Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Sunday, January 31, 2016

GEAR REVIEW and My Favorite Gear #8: Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiter

By Will Rietveld

If you wear lightweight trail runners as your footwear of choice for ultralight backpacking, an accessory I highly recommend is a pair of ultralight gaiters. Why? They keep dirt, grit, debris, and snow out of your shoes.

Since we are choosing the lightest footwear to meet our needs, we need to match them with the lightest most functional gaiters available. 

At 1.2 ounces per pair the Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiter is one of the lightest to be found.

Specifications and Features

Outdoor Research (www.outdoorresearch.com)
Sparkplug Gaiter
86% Nylon 14% Spandex
Front hook, heel Velcro attachment
Manufacturer 1.2 oz/pr, measured 1.15 oz/pr


These thin and stretchy gaiters are intended for running. They have a reinforced lace hook on the front and Velcro hook tab at the heel that attaches to a mating loop tab that you stick to the back of your shoes. Two sets of the loop tabs are provided. The Velcro appears to be a stickier version. Three colors are available: green, blue, and black.

They are made of a stretch nylon that is breathable, wicking, and water-resistant.

To achieve their light weight, the minimalist Sparkplug Gaiters are made of thin fabric, don’t have an underfoot cord or strap, and don’t any provision to put them on/off without removing your shoes. You need to put your foot through the top opening of the gaiter and then put on your shoe.

Field Testing

I tested the Sparkplug Gaiters on several backpacking trips and day hikes. I'm not very fond of the green color but the gaiters are impressively lightweight and functional.

 The sizing seems to be on target. I tested size L/XL for my size 12 feet and the gaiters stretch appropriately to cover the top opening of my shoes, without being over-stretched or loose.

One nice feature of these gaiters is they cover the top of your shoes from the toebox back, so they keep brush from catching your shoe laces and effectively keep debris out.

After quite a lot of use, including bushwhacking and bouldering, the gaiters do not have any holes in them or seams unraveling; they are surprisingly durable.

I found that the Velcro attachment at the heel works quite well; it really takes a lot to break it loose, and in my opinion is a lot better than an underfoot cord.

The only issue I have is the Velcro loop patch, which has an adhesive backing that attaches to the back each shoe, is coming loose. I followed the instructions to first clean the area with alcohol before attaching the patches, but they are still coming loose at the ends. This is not a big issue because it is unlikely that the patch will be lost (it will stay attached to the mating hook patch), so it can be reattached with contact cement or other adhesive.

 Adhesive-backed Velcro is also available in many stores, so it can readily be replaced on the gaiters or shoes, or added to additional shoes.


These gaiters are wonderfully lightweight, functional, and durable. They land on my list of favorite gear.

Tip: You don't need to put gaiters over the bottom of your hiking pants; they work just fine under your cuffs, and provide more freedom of movement.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

GEAR REVIEW and My Favorite Gear #7: Seirus Heatwave Glove Liners, Skull Liner, Socks, and Zenith Mitts

By Will Rietveld

The Seirus Heatwave technology is described as “a dual-stage heating system involving: 1) a kinetic stage that amplifies temperature 4-5 degrees, and 2) a reflective stage that returns 20% more warmth”. The “kinetic stage” is a bit hard to understand; I believe it means the black outside fabric absorbs infrared radiation and transfers it inside. The reflective metallic lining inside the garment is easy to understand; it reflects heat back to your skin. We have seen something similar from Columbia, who added a reflective lining to jackets and sleeping bags.

I was attracted to the liners for ultralight backpacking because they are very lightweight in addition to being reflective for extra warmth. The lightweight insulated Zenith Mitts, with a waterproof/breathable membrane, are potentially a good choice for snow sports.

Features and Specifications

Seirus (www.seirus.com)
Heatwave Glove Liners, Socks, Skull Liner, and Zenith Mitts
No fabric description is provided for liners; Zenith Mitt shell is taslan with a SureGrip palm
Measured Weight
Glove Liner 1.15 oz/pr, Socks 1.95 oz/pr, Skull Liner 0.85 oz, Zenith Mitts 6.2 oz/pr
Glove Liner $20, Socks $35, Skull Liner $25, Zenith Mitts $50

Seirus Heatwave Glove Liners

The liners I received for review are a bit strange; as sewn, the reflective layer is on the outside, which doesn’t make any sense to me. Seems like it should be on the inside to reflect heat back to your skin. When asked if that was a manufacturing error, the company representative reported back that they are intended to be that way. I still don’t understand why the glove liners are different from the Socks and Skull Liner, which have the reflective layer on the inside. I have seen other people wearing the Glove Liners with the reflective layer on the outside, so the liners I have are not unique. If someone can explain this to me I would appreciate it. I tested the Glove Liners inside out (with the reflective layer inside) because that makes sense to me.

The Seirus Heatwave Glove Liners have the reflective layer on the outside, which differs from the illustration above and the other Heatwave items tested.

Besides their light weight (only 1.15 oz/pr in size L/XL), the glove liners have a 4-way stretch which allows them to form fit my XL hands.

I took the Glove Liners on several summer backpacking trips in the Southwestern Colorado Mountains, usually camping above treeline where nighttime temperatures can drop into the 30s F. Wearing the liners in camp and occasionally on the trail, I found them to be comfortably warm when dry. However, they are not water-resistant at all, so when they get damp or wet they are definitely cold, as one would expect. After using them on several trips they show no signs of wear. I did not wear them while bushwhacking, which I doubt they could withstand for long.

Coincidentally as I write this review, I went on a snowshoeing trip with a group of friends, and two others in the group were wearing the Seirus Heatwave Liner Gloves. They wore them with the reflective layer out, and look what happened to them in this photo -- after only two months of use in this case the reflective layer showed considerable wear, especially where they were in contact with trekking/ski poles. This is another reason why it doesn't make sense to sew the liners with the reflective layer on the outside.

Overall, I found the Seirus Heatwave Glove Liners to be a good choice for ultralight backpacking. They weigh about the same as a pair of thin wool glove liners, and (in my opinion) are an increment warmer, as long as they are kept dry.

Seirus Heatwave Socks

I got the Heatwave Socks in size Large, which fits men’s sizes 9 to 11.5. My size 12 feet are a bit beyond that range, but the socks fit perfectly. The seams are designed so the socks anatomically fit my feet very well, and have flat seam construction with reinforced stitching so they are comfortable to wear and long-lasting. They are tall, 14 inches from heel to hem. Unlike the glove liners, the Heatwave Socks have the reflective lining on the inside (where it belongs, in my opinion).

Seirus Heatwave Socks

For a mere 1.95 ounces, the Heatwave Socks provide a lot of warmth for their weight, as I discovered on several summer backpacking trips in the mountains. An ultralight camp footwear system I use is a thin plastic bag over my foot, then the Heatwave Socks, then a Tyvek bootie. The total weight is 1.4 ounces/foot. This keeps the socks dry and my feet warm in camp and in my sleeping bag.

The Heatwave Socks can also be worn as a liner inside other socks, or inside waterproof/breathable socks. My favorites are the Rocky Gore-Tex socks. I did not test these alternative uses.

Overall, the Heatwave Socks are another winner; they make excellent ultralight camp and sleeping socks. They have been worn and laundered a number of times and are still in like-new condition.

Seirus Heatwave Skull Liner

This is otherwise known as a skull cap or a helmet liner. With its Heatwave lining on the inside, the Skull Liner is surprisingly warm under a hiking cap on the trail when a cold wind blows, and as a camp hat while mountain backpacking. It covers my ears (barely), which mostly eliminates wind roar in my ears when hiking in wind. As a sleeping hat it is sufficiently warm in a mummy bag with an insulated hood, but it’s a bit on the light side for sleeping in a hoodless bag or quilt in temperatures below about 40F.

Seirus Heatwave Skull Liner.

It comes in one size and stretches to fit. It weighs only 0.85 ounce, about the same as a thin fleece skull cap, so it too finds its way into my ultralight gear kit.

Heatwave Zenith Mitts

The Zenith Mitts are a different product for a different purpose. They are insulated, windproof, waterproof /breathable mitts intended for snow sports and general cold weather handwear. The exterior fabric is a soft taslan and the SureGrip palm is soft, grippy, and durable. They have the same reflective lining as the liners reviewed above. Insulation is 250-gram HeatLock and the membrane is called DryHand. There is a small gauntlet on the wrist opening with a one-handed cinch closure.

Seirus Heatwave Zenith Mitts

I tested the Zenith Mitt on several winter backcountry skiing and snowshoeing trips, by themselves and inside a shell mitt.

The mitts fit my XL hands well and my initial impression is they are very soft and warm.

However, after wearing them several times I realized their limitations. I found them to be suitable for moderately cold conditions (20s F), but chilly to cold below that. When moisture from sweat builds up inside the mitts they are less warm and the lining has a lot of resistance to pulling my hands out and putting them back in.

The mitts’ gauntlets are a bit of a conundrum; they are too bulky to fit inside the cuff of a shell jacket, but the mitt opening is not large enough to fit over the cuff of a shell jacket. The result is the cuffs butt together, allowing snow to get in.

When I wore the mitts in snowy weather they got wet and I suspected they were leaking. So I tested their waterproofness at home by immersing a mitt in a bucket of water down to an elastic binding just below the gauntlet. After 1 hour I checked the mitt for leakage to the inside, and found it to be dry inside. Good so far. However, the exterior fabrics, and perhaps the insulation, absorbed a great deal of water. The dry weight of the mitt was 3.15 ounces and the wet weight was 7.75 ounces, so the mitt absorbed 4.6 ounces of water! That’s more than double the initial weight. These mitts have a waterproof/breathable membrane, but the mitts themselves are not waterproof; they soak up water like a sponge!

From my test results I recommend that the Zenith Mitt be worn by itself only in dry weather (where it will breathe better), or worn inside a waterproof shell in wet weather (which will keep the mitt dry, but will seal in perspiration).


The Heatwave Glove Liners, Socks, and Skull Liner are a good find for an ultralight backpacking kit. They are very lightweight and functional, just what we are looking for, so they land on my favorite gear list.

However the Heatwave Zenith Mitts have some caveats: they are only moderately warm (warmer if you wear a shell over them), and it’s important to keep them dry. The exterior fabric (everything exterior of the membrane) is very absorbent, so the mitts easily soak up water resulting in cold hands.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

GEAR REVIEW and My Favorite Gear #6: Exped SynMat HyperLite Sleeping Pad

By Will Rietveld

The Europeans call it a “mat”, we call it a sleeping pad. Whatever you call it, a comfortable and warm sleeping pad (or mat) is frequently at the top of our list of luxury items. Indeed, a good night’s sleep is important for recovery on multi-day backpacking trips, so many ultralight backpackers opt for a comfortable pad. The extra benefits justify the few extra ounces.

The Exped SynMat HyperLite is one of the lightest, full-length, insulated, most comfortable sleeping pads to be found, and lands on my list of favorite gear.

Exped SynMat HyperLite Mat in an enclosed tarp shelter camped at 12,500 feet in Southwest Colorado.

Specifications and Features

Exped (www.exped.com)
SynMat HyperLite Mat
72x20.5x2.75 inches
Manufacturer specification 12.3 oz, measured 11.9 oz (pad only)
Mummy shape, 20 denier polyester fabric, welded seams, microfiber insulation, flat one-way valve design for easy inflation, stuff sack and repair kit included
$169 (size Medium tested) M-wide and L-wide versions available


I tested the Synmat Hyperlite in size Medium, which is the lightest size available.

The pad is made of 20-denier polyester and is mummy shaped to save weight and provide adequate durability.

Lofted microfiber insulation is laminated to the top and bottom inner surfaces, providing lightweight, efficient 4-season warmth. The R-value is 3.3, which is sufficient for the shoulder seasons, but a bit low for winter camping (for that Exped has the SynMat WinterLite with a 4.9 R-value and weight of 14.3 ounces).

The pad is extra thick (2.75 inches) and has a baffling system for uniform support.

The pad has a flat inflation/deflation valve on the bottomside. The one-way valve makes it easy to inflate the pad (I counted 25 blows to fully inflate it). To deflate it the small plastic tab is inserted into the valve to hold it open while you press the air out.

Field Testing

I tested the Synmat Hyperlite on several backpacks in the Southwest Colorado mountains, Utah canyon country, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

What more can I say: this pad is really, really comfortable. It is also easy to inflate/deflate, its warm, and I had no problems with punctures, even while camping on rocky ground in the Grand Canyon. It also works well with a quilt, as shown in the photo.


Yes it weighs about 5 ounces more than a lightweight ¾-length sleeping pad, such as the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Short. However for that extra 5 ounces you get a full-length, thicker, more comfortable pad. Honestly, it’s hard not to take this pad on a backpacking trip. Many ultralight backpackers allocate a few luxury ounces to a more comfortable sleeping pad for a better night’s sleep, and as I get older I am slipping into that category.

For comparison, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir X-Lite size Regular is 72x20x2.5 inches, weighs 12 ounces, R-value is 3.2, and cost is $160, so the specs and cost are comparable. Both are good pads; I would personally choose the Exped.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

GEAR REVIEW and My Favorite Gear #5 Vasque Snow Junkie Insulated Hiking Boot

By Will Rietveld

There’s a time and a place for each type of footwear. Normally I wear lightweight trail runners for summer backpacking, and don’t mind wet feet when it’s warmer and shoes dry out quickly. I wear lightweight waterproof footwear for spring hiking in the mountains where I know conditions will be soggy. And lightweight waterproof insulated boots are great for active snow and cold weather hiking.

For the latter situation, the Vasque Snow Junkie Insulated Boot is my footwear choice.

The Vasque Snow Junkie is my favorite lightweight insulate hiking boot.


At 1 pound 2.5 ounces per boot (men’s size 9), they are lightweight for an insulated full-fledged hiking boot. Insulation is 200-gram Thinsulate, which means they are lightly insulated for active hiking; they are not insulated enough for more sedentary situations. They are constructed of all-synthetic materials (my preference for any footwear), so they do not absorb water. The waterproof lining is Vasque UltraDry. They use the Perpetuum last, which is the same one used for the popular Vasque Velocity shoe.

The Vasque Snow Junkie has all-synthetic construction, so it doesn't absorb any water. I found it to be reliably waterproof and very durable. Its basically a light hiker with insulation.


I wore these boots on dozens of hikes on snow and ice, snowshoe trips, and cold weather hikes in Utah canyon country, as well as winter footwear in town.

As with most insulated boots, the interior is more on the roomy side to allow for extra socks. Even so, the Snow Junkie is barely wide enough for my duck feet (E width). I do fine if I wear thinner socks. The width should be perfect for people with normal (D width) feet. For cold weather footwear, its nice to have extra room inside to wear extra socks for more warmth.

Traction is good in snow that is soft enough for the outsole to get a good grip, but they don’t provide good grip on ice. The outsole is called “Vasque Blur”, which has some lugs of softer rubber, but they are not sticky enough on ice, and don’t compare with newer rubber compounds recently introduced.

As mentioned, these boots are adequately warm during active hiking, but they are not warm enough for inactive situations. I personally did not find them warm enough for snowshoeing, but my feet get cold easily. However, they could be worn in combination with a heated insole inside for lightweight snowshoeing footwear. They are certainly waterproof enough, durable, and friendly for the purpose (gaiter ring in the front and heel strap friendly rand at the rear).

What I especially like about the Snow Junkie is they function like ordinary light hiking boots. They are not klutzy, meaning they don’t feel bulky or heavy on my feet. They are basically light hikers with insulation. While some insulated boots will develop discomfort or wear you down if you hike in them all day, the Snow Junkie feels like a light hiker and I can hike all day in them with no discomfort.

The Snow Junkie is a bit wider than typical hiking boots, but is barely wide enough for my duck feet. They are comfortable if I wear thinner socks in them.  I found them to be comfortable to wear all day for hiking in a variety of conditions in cold weather.

Bottom Line

The Vasque Snow Junkie is the nicest cold weather hiking boot I have found so far. I like their all-synthetic construction and light weight. They provide adequate warmth for active walking and consistently keep my feet dry. They are comfortable to wear while hiking all day. And they have been very durable.

Their main limitation is their traction on ice.

Newer boot models coming out address that issue, incorporating new outsole compounds with excellent grip on ice. For example, I recently reported on Vasque’s new Coldspark boot for fall 2016 which weighs about the same as the Snow Junkie but has a ColdHold outsole for better traction on ice.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2016 – Part 9: LIGHTWEIGHT/FUNCTIONAL STANDOUTS

By Will Rietveld

Note: Weights are for men's size Medium unless stated otherwise.

My coverage of the Outdoor Retailer winter market 2016 is a wrap. I featured a diversity of products interesting products this time, something for everyone. At OR, it’s hard to limit my selections to only ultralight gear because it would be a short list, so I open it up to include lightweight gear and useful gear for day tripping.

OR actually isn’t the best place to look for ultralight gear; it encompasses the entire outdoor industry, which is mostly mainstream gear. The exceptions are sleeping bags and clothing, where the larger companies provide some truly ultralight products (among all the heavier stuff). The truly lightweight gear comes from small businesses that sell online and can’t afford to attend OR.

But, perusing all the items I covered this time begs the question: What are the lightweight standouts in this batch of gear, items that really appeal because of their light weight, functionality and versatility? That’s the focus of this wrap-up article; in no particular order I present the items that impressed me the most. That’s from my perspective; I invite you to comment on your picks based on your perspective.

Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Vest. This minimalist 3.1 ounce down vest is insulated with 1000 fill-power down and has a 7 denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon shell with sewn-through construction. That’s incredible warmth for the weight and it will make a superlight midlayer. MSRP is $199; available mid August 2016.

Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. This jacket is the one I wished for: 1000 fill-power down, 7 denier shell fabric, and twice the fill of the Plasma 1000 jacket. This jacket is a dream come true for shoulder season trips; it contains 3.4 ounces of fill and the jacket weight is just 8.4 ounces, which is amazing considering the jacket’s features: full height front zipper, attached 2-way adjustable hood, hem drawcord, two zippered hand pockets, and elastic cuffs. I could live without some of the features, but I understand why Montbell added features to this one.  The MSRP of $379 is actually a good value; available in mid August 2016.

CAMP Kristal Gaiter. These 16.5-inch tall gaiters weigh just 3.2 ounces/pair, which is really light. They’re made of silicone-coated B-Dry Evo ripstop nylon with taped seams, so they are completely waterproof. Features are a front water-resistant zipper, adjustable Dyneema cords underfoot, and elastic tensioners at the top and lace hook. MSRP is $60; available now.
Steripen RealTree UV Water Purifier. The RealTree will be Steripen’s smallest and lightest water purifier. It’s basically the Freedom without the integrated flashlight feature, making it a smidgeon lighter at 2.6 ounces. Like the Freedom, it has a built-in USB rechargeable battery and a lamp that will provide 5000 treatments. It will purify a pint of water in 48 seconds. MSRP is $70, compared to $100 for the Freedom. I didn’t like the flashlight feature of the Freedom anyway; it sometimes came on by itself inside my pack, draining the battery, and I never used it as a flashlight for the same reason. In my opinion, the Freedom’s integrated flashlight is redundant. I don’t care for the camo theme on the RealTree because it makes it easier to lose. I would personally prefer a bright color so I don’t misplace it, so I suggest they offer us that option. Available in June 2016.

Topo HydroVenture Shoe. This is the first shoe to adopt the new eVent DVdry LT membrane and construction. It utilizes a 3-layer construction in the upper, with the membrane on outside. eVent’s DVdry LT construction method reduces the amount of material and number of steps in constructing the shoe, which will increase manufacturing efficiency. The membrane on top is durable, flexible, and highly breathable (a 40% increase), and is protected by a TPU overlay which also provides extra support. I don’t have the weight/shoe, but it is definitely very light. I look forward to testing this shoe when it comes out this spring. MSRP is $120.

Altra Lone Peak NeoShell Mid. A mid-high version will come out in July 2016 that will weigh 11.9 ounces/shoe and cost $159. The unique features about these shoes are they are zero drop (no heel rise), have a wide toe box for foot expansion, and are the only shoes that use a Polartec NeoShell membrane as the outside shell of the shoe, which makes them waterproof-breathable.
Kora Shola 230 Zip Top. Kora baselayers are made of Yak wool, which has hollow fibers making it 40% warmer than an equivalent weight of merino wool, and also more breathable and moisture-wicking. Yaks molt in the spring, so there is no shearing. Since Yaks are mostly raised for their milk, meat, and hides, Kora created a market for their wool. I’m intrigued by this top because it’s something I haven’t tried before, and look forward to testing it. MSRP is $160; available now; Sold online at Kora.net.

My Package Icefil Boxers and Saxx Fuse Boxer. I have been wearing both brands and I’m a convert; they really are “Life Changing Underwear”. The new My Package boxers for summer wear contain Lyocell in the fabric to produce a cooling effect. It basically works the opposite of Outlast. MSRP is $45, available April 2016. The Saxx Fuse is 88% polyester and 18% Spandex, which enables the colorful design shown. MSRP is $32. 

CAMP Hotmit’N. This super warm mitt has a windproof membrane and is insulated with 50 grams of premium down. These mitts will be ideal for winter backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and snow camping as the go-to solution for cold hands. Weight is 6.1 oz/pr and MSRP is XX. Available now.
Snowline Chainsen City Slip-On Traction Aid. At 2.2 ounces/pr this is probably the lightest slip-on traction device to be found other than one that fits over the toebox only. The chain and spikes are stainless steel and the band is an elastomer that stays pliable down to -76F. MSRP is $25. Distribution in North America is by CAMP USA.

Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016: INTRODUCTION AND INDEX

My Winter 2016 Outdoor Retailer coverage is in 9 separate articles. To read them all click on the links below or "Outdoor Retailer" in the topic bar above.

Outdoor Retailer is the trade show for the outdoor industry. It happens twice a year in Salt Lake City. The winter show, which was held January 6-10 did not disappoint. It started with an on-snow demo day at the Solitude Ski Area in the Wasatch Mountains, and was followed by 4 days of visiting hundreds of booths at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

At the All Mountain Demo day, held at Solitude Ski Area, there were lots of booths showing mostly gear for snow sports, but lots of other things too. Opportunities abounded to test out new snowshoes and skis, footwear, and even an electric snow bike.

I try to focus my OR coverage on new lightweight gear and new technologies that make gear better. However, I also include versatile gear for day trips as well where light weight is not as important. And some of the gear featured is not new, I missed it at previous OR shows and wanted to include it because it is lightweight gear of interest.

This time I am doing something different to report the many items of interest I found at the show. Rather than one long overwhelming article, I divided interesting items into eight categories: snow sports, camping, food, technologies, insulated clothing, accessories, footwear, and baselayers/midlayers/shells. This helps organize my OR coverage some, but each article is still a potpourri of items. After all of the articles are published I will pick out the items that I feel are most relevant to lightweight backcountry travel, especially backpacking, and present them in a summary article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016: BASELAYERS, MIDLAYERS, and SHELLS

Please note that this article simply highlights new lightweight gear of interest, and by no means is it comprehensive of the category or constitute a review of the item. It’s simply a collection of new interesting gear for lightweight backcountry travel.

Items featured will be available in spring 2016 unless stated otherwise. Weights are for men’s size Medium unless stated otherwise.

Kora Shola 230 Zip Top. Kora baselayers are made of Yak wool, which has hollow fibers.Yaks molt in the spring, so there is no shearing.  Kora buys Yak wool directly from nomatic Himalayan communities and processes it for their baselayers. Since Yaks are mostly raised for their milk, meat, and hides, Kora created a market for their wool. Kora claims that Yak wool is 40% warmer and 66% more breathable than an equivalent weight of merino wool, and is also lighter and softer. MSRP is $160; available now; Sold online at Kora.net.

Mishmi Takin Garamba Jacket. The company and products are named for the national parks in northern India. The Garamba Jacket is made of eVent DVS (Direct Venting Storm), eVent’s most breathable shell fabric. It’s a 2.5-layer construction. The jacket has lots of ventilation: perforated vents in the chin area and top center in back, core vent pocket liners, pit zips under the arms (the first eVent jacket I have ever seen with pit zips), and of course the front zipper. Weight is 14.2 ounces for size Large. MSRP is $275. The jacket is modeled by the company’s founder Kapil Dev Singh.

Montane Power Up Hoodie. This mid- or outer layer is made of Polartec PowerGrid fleece for high breathability and fast drying. It has a full-height front zipper, attached hood, one chest pocket, two hand warmer pockets, and thumb loops. Weight is 10 ounces, MSRP is $179, available now. I included this piece because of its versatility for use on day trips in cold weather.

My Package Icefil Boxers. These boxers for summer wear contain Lyocell in the fabric to produce a cooling effect. It basically works the opposite of Outlast. MSRP is $45, available April 2016.

Saxx Fuse Boxer. The Fuse for summer wear is 88% polyester and 18% Spandex, which enables the colorful design shown. MSRP is $32. The right photo shows Saxx’s built-in technology, which supports  their claim of “Life Changing Underwear”.

Saxx Kinetic Runing Tight and Blacksheep Long John. Saxx will introduce the Kinetic tight (right) in fall 2016. It’s made of 85% nylon and 15% spandex for stretch and moisture wicking; $60. The Blacksheep Long John (left) is merino wool; $60.

Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016: FOOTWEAR

By Will Rietveld

Please note that this article simply highlights new lightweight gear of interest, and by no means is it comprehensive of the category or constitute a review of the item. It’s simply a collection of new interesting gear for lightweight backcountry travel.

Items featured will be available in spring 2016 unless stated otherwise. Weights are for men’s size 9 unless stated otherwise.

Altra Lone Peak NeoShell Mid. Last year I reported on the Lone Peak NeoShell, which is a low-cut shoe coming out this spring (10.9 ounces/shoe and $149). A mid-high version (right) will come out in July 2016 that will weigh 11.9 ounces/shoe and cost $159. The unique features about these shoes are they are zero drop (no heel rise), have a wide toe box for foot expansion, and are the only shoes that use a Polartec NeoShell membrane as the outside shell of the shoe, which makes them waterproof-breathable.

Baffin Borealis Boot. I didn’t get the weight of this boot but it is a bit on the heavy side. It’s mostly a technology story, as told in the left photo. Two key features of this boot make it appealing: 1) it has an external TPU shell which makes it bombproof, and 2) it has a removable liner that can be used as a cabin shoe. It’s claimed comfortable temperature range is 41F to -22 F. MSRP is $230.

Fox River Adventure Cross-Terrain (AXT) Sock Collection. Socks in Fox River’s Basecamp, Turnpike, and Jasper lines – 13 styles in all – have been updated with a Spandex arch support, elastic on the sides of the heel pocket, mesh ventilation in the midfoot, comfort flat toe seam, and reinforced heel and toe. They’re made of 36% merino wool, 36% acrylic, 26% nylon, and 2% Spandex. MSRP for each is $13, which is a great value for a high-tech durable sock.

Saucony Razor Ice + Running Shoe. These shoes have a waterproof shell over the shoe inside, stitchless construction, and a Vibram Arctic Grip outsole. Weight is 11.6 oz/shoe and MSRP is $180. 

Topo HydroVenture Shoe. This is the first shoe to adopt the new eVent DVdry LT membrane and construction. It utilizes an upper construction that consists only of a three-layer waterproof laminate---the typical internal waterproof bootie has been completely eliminated in this new technology. eVent’s DVdry LT construction method reduces the amount of material and number of steps in constructing the shoe, which will increase manufacturing efficiency. The membrane on top is durable, flexible, and highly breathable (a 40% increase), and is protected by a TPU overlay which also provides extra support. Topo was not at the winter 2016 Outdoor Retailer show, so we will find out more about this shoe when it comes out this spring. MSRP is $120.

Under Armour Fat Tire GTX Boot. These full-height boots feature a Michelin rubber grippy outsole, a well padded midsole, Gore-Tex lining, and Boa closure. The heel rise is 7 mm. Weight is 15 oz/boot, MSRP is $200, available now.

Under Armour Verge Mid GTX Boot. The Verge Mid (left) is lighter than the Fat Tire at 13.1 oz/boot, which is good for a full-height boot. It has a lightweight breathable mesh upper with supportive welded overlays and Gore-Tex lining. The Michelin outsole with Wild Gripper rubber compound provides excellent traction on a variety of terrains. The heel rise is also 7mm, $170, available now.

Vasque Lost 40 Mukluk and Coldspark Boot. The Lost 40 (right) is an extreme cold weather boot, a modern day mukluk constructed of traditional and modern materials. A softshell and suede leather upper, a removable 7mm felted wool liner with 200g of 3M Thinsulate, and a midsole of AeroGel foam ensure feet will be warm and well-cushioned. The Lost 40 assures a snug fit with a unique 2-part zonal lacing system. A quick-lace toggle tightens at the bottom, while a separate lacing at the top with a snap-down garage keeps laces secure. The outsole is Vibram Overland with an anti-slip IceTrek compound. Weight is 3 pounds 1 ounce/pair and MSRP is $180. The Coldspark (left) is a lightweight insulated winter hiker. Using 200 grams of Thinsulate and Vasque’s proprietary UltraDry waterproofing, this boot will keep feet warm on winter hikes. The outsole is ColdHold Compound with harder, sharper lugs on the perimeter while the center lugs remain pliable in cold temperatures. The Coldspark UltraDry is Vasque’s fastest, lightest, most athletic winter boot to date. Weight is 2 pounds 3 ounces/pair and MSRP is $140.