Gear Review: MEC Scout Zip Pants

I’m a small guy. That’s just how it is.  So when it comes to finding clothing that fits me, either for hiking or for everyday wear, I am just used to more often than not compromising on one aspect (size, style, fit, comfort, colour, etc).  I have a 27-29 inch waist, so finding technical clothing that actually fits me correctly can be a major challenge.

After years of looking for hiking pants that actually fit me, I’ve started thinking out of the box a little.  I mean, it’s not that out of ordinary, but until this past year I never thought to look at youth sizes for technical clothing.  I just never thought they’d be good enough. One day, after being fed up with my old Patagonia pants that never quite fit right and after spending months actively trying on pants from many of the major brands, I stumbled into the youth section and came across the MEC Scout Zip Pants.  I’ve had these since the start of the year so I have put together my impressions of them. I also previously wrote an actual product review on the MEC website a while back, so this review may have a lot of overlap in content.

Summary:

I am an adult male (late 20s) who has a 27-29 inch waist, and am very impressed with these pants. I did not have high expectations for youth technical clothing, but these meet most of my requirements and do not stand out as kids clothes (so I don’t look ridiculous on the trail!).

Fit:

As an adult buying these for myself I can’t say much about whether this fits true to size or not for a child. However, I can say that these fit me very well. I have a 27-29 inch waist and have struggled for years to find a pair of hiking pants that properly fit me. Most men’s hiking pants that I have come across that claim to fit a 28 inch waist are actually a 30 with a belt loop or a snap to cinch it smaller. That can be very uncomfortable on the trail and add extra weight (or extra belts, etc).

The MEC Scout pants fit more or less perfectly around the waist. I have a size 14 and sometimes use a belt, but can get away without one, especially since there are adjustment straps on the inside of the waist that allow for small amounts of adjustment.  You can tighten or loosen the pants waist using a very light, small strap and button. This mechanism is much more comfortable than the ones I typically encounter on adult hiking pants that adjust from a 30 inch waist to a 28. The adjustment straps on the MEC Scout don’t cause any bunching and they tighten the waist band evenly around your waist. There are belt loops, and the belt loops actually will hold a belt comfortably if you need one or prefer to wear one for other reasons. I wear a Patagonia friction belt, partly because the belt itself can be useful to have as an extra strap that can be used in a pinch on your pack or as an emergency tourniquet or to support a splint if you get injured on the trail.

 

Adjustable Waist Allows for Some Adjustment

Waist Band Allows for Some Adjustment

The lower legs are a little wide near the bottom, but that seems to be because they are convertibles. I can unzip the legs and carefully take them off without removing my boots. I am considering taking in around the ankle a bit so they don’t collect mud when hiking without gaiters or rain pants, but that will make it more challenging to remove the legs when I convert them to shorts. I’ve also been thinking about adding a couple straps near the ankles with velcro or buttons to cinch in the outside of the pants. Regardless, these pants do fit under my rain pants (Outdoor Research Helium, Small), but they feel a little bunched around the lower legs. Not uncomfortably so, but enough that I was concerned the first time I wore them together that they would ride up my legs when hiking. Thankfully that did not happen and these are actually quite comfortable under rain pants once I got used to it.

Features:

These pants are a little heavy (approx 390 g for size 14) compared to what I am used to, but they still dry quickly and are just a little warm when it is cool (they block wind rather well, but still breath OK). They are convertibles so when it gets warm enough I can easily zip them off, but so far this (very, very warm) winter I have not needed to convert them to shorts when hiking. Now that warm weather is starting, I have found them just a hint too warm when exposed or when pushing it up a steep hill.  I’ll need to be a bit more proactive about converting them to shorts before I get too warm; I am still getting used to having the option.

Considering their weight, it’s fairly unsurprising that they are actually pretty tough. They are not as fragile as some of my more light weight clothing and gear (and not nearly as fragile as my old hiking pants which had been repaired many, many times) so I don’t worry if I have to scramble up some rocks or even if I just want to sit on a ledge and take in a view. The fabric is fairly stretchy and forgiving. I have not felt restricted at all when hiking or kneeling. The pants are thick and a bit heavy compared to more lightweight options, but I can still pack them up smaller than my rain jacket. Of course, packing size doesn’t really matter if you are just wearing one pair of pants on a trip or a hike.

The pockets are actually very well designed, which surprised me for youth clothing. The front pockets are deep enough to fit a wallet, or a small camera or phone. The back pockets are a little small (maybe a little tight) but can still fit small items. The side pocket isn’t huge, but it is large enough to fit a fairly large, flat-ish object. Small folded maps, phone, camera – that kind of thing. The clasp on the side pocket is well designed. There is only one snap, but the pocket retains whatever you have in it because the opening is a little tight.

Pocket Design Retains Objects

Pocket Design Retains Objects With Only One Button

The bottom of the rear pockets are mesh, allowing the pockets and the pants to breath.  This also provides drainage if the pants become wet (rain, or being submerged).

Conclusion:

Overall, these are pretty stellar pants. I’d get them in a second for a youth and I am very happy with them as an adult. I’ll be wearing these on the JMT this summer and I fully expect these to last me more than a few years and many, many miles. These are not “kids pants”, these are pants that fit kids (and of course, smaller adults). I’ve learned there is a difference. It’s just too bad I didn’t think to look in the youth section for hiking pants a few years ago…

Closing Notes:

Although I have not had much success with Lululemon sizes (most of the mens clothes are giant), I recently found a pair of tights for exercising in that fit me very well. So it’s not all bad.

I am still looking for adult hiking pants that are a little more lightweight than the Scout pants. I love the Scouts, but I am always pushing to get a balance between gear that’s durable and light weight.

I love my Outdoor Research Helium pants.  I haven’t had much opportunity to shop for more OR pants locally, but based on my experience with those rain pants I will continue to look closer at general hiking pants.

If you have any suggestions or success stories for small men’s pants, then let me know in the comments! I’d love to get your suggestions.

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Trip Report: Sunshine Coast Trail

Very overdue (publishing some old drafts we forgot about) – here is our trip report from the Sunshine Coast Trail.

Summary

So, unfortunately, we didn’t end up finishing the trail as Kyle got injured on Day 5 and we had to hike out. We did get over halfway through the trail though.

The trail was very pretty and there were some amazing views on it. The trail ended up being significantly more technical & difficult than we had anticipated – the trail itself is very well-marked and easy to follow, with relatively moderate elevation change over the trail.

Day-by-day Reports

Day 1

Mileage: 16.0 km (0.0 – 16.0)

We started out in Lund after staying the night at the Lund Historical Hotel. We had booked the water taxi to take us to the trailhead. The water taxi was $120 and took around 20 minutes from Lund to the trailhead.

The trailhead that the water taxi drops you off on a rock ledge and then there’s a ~5′ scramble to the actual trail.

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The trail follows along the coast/shoreline for the majority of this section and pops out onto various beaches and bluffs. The trail itself is covered in moss & leaves. We also found that there were a lot of trees down on the trail – this might be since it was early in the season before hey normally do trail maintenance, but definitely something to keep in mind if you are planning on doing the trail early in the year. If there had not been downed trees, the trail would have been quite straightforward and on the easy side of things – the downed trees required a lot of climbing over or going off trail to go around them which made it more challenging.

The elevation gain is very reasonable, the vast majority of it wasn’t steep enough to justify switchbacks and the trail went straight up the hills.

We ended our first day at the first shelter of the trail – the Manzanita Hut.

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It started raining & hailing quite heavily only a few minutes after we reached the hut. We were considering continuing on and setting up camp further along the trail. But the rain/hail and the fact that we didn’t want to push too hard on our first day made it easy for us to decide to stay at the hut.

The hut was quite nice – there was a cooking area on the main floor and then a sleeping loft upstairs. The sleeping loft had windows at either end that could be opened for ventilation. There was also an outhouse a short distance away, picnic tables and a fire ring. One thing to note about this shelter is there are definitely mice/rodents present. There were mouse droppings in the sleeping loft and both myself and Kyle woke up the next morning with tight throats.

Day 2

Mileage: 27.1 km (to Shangri-La dock at 43.1 km)

We started shortly after 8am. The trail is mostly through forested sections, easy to follow and a surprising number of benches along the way. There are lots of options for camping along the way if you would like a shorter day.

Day 3

Mileage: (to Inland Lake Huts)

This was a hard day. It started out well with the sun shining and a relatively easy hike into Powell River. We got into town a bit before noon, so we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that was right along the trail.

After lunch though was a different story. The directions through town to the next trailhead were not at all clear, so we wasted a bit of time wandering around. Once we found where we were supposed to go, it involved climbing a gravel logging road in the hot sun, then once near the top, going right back down a very overgrown trail. It was not pleasant at all.

We were hoping to make it to Confederation Lake today, but the gravel road walk and the condition of the trail meant that we had to stop at the Inland Lakes instead.

Inland Lakes is actually pretty neat – the trail around the lake is all leveled gravel so that wheelchair users can navigate it and the two shelters were initially intended for groups with disabilities to be able to use. However, they weren’t well used and are now open to the general public as well. We camped in our tent rather than staying in the shelters.

Day 4

Mileage: (to Tin Hat Mountain)

This was one of the most challenging days of hiking I’ve experienced. There were lots of downed trees along the trail and the trail up to Tin Hat Mountain is incredibly steep. It was gorgeous up there though and well worth the effort.

We also passed by the Confederation Lake hut along the way – I’d highly recommend staying here rather than Inland Lake as it is much prettier and a nicer shelter.

Day 5

This was the day Kyle got injured. There was a lot of downed trees along the trail and he tweaked his knee while climbing over one. We kept going for a while and tried to slow our pace, but it quickly became apparent we wouldn’t be able to continue. So we backtracked to an access road we had passed and started walking down it towards the highway. Unfortunately, we got to the road a bit late and missed any loggers that would be leaving for the day. We found a flattish spot along the side of the road and set up our tent. Luckily for us,  a couple on an ATV came down the road about 15 minutes after we had everything set up.

They were super awesome and returned with their truck and gave us a ride all the way into Powell River. We grabbed a hotel room for the night and caught the bus back to Vancouver the following morning.

Recommendations/Conclusions

One week is definitely an achievable timeline if you are physically fit and enjoy hiking all-day. If you are the type that enjoys spending more time in camp, I would recommend extending the trip and doing a resupply in Powell River.

Depending on if you have severe allergies or not – you might not want to stay in the huts. Several of the huts had obvious rodent issues (lots of droppings) and both Kyle and I noticed we were stuffy/had tight throats in the morning after staying in one of the huts.

Check the trail reports and Facebook page before leaving – there was a detour around Tin Hat Mountain that we did not learn about until we reached it. We went around it after speaking to some loggers who said they were not blasting in the area anymore.

Bring a set of maps with logging roads marked on it so you can easily find bailout points or detours.

Consider going later on in the season to avoid significant amounts of downed trees across the trail.

Day Trip Report: BCMC & Goat Mountain

This past month has been quite busy for both Kyle & I at work, so unfortunately we haven’t had any opportunities or energy to go hiking on the weekends. This past Sunday we finally managed to get out for a hike though.

We took the BCMC up to Grouse Mountain and then followed the Alpine Trail to Goat Mountain.

We took the bus to Grouse Mountain – this is one of the more straightforward hikes to access via transit in North Vancouver. The simplest way to reach Grouse from downtown Vancouver is to take the Seabus and then the 136 to Grouse. Alternatively, you can take one of the buses that goes to either Phibbs Exchange or across the Lion’s Gate and then catch the 132 to Grouse.

The BCMC is a slightly less challenging and much less busy alternative to the Grouse Grind. Personally, I find the Grouse Grind to be overrated and not enjoyable – I like hiking to be outside and enjoy the outdoors, I don’t find I can do that when I’m climbing a mountain with dozens of other people trying to pass me and/or getting in my way. The BCMC starts at the same location as the Grind, but take the right trail towards the Baden-Powell rather than left. Shortly after there is another marked trail junction (ignore all the other “trails” made by people going off-trail), left will take you up Grouse on the BCMC, right will take you towards Lynn Canyon on the Baden-Powell.

We left our hiking poles at home and shortly after starting on the trail, I was wishing we hadn’t. The trail isn’t extremely difficult, but it definitely is steep and as I’m on the short side, having poles would have made it much easier. Overall it is a great trail though – good workout, but doesn’t feel never-ending like some trails do. It took us close to 1.5 hours to reach the chalet.

It was quite foggy near the end of the BCMC

It was quite foggy near the end of the BCMC

Once we reached the chalet, it was extremely foggy – the hardest part of the hike was finding our way to the Goat Mountain trailhead. We wound up taking a few accidental loops of the grizzly bear enclosure, but once you find the trail it is straightforward. There is a board with maps of the surrounding trails and a registration/permit box. I’d highly recommend filling out a permit since the trail is very steep in sections and a fall/slip could be treacherous.

Thankfully once we started ascending on the trail, the fog/clouds dissipated and the trail was clear again. We took the Alpine route, but the Alpine & Ridge routes run roughly parallel and intersect occasionally, so you could take either trail (or both!) up until the junction to Hanes Valley/Crown Mountain. The trail is fairly well-marked with orange tape & markers.

First glimpse of Goat Mountain

 

Again hiking poles would have been nice along here as it is quite steep in sections. Overall this is not a difficult trail, but there are some short scrambling sections that push this into a more advanced category.

There are some short scrambling sections along the trail.

There are some short scrambling sections along the trail

Near the peak of Goat Mountain, there are some chains that mark the beginning of the end and then it’s only another five minutes or so of hiking/scrambling to the top. Again although I wouldn’t consider this difficult, scrambling and really anytime that you use your hands when hiking push this into a more advanced category.

Once we reached the peak, there were two other groups, but they left within a few minutes and we had the entire mountain to ourselves. The peak was slightly above the clouds causing the extreme fog at Grouse so we didn’t get much of a view, but the clouds themselves were pretty and the sun was very nice. We spent a few minutes sitting in the sun and eating snacks before heading back down.

Goat Mountain

View at the top of Goat Mountain

There was a surprising amount of trash at the peak – we collected four bottles on our way back. It took us less than 3 hours to complete the Goat Mountain hike including a few breaks for snacks. If you do fill out a permit – remember to drop off the slip in the box when you return.

Once we got back to the chalet, we grabbed some hot chocolate and cookies and took the gondola back down. If you want to take the gondola down, it costs $10, or alternatively you could hike back down the BCMC. From the time we started the BCMC to when we got back to the bottom of Grouse was less than 6 hours – I’d estimate we were actually hiking for around 4.5 hours and the rest of the time was spent on breaks/at the chalet/getting lost around the grizzly bear enclosure/taking the gondola down.

I would definitely recommend this hike and we are planning on returning to do the Crown Mountain & Hanes Valley hike later this summer.

Getting to / from the SCT

It’s always a challenge trying to get to the trailhead, especially when the hike is a through hike and does not loop back to the same spot.

When first looking at the SCT we were a little concerned that getting to the trailhead would be difficult.  We weren’t sure what kind of transit is available in the Sunshine Coast..  It turns out getting there can be pretty simple.

There are three major options: driving, taking the bus or flying.

We don’t own a car, so driving would involve us renting something (car rental, Modo, etc), driving to the trail head then hiking to the end of the trail. Then finding some transportation back to the trailhead.  That isn’t very cost effective since we’d have to rent the car for the entire trip, but it would just sit at the trailhead the entire time.

We also looked at flying to Powell River, but it was also fairly expensive and still required some travel from Powell River to the trailhead as well.  This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme. Getting to/ from the trailhead is always the biggest challenge when you are travelling without your own car.

The other option was to take a charter bus.  The charter bus goes between Vancouver (stopping at the airport as well as several other stops in the city) and Powell River.  The bus makes several stops along the way, including Saltery Bay.  This bus will also take you from the Sunshine Coast back to Vancouver.  A one way trip between Vancouver and Powell River can cost only $79 per person.  This is the option we decided to go with.

Itinerary – Getting There

Day 1:

Take the charter bus from Vancouver to Powell River.  At the time of writing, the schedule indicates that the bus picks up in Vancouver at around 2:30pm (exact time depends on the stop). The charter bus accepts cash as you get on it, and requires you to flag it down as it drives by. Although the schedule indicates the intersection that the bus can pick you up at, there are no dedicated stops (no signs) so you need to keep your eye out for a white bus (similar in model to the Translink community busses) and be sure to get its attention. I called the company that operates the charter bus and I was told that if I call the day before they could notify the driver that there will be someone waiting, but we would still need to be sure to flag the bus down.  After actually taking the bus to Powell River we found out by the bus driver that the best bet is to take the bus at a terminal station (ie: the airport) because you have a better chance of flagging down the bus as well as getting a seat.

The bus then takes you to the ferry (a good chance to pick up any forgotten snacks!) and eventually drops you off in the city centre of Powell River.

Powell River has a bunch of restaurants in around the city centre, so this is a good opportunity to grab a bite before heading on.   Keep in mind the arrival time, as some of these restaurants may not be open very late.  The current bus schedule indicates arrival at around 8:00pm.

After possibly grabbing a bite to eat, you can then call a taxi to drive you to Lund.  This trip should cost approximately $65.  I called ahead and was advised that you don’t need to call the taxi company ahead of time unless you are going from Lund to Powell River (or I suppose, if you expect the taxi company to be exceptionally busy that day).

Alternatively, if your timing works out you can take public transit from Powell River to Lund on the Number 14 – Lund Connector route.  Unfortunately, as good as this route is, it doesn’t run as late as we arrived in Powell River so this bus wasn’t an option for us unless we stayed the night in Powell River and started the hike late the next day.  We prefer an early start, so we made our way to Lund that evening.

At Lund there are some options to stay the night depending on your preferences. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts in the area.  If you prefer to just set up a tent and camp (as we usually do; this is often very convenient when arriving late and starting early the next day) then there is also a very convenient camping site that is open during the summer.  This camp site is walking distance to the water taxi.  Since our trip was during the off-season and this camping site was not open yet we decided to stay in the Historic Lund Hotel.  This is also walking distance to the water taxi.

Day 2:

After catching a night’s rest, wake up early (or late if you prefer) and walk down to the water to catch a water taxi to Sarah Point.  You need to call in advance to book the taxi.

The water taxi will take you directly to Sarah Point for you to start your hike.

 

Itinerary – Getting Back

This is similar, but in reverse.

Day 1

The charter bus also picks you up at Salter Bay.  You can finish the hike at Saltery Bay and camp at the camp site at Salter Bay.  The next day you can flag down the Charter Bus or even walk to the Ferry, walk on, and join the Charter Bus on the Ferry. During our trip there was an announcement on the Ferry and the Bus Driver made tickets available on the Ferry.

Take the bus all the way back to Vancouver.

Alternatively, you can bus back to Powell River instead if you have a car left there or if you are planning on flying back.

Conclusions

I was very pleased with how easy it was to get to the trail head.  I suggest adding a bit more travel time than we did so you can enjoy the community a bit more before the hike. The surrounding area is beautiful and the people were very helpful and welcoming.

First 10k Run Report

This past weekend, I ran my first 10k. In school I never enjoyed running and would certainly never identify myself as a runner, so I found myself a bit surprised initially when I even considered doing this a few months back.

My workplace was offering to pay the fees for the Vancouver Sun Run and a few of my co-workers were participating, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ It would be a great way to force myself to train for our upcoming JMT hike this summer and you never know, it could be fun.

Training

My “training” for the sun was very loose at best – I tried to run 5k three times each week prior to leaving on the Sunshine Coast Trail. I was planning on trying to get in a 10k test run after returning from the SCT, but I wound about up taking the whole week off and not really doing any physical activity in the week leading up to the run.

The Run

My goal for the run was to run the entire course and complete it in 60 minutes. My goal of 60 minutes was a bit optimistic considering the majority of my training runs took around 30 minutes and were less than 5k, but I figured if I pushed myself it might be attainable.

It was a nice sunny day for the run so I wore a running skirt instead of tights and a short sleeve t-shirt. While waiting for the run to start I was in the shade and a bit chilly, but once the run started I was so glad I had chosen a skirt instead of tights – I would have been way too hot.

The course itself was relatively flat – going through downtown, crossing a bridge at the 5k point and then crossing another bridge back towards downtown for the last 1k. I think the max elevation was 40m? So basically the toughest hills were going to the tops of bridges.

Really though the majority of the run went pretty smoothly and I felt good throughout it. The first 2k were a bit annoying due to the shear number of people – there was a bit of dodging and trying to find a good path through the slower folks – after that it was still busy, but not so much so that finding a path was difficult.

I tried to sprint the final 1k and my final time was 1:03:27.0 which I was supremely happy with. Kyle was waiting for me after the finish line with a snickers and more water and then we walked home (he didn’t run as he had injured his knee the previous week doing the SCT).

Things to Change

There’s a few things I’d do differently if I did this again:

  • Wear sunscreen or a hat/visor – the majority of the course was directly in the sun and I got a bit pink/flushed on my cheeks and nose
  • Carry my phone in an armband or zippered pocket – I had never run with my phone in the pockets of this particular running skirt and it wasn’t particularly secure – it ended up falling out around 4k and I carried it the rest of the way
  • Get a hand strap or waist belt for my water bottle (or don’t carry it at all) – having one of those water bottles with a hand strap or a waist belt would have been nice so I didn’t need to actively hold on to it – I could have also gotten away without carrying water at all, there are plenty of water stations along the course, but it is nice being able to drink whenever I want and not just at the water stations

Final Thoughts on Running

I still definitely don’t identify myself as a runner, but I have found that I do enjoy it somewhat. It’s especially nice being able to run by the beach/water in our neighbourhood and just take in our beautiful city.

I also really recognize and appreciate its usefulness in training for a thru-hike. Running is a much more efficient way to train to hike long distances than actually hiking them which is great if you have limited time available to train.

Hubba Hubba NX – Upgrade Achieved!

We bought our original Hubba Hubba like two months before it was recalled in Canada.  We used it on a few trips and eventually realized there was a recall.  Although we weren’t worried about the tent catching fire (we tend not to cook in our tent…), the NX ended up being released shortly after we learned of the recall. We realized that this was our opportunity to upgrade.

We dug around quite a bit to make sure the NX is worth it.  After all, if we returned our Hubba Hubba we couldn’t get it back. So we couldn’t risk returning our amazing tent if the NX had any flaws.  Thankfully the reviews of the NX had been very promising.  Looking at the design changes we realized that overall the tent was improved.  Some of our complaints about the design have been addressed (proximity of mesh to zipper, rainfly ventilation, improved grommet design) and we didn’t see any changes that made the tent less livable in any way.  The NX also has the added bonus of being lighter, a little easier to set up (while maintaining the same pole configuration), and it’s also a little easier to see in the dark.

Since MEC is awesome, we called and they told us we could bring the tent in and we’d get a credit for the return so we could get the NX at minimal cost.  I checked the availability of the NX over the phone and it had plenty of inventory in store and online.

The NX sold out more or less immediately at MEC.  There was a bunch when I called, then we came in a day or two later to exchange our old tent and by that time MEC was backordered.

So we just held onto our Hubba Hubba until about a month ago, waiting for more inventory.  And now we’ve got one.  We’ve already set it up in our (tiny) living room and it definitely looks promising.  We’ll give it a go on the Sunshine Coast Trail and let you know how it goes.

Finding my Bike: Wants & Needs

When I first started commuting on my bike, I rode a cheap hardtail mountain bike from a big box store. I switched out the knobby tires for smooth road tires and added fenders and a bike rack. It wasn’t the lightest or prettiest thing, but it got the job done.

After riding for a few years and finishing school, it seemed like it might be time to upgrade to a bike that was actually designed for the style of riding I do. So this past summer I purchased a new bike and in the process I got to get ride several different bikes.

Requirements

I use my bike mostly for commuting to/from work (~8km/30 min each way) and occasionally for grocery shopping and casual rides on the weekend. So I was looking for a bike with the following:

  • Upright-ish posture
  • IGH – more gears would be better but I could get by with only 3
  • Fenders
  • Rack
  • < 35 lbs so I can easily get it on the bus if needed
  • Step-through/mixte style frame
  • $500 – 1000

And the following weren’t necessary but would be definite pluses:

  • Disc and/or drum brakes
  • Double kickstand
  • Dynamo lighting
  • Pretty looking

Options

So after doing some research online I was considering the following bikes (roughly in order from least to most expensive):

[t] = test rode | [b] = bought

A few of these I wasn’t able to find locally to test ride and others I just didn’t get to test ride them before I bought my bike.

Stay tuned for my next post with my impressions of the Linus Dutchi.