, at times, yawning. According to his Petzbe bio, Angus is a “lover of the finer things in life. Peculiar in looks and personality. Extremely loving but with a healthy understanding of [his] human’s shortcomings.” Petzbe is like Instagram, but with a strict “No Humans Allowed” policy. The feed is a stream of cat and dog photos featuring captions and comments in the voices of the pets. On Petzbe, you don't just post about your cat. You become your cat.

The free app is available on iOS. Create an account for Fluffy—username, bio, the whole nine yards—and then you’re free to roam a world of pets. You’ve got your profile, which you can access by clicking the paw print in the bottom right corner. To the left of the paw print, click the cat-dog icon to browse pets categorized by breed. Or click the bone icon to search topics like Fashion and Petzbe Portraits. Instead of “following” pages and “liking” posts, encouragement is offered in “sniffs” and “licks.”

Petzbe

Pet accounts have been floating around social media platforms for a while—some to great success. Dogs like Jiff, a Pomeranian that looks like a teddy bear, and Marnie, a Shih Tzu with a permanently dazed expression, command social media followings well into the millions. What's the big difference? While those pets hold their own among all the other posts on Instagram, Petzbe lets you enter a world where the only #selfies you’ll see are of cats and dogs. Remember? No humans allowed.

Since launching last week, the app has amassed more than 2,000 users. To keep them on the same page, the app includes a feed with the latest Petzbe news (Roofis is a dad!) and encouraging frequent user challenges. The latest was Petzbe’s “Lend a Paw” challenge: For each photo users posted showing a paw, Petzbe donated $1 to animal rescue centers, resulting in a total of $1,000 to the ASPCA. For now, Petzbe is small enough that it can afford to pay this out of pocket. As Petzbe expands, the app's creators hope to partner with animal rescue centers to keep similar challenges alive.

Other challenges, like a prompt to describe "How I Met My Human," have also sparked interest. Scrolling through the responses, it's hard to separate the personified pets from the people using the app. As pets, though, one thing stands out: People are really, really nice.

Andrea Nerep, Petzbe’s creator and the owner of Angus, had this in mind when she launched the app. Growing up in Sweden with a mother who ran a dog hotel, Nerep has been observing pet-human behavior since she was a kid. When she moved to New York City from Stockholm four years ago, she was aware that New Yorkers aren't particularly known for their friendliness. But something changed when Angus was by her side. People were nice. She connected with strangers she otherwise wouldn't have spoken to. If you've ever interacted with people and their pets—on the sidewalk, at a party, even at the office—you can probably relate. People love their pets and love talking about their pets. And those conversations tend to be nicer than, say, sports or politics. You’d be hard pressed to find a conversation about Angus’ fetching habits go awry.

Petzbe

Nerep began working on an app that would bring out the kind of empathetic interactions she experienced during her dog walks. If it provided a space to archive her 1,000 photos of Angus, even better. Petzbe's “No Humans Allowed” policy makes pet-owners more or less anonymous. Without knowledge of who the person attached to the account is, preconceptions around that person are wiped away, at least a little bit. “Social barriers are broken down,” says Nerep, as well as “social status, economic status, appearance. Nothing matters anymore.”

Stripped of their identity, some users on Petzbe can be vulnerable in ways they may not on other social media platforms. Last month, one user posted a photo of a dog with the caption: "So my mom just got dumped and I won’t be posting for a while. Trying to comfort her." Other "pets" chimed in with stories of their humans going through breakups, providing comfort that it would get better. Nerep has also seen users open up about mental illness on Petzbe. “What we all want is compassion from someone,” she says, “but it’s easier to talk about it from the pet’s perspective. It can be therapeutic in that way.”

It can also be really silly. Nerep recently came across a conversation between a few users on Petzbe about eating cat litter. "One is like, ‘Oh, I love poop.’ And another is like, ‘I eat cat sand too!’ And these are humans sitting [around] and telling each other that they love poop!” She laughed, relaying the story. "And then one dog tagged another dog like, 'Hey, this guy also loves poop!'"

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

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A $250 Weighted Blanket Won’t Cure All of Your Sleep Woes

For insomniacs, there is no shortage of gadgets promising a better night’s sleep. Here, try this hat that zaps your brainwaves into submission. Here, stick these electrodes just below your ribs. Here, try on this headset, or these goggles, or this wristband that promises, really, to help you fall asleep. Last year, one Kickstarter project suggested something different: Forget all of the high-tech sleep wearables. Bury yourself under this 25-pound blanket and you’ll sleep like a baby.

Gravity Blanket

The Gravity Blanket became an overnight success, scooping up $3 million in crowdsourcing funding from over 15,000 sleepless people on the internet. The company described the blanket as “Advil PM for your whole body,” a $250 panacea for poor sleep, stress, anxiety, and more. The vision was so compelling, in part, because it was so simple. No wires, no batteries, no gizmos to bring into bed with you. No buttons, no apps, no unsightly headgear. All you needed was this soft, heavy blanket, filled with something like the Sandman himself.

Let me stop here: The Gravity Blanket is not a panacea. It is, well, a blanket. But while other consumer products for sleep seem to get weirder and weirder, Gravity Blanket brings a much-needed perspective. Sleep isn't something to be hacked. It's something we can all achieve as long as we lie down, pull up the covers, and relax.

To lie underneath a Gravity Blanket feels a little like being swaddled as a baby, or wrapped up in a toasty tortilla like a human burrito.

The blanket takes its inspiration from a technique called deep pressure stimulation, which involves applying pressure to trigger the sympathetic nervous system and induce relaxation. It’s the same theory that underpinned Temple Grandin’s research on calming cows before slaughter; the same theory that led to the market success of Thunder Shirts for anxious dogs. There’s some indication that deep pressure stimulation can reduce stress and anxiety, even treat the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder and PTSD.

I should say that none of this relates to the Gravity Blanket. It’s a consumer product, not a therapeutic one. “It’s this notion that having between 7 to 12 percent of your body weight resting on top of you increases serotonin and decreases cortisol. That’s the general premise that we took,” says Mike Grillo, Gravity Blanket’s managing director.

Inside, the Gravity Blanket is filled with 15 to 25 pounds of little beads (technically “non-toxic plastic pellets and a cotton polyester blend mix”), giving it the texture of a bean bag. To lie underneath one feels a little like being swaddled as a baby, or wrapped up in a toasty tortilla like a human burrito. A blanket this heavy keeps you very warm, and keeps you from tossing and turning while you sleep. By which I mean: It’s physically difficult to move. Just try to roll to the side, dear reader, and you’ll find yourself pinned down like an amateur wrestler beneath André the Giant. The effect works especially well during naps, or during meditation, when it's comforting to be grounded by such a large, soft presence.

In the months that I've been sleeping with the Gravity Blanket, I've developed an affinity for it. Has the blanket unlocked my sweetest, most satisfying sleep? No, not exactly. But in a world saturated with high-tech, state-of-the-art gizmos hoping to hack sleep, there's something compelling about a product that simply wants you to lie down and relax. (Compelling enough, at least, to collect $3 million on Kickstarter.) In the current tech landscape, there are more sleep gadgets than there is research—and that trend doesn't seem to be simmering down. Gravity Blanket returns us to something more familiar: getting in bed, pulling up the covers, and remembering the feeling of being tucked in by someone we love. That, plus maybe reading less Twitter, really can help people sleep better.

Of course, $250 is a lot of money to spend on a blanket—even a really nice one. You could approximate the sensation by sleeping beneath a pile of clean-but-not-yet-folded laundry, or the collection of Beanie Babies you thought you’d sell on eBay one day. You could even stack up a pile of regular, non-gravity blankets and lie beneath that, creating a sort of “bed lasagna.” The Gravity Blanket certainly looks lovely unfurled on a bed, but you don't need to pay $250 to refine your sleep hygiene. Bury me under all the soft things I own and I’ll sleep just fine.

Hacking Sleep

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

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Strap On a Pair of Roller Skates and Wheel Away Your Worries

Every time I travel, I pack my seven pound second-hand roller skates. I bought them three years ago at the now-closed Skateland Vermont, a rink inside of a large warehouse that was always too hot and stunk of hot dogs and feet. I sat in the DJ booth and tried on three graying pairs of skates with the help of the rink attendant until I found the right pair, formerly his daughter’s. I spent the following evening skating across the floor of the linoleum kitchen in my shared tiny two-bedroom apartment. I could fly.

My skates are not what you’d call a convenient carry-on. They’re not the most stylish, either—the laces frayed, the boots going gray. But let me tell you something: These babies have lived. My skates came with me on an ill-fated college spring break trip to Cuba, rolled along Bernie Sanders’s prized Burlington waterfront, boogied at the Brooklyn Skate Club, and soared through the Arashiyama bamboo grove in Kyoto. And before all that, they had another full life with someone else.

I don’t know much about the person who wore these skates before me, but I can imagine that when she did, skating was more of a thing. Maybe you even remember. Just like bowling alleys and Blockbuster, roller rinks were pillars of the weekend in the '90s. (Recall the popularity of a skate rink birthday party: “It’s the big 1-0 for Jeremy today, let’s play some Cameo!”) They were an institution in the '70s and a community center for generations of black families in Brooklyn and Detroit. Disco music, hip-hop, and rap all grew out of skate culture—the rink was a place for artists to release first records and eventually, a place to meet promoters. Back then, owning your own skates was less of a novelty. You could show up at a rink, slip your foot into just the right pair, and sail away that very day.

These days, buying skates is no easy task. It’s inconvenient, time consuming, and often expensive. In addition, finding a local skating rink is getting harder and harder. Search nearby rinks and you’ll find “permanently closed” to be the most ubiquitous descriptor in Yelp reviews right after “ONLY PLAYS DEVO.”

And so, for those looking for a piece of roller skate culture, there is the internet. Ebay has plenty of used skates, especially if you’re willing to test your fate with a pair of gliders that might arrive in slightly rickety shape (anyone remember skate keys?). Amazon has less expensive options, some in the $50 range, but most are for children. As the 70s roll back into style, even Urban Outfitters now carries the $299 Moxi Suede Roller Skates, designed for asphalt or pavement.

But the best guide to finding skates might be the internet’s roller derby community. Go online and you’ll discover hundreds of blogs, videos, shops, and forums. They all have edgy logos and awesome names like BruisedBoutique, Pivotstar, and DevaSkation (Devaskate the Competition!). Skaters like to review their stuff online and a quick YouTube search can give you the DL on plenty of gear, including derby enthusiasts who unpack new skates with the same reverence and sheer delight as a sneakerhead with the latest Yeezys.

Derby skates come in a variety of styles: the classic derby skate, jam skates, and speed skates. The classic style comes up just below the ankle bone and tie with laces and a Velcro strap. Jammers have all the same components but no laces at all. Speed skates are designed with the intention to be used in sprints, time trials and lap skating. However, in recent years, derby jammers (a player who scores points for their team by skating laps around the track, sort of like a Quidditch seeker on wheels) have taken to buying speed skates as they’re the lighter option.

I wear LT429 Hard Candy speed skates by Riedell, one of the more popular brands in derby. The leather boot fits tightly on the foot and has little padding, allowing for better maneuverability and freedom of movement. Like all quad skates, there are four evenly spaced wheels (attached to the boot with a metal plate) and a small rubber toe stopper in the front. The toe stopper serves as a point to push off for a quick start or, conversely, a brake.

I bought my skates after helping a friend film a documentary on derby culture. The players, later my teammates and friends, encouraged me to join a chapter of a local novice roller derby team called Fresh Meat. Every Tuesday night, we practiced our crossovers, stops, speed skating, and turns. I skated under the name “Raggedy Animal.” We weren’t very good, but we had spirit.

My skates only saw about half a derby season. While having my own skates gave me rink cred, I found that I lack the fundamental aggression requisite in competitive derby and, at 5’9,” I have a long way to fall. My skates, a bit banged up from their international travel, lost a toe stop and gained some scars. However, I remain a staunch cheerleader for roller skating and still go every chance I get. It’s the nostalgia for an earlier time and the community I’ve experienced that keeps me coming back.

When I moved to California a year and a half ago, it felt only right that my skates come with me. In San Francisco, I discovered Boosted boards instead of skateboards and Scoots instead of bikes. But somehow, roller skate culture was still here.

So this fall, I strapped on my speeders and headed to Golden Gate Park where I slipped into the weekly skate circle near the California Academy of Sciences. Just like every weekend, the tech bros and coders of Silicon Valley were gathered as Earth, Wind & Fire reverberated from a nearby boombox. Vintage skates, rollerblades, Razor scooters, and hoverboards alike sailed around together in a big loop. It was Sunday in San Francisco and we were all just trying to skate by.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

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Review: Eufy Robovac 11+

Unlike, say, assembling Ikea shelves or replacing the bulbs in your car headlights, vacuuming is one of those never-ending, thankless household maintenance chores. No one notices when it’s done, only when it’s not done. If you’re in possession of furry pets, or crumb-dropping tiny humans, and would like to take some of the vacuuming burden off your shoulders, a robot vacuum can help—with the caveat, of course, that you should make sure your floors are free of the really gross stuff before you start.

I tested the Eufy Robovac 11+ with Power Boost high-suction technology over several cleaning cycles in a one-level, two-bedroom household with carpets, hardwood floors and accumulated debris from two adults, two children and two 70-pound dogs. The vacuum is quiet, low-profile and very nimble—a good, moderately-priced option for anyone who is sick of pushing a vacuum around.

Unlike many of the other robot vacuums I tested, the Robovac 11+ does not have Wi-Fi capabilities. However, that makes it particularly easy to set up. The manual recommends that you clear objects within three feet on either side and within six feet of the front. Once you’ve found or cleared a space, just plug the charging pad into the wall and put two AAA batteries into the remote.

In my run test, the vacuum cleaner took four hours to charge for a one-hour cleaning cycle, which was adequate for the living room and kitchen but left the bedrooms untouched. I was informed by Eufy that the vacuum automatically goes onto Power Boost mode on carpets, and I also activated the maximum suction power in several places. If you don’t turn on maximum suction, the battery would probably last a bit longer.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this robot vacuum is really, really quiet. I measured the sound at 59 decibels; for comparison, the sound of an average vacuum cleaner is around 70 dB. We were able to hold conversations and watch television while it was running. In one remarkable display, the vacuum actually traced my dog’s outline while she slept soundly on the floor (although this says about as much about our dog as the vacuum).

The vacuum also got around very well. Over an hour, I only had to rescue it twice—once when it got caught in the narrow space between the couch and a chair, and once when it got entangled in several power cords that run under a dresser (Eufy instructs you to remove power cords before cleaning, so that's on me…sorry Robovac 11+!). It's sturdy—it withstood a two-year-old standing on top of it, which means that it would be a good candidate for robot vacuum cat-riding videos you're hoping will go viral.

The low profile let the Robovac venture under beds, cribs and couches. It navigated the carpet edges and the hardwood trim on our floors handily, and even clambered over the thin metal tubes that our kitchen chairs use as legs. The vacuum’s drop sensor noticed the step between the main body of the house and the laundry room and didn’t tip over the edge.

Not having Wi-Fi and not being able to see how the vacuum is doing remotely is annoying, but it’s easy to schedule automated cleaning via the remote. To manually redirect the vacuum, point the remote at it and use the directional buttons. You can also use the remote to activate spot cleaning and edge cleaning modes. Side brushes theoretically help bring debris closer into the vacuum’s hungry maw. The vacuum also has single room mode, which will intensively clean a smaller space for 30 minutes.

It was easy to take apart and clean. Most of the brushes just pop in and out, and the dust tray also pops out by pushing a release button on the top. The included filter is a HEPA filter that’s easy to clean, and replacement parts are readily available on Amazon. When the vacuum starts to run low on battery, it turns off the suction and quietly, slowly returns home to charge, a process I found to be melancholy and oddly endearing.

All in all, the vacuum performed well in all categories, except…cleaning. After I used single-room and Power Boost suction modes in one bedroom with hardwood floors and a thin rug, I had to go over the rug again with another vacuum to get it completely clean. The Robovac 11+ did not make a noticeable dent in the amount of dog hair in the rug, although the dust collector tray was full when I emptied it.

I used the directional buttons to play Dust Ball Pac-Man in the living room, only to watch the side brushes push the dust balls aside instead of sucking them in. Also, towards the end of the cleaning cycle, the vacuum started leaving behind felted tufts of dog hair. I cleared the brushes and dust collector tray, which fixed the problem for a while, but it would have been annoying to schedule a cleaning at midnight and find little hair droppings all over the floor in the morning.

All in all, the Eufy Robovac 11+ is easy to use, quiet and attractive. It’s a good option for those who want a simple robot vacuum to run around after dinner, but perhaps a not-so-great one for houses with extravagantly large, hairy inhabitants.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

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Review: Veer Cruiser

Academics and researchers in relationships often face what is known as “the two-body problem,” in which they struggle to find positions for both people at either the same institution, or institutions that are close to each other. I also have a two-body problem, except neither of the bodies is mine. The bodies belong to my toddler and my infant, and the options for transporting both at the same time, as well as all of their ever-multiplying stuff, are limited.

Most double strollers are big. And expensive, and heavy, and hard to maneuver. And they have so many different variations, based on the ages and presumed activity level of your kids. Do you get a sit-and-stand? A tandem, a side-by-side, or hook on a running board?

When you have your first kid, you can spend hours researching and purchasing magical strollers that car seats click into, that snap open at a touch of a hand and weigh less than a candy bar. But when you have your second, it’s hard to not just give up and tie your kid on you with a piece of fabric. I wouldn’t be surprised to find two-timer parents hauling the baby around in leftover bookstore tote bags.

Veer Cruiser

The Veer Cruiser solves the two-body problem so handily that when I posted a picture to a private Instagram account, nearly every parent and grandparent texted to ask where they could get one. Over the course of several days, I hauled a five-month-old and an almost three-year-old over a variety of terrain, from paved trails to unpaved mud trails, gravel, wet grass, wet and dry sand, and a little unintended backcountry bushwhacking.

Ridin' Sturdy

This robust hybrid stroller-wagon is made from black matte airplane-grade aluminum frame with airless polyurethane wheels. It comes with a telescoping handle that also locks into place so you can both pull and push it. You also get a footbrake, cupholders, and a detachable snack and drink tray. For testing, Veer sent an infant car seat attachment and the retractable sun and rain shade, which can be purchased separately.

The cruiser is narrow enough to easily fit through front doors and gates—an issue with side-by-side strollers—and small enough to fit, fully assembled, into the trunk of a Honda Element. The infant car seat attachment meant that we could take the napping baby directly out of the car and click him into the wagon without unbuckling or disturbing him. Veer also sells a soft seat insert, but blankets and old sleeping bags worked just as well.

The toddler fit in the front seat, the infant clicked onto the attachment, and underneath the car seat was plenty of room to fit a diaper bag, jackets, dog leashes, and all of the other paraphernalia necessary for a winter day at the park.

Totin' Tots

Whether we pushed or pulled it, the wagon was surprisingly maneuverable and easy to steer. We found that pushing it as a stroller worked well on paved paths, and unlocking the handle to serve as a wagon made it easy to pull the cruiser up unpaved hills and trails. On nearly every surface, the stroller glided easily and smoothly. The only surface on which we missed inflatable air tires were on damp and dry sand, but it still rolled smoothly enough for both the toddler and the infant to fall asleep while moving.

When we encountered obstacles such as small drop-offs or fallen logs, locking the handle kept it out of the way. The cruiser is 32.5 pounds, which is not precisely light but is comparable to other products. For example, the popular double BOB Revolution Duallie stroller weighs 33.1 pounds and a plastic Radio Flyer Pathfinder wagon weighs 22.4 pounds. It was light enough for my male tester (i.e. Dad) to lift the whole thing, including kids, over obstacles in the trail.

We bumped into tree trunks and bushes without a scratch. Veer says each seat can accommodate weights of up to 55 pounds, and we were able to fit a small adult in the cruiser with two kids, a car seat, a diaper bag and snacks, for a combined weight of 170 pounds.

Yes, $599 is pricey for a child-toting vehicle, but it may seem less so when you consider that many families have a quiver of these things—jogging strollers, lightweight umbrella strollers for traveling, or the iconic Radio Flyer wagons that can do double-duty of hauling garden plants or injured dogs once the tykes are grown. The Veer is adaptable for a range of ages, stages, and number of kids. You can accessorize with a mattress insert for napping or a travel bag for gate-checking, and it is also within the specified dimensions for theme parks like Disneyworld.

After just a few days, we found ourselves taking it out multiple times every day—for trips to the playground or the corner market for groceries, for winter hikes at the beach or walking the dogs. We’re already anticipating how the cruiser will make summer camping trips so much easier. The only things the cruiser does not do for the kids is bathe them, feed them, or entertain them on long car rides. Maybe a few accessories will come out later to help with that stuff.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

adminadminReview: Veer Cruiser
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